In the spring and summer, people are happier and spend more time outside, not only for the warm weather, but I believe, for the light. For me, there is nothing more energizing and uplifting than sunlight.
When bright light enters our eyes, serotonin production is increased, and this makes us feel happy and alert. Serotonin affects the majority of our 40 million brain cells and influences many functions like our mood, appetite, memory, temperature regulation, sex drive, and our sleep rhythms.
Sunlight has mental and physical health properties that are imperative to human life and body function, and boosts the body's vitamin D supply. According to an article in Medical Daily (MD) over 1000 genes (about 10 per cent of genes in the human body) that control every tissue in the body are regulated by vitamin D3, produced by the skin's response to sunlight.
Vitamin D helps promote bone growth, and is said to prevent illnesses and conditions like inflammation, multiple sclerosis, colorectal and breast cancer. Indeed, the MD site states that according to researchers, "raising the [vitamin D] serum levels was found to be ideal for cancer prevention, which means 600,000 cases of breast and colorectal cancer could be prevented each year with sufficient exposure to sunlight."
Vitamin D and Mental Health
Sunlight, or lack thereof, is linked to not only poor health but mental health problems, namely seasonal disorders (seasonal affective disorder, or SAD) and depression. According to the Vitamin D Council, research indicates a link between low levels of vitamin D in the blood and depression.
Though vitamin D's affect on the brain isn't completely understood, vitamin D receptors present in brain cells indicates vitamin D's role in brain function -- these receptors are found in brain areas linked to the development of depression.
Researchers believe that vitamin D may help treat depression. The Vitamin D Council suggests that vitamin D affects certain brain chemicals, known as monoamines (neurotransmitters that include adrenaline and serotonin). Monoamines are used in anti-depressant medications and increase the amount of monoamines (i.e. serotonin) in the brain, but vitamin D doesn't have to come in the form of a pill -- it could be as simple as stepping into sunlight!
Treating Depression With Light
Mood Disorders Manitoba states that people with SAD or depressive symptoms (low mood, lack of interest in usual activities, decreased concentration, fatigue, and low energy, especially during the dark months of the year) can benefit from exercise and phototherapy, but the easiest treatment is to go outside to receive maximum sunlight.
Mood Disorders suggests ways of maximizing light exposure in the home to reap the benefits of sunlight: trim tree branches that block light from coming through the window, keep your curtains open during the day, and rearrange furniture so that people can sit near a window.
To bring more light into your life, windows are incredibly important. I am lucky enough to have the length of my living space lined with windows. The light is glorious all year around because of the southern exposure.
I am fortunate to have this feature in my place but I know other people who live in dark and rather gloomy houses with few windows and limited natural light. Adding windows or replacing existing windows to maximize light is a great step. I'm always in support of Canadian- and locally-made goods, and I know that Windows Canada manufactures light-giving replacement windows in Canada and custom designs them in Toronto.
As Mood Disorders suggests, installing a skylight will also help to increase the light that comes into your home. Columbia Skylights in Vancouver offers several different styles of skylights to brighten residential and commercial spaces.
If new windows and skylights are not in the cards for you, try hanging more mirrors in your home. Mirrors reflect light and can really brighten up a room and make it appear larger -- especially good for those who live in small or dark spaces.
Sunlight is necessary for all living things on the planet; for humans, it makes us happy and keeps our mental and physical health in check. There is no such thing as too much light, so turn on the lamps, swing back the drapes, open the doors, or simply step outside for a rush of health-sustaining sunlight.
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Sunscreens come in two forms: Physical sunscreens, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are minerals that sit on the skin's surface and reflect the sun's rays like tiny mirrors. Chemical sunscreens, such as avobenzone and oxybenzone, work like little sponges to absorb and neutralize solar energy. Physical blockers can deflect both types of rays: UVA and UVB. Chemical ingredients may defend against only one or the other. Look for broad spectrum on the label to make sure the product you use covers both. There are pros and cons with each form. While physical blockers very rarely cause an allergic reaction, a small percentage of the population is allergic to avobenzone or oxybenzone, according to Darrell Rigel, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Langone Medical Center. "The main problem with physical sunscreens is that they tend to be less water-resistant," Rigel says. "You put them on and go in the pool or sweat, and they can just run off." If you're the sporty type, select a chemical sunscreen, which is more likely formulated to resist water and perspiration. No matter what kind you end up choosing, "you need at least an SPF 30 every day," says Rigel. Making Sure Your Sunscreen Works If dermatologists could tell you one thing about the way you apply sunscreen, it's this: You're skimping. To shield your face and body adequately when you're outdoors, experts say you need a full ounce of sunscreen (equivalent to a shot glass). And you need to reapply that amount every two hours -- more often if you're getting wet. (Water-resistant sunscreens are rated for 40 or 80 minutes -- check the label. After that, it's time for another coat.) So even if you're spending only a long weekend in Bermuda, a couple of TSA-approved bottles won't cut it. When your day is spent mostly indoors, it's OK to say "one (coat) and done." "You still need an SPF 30, but you can put it on in the morning and not reapply unless you go out for errands," says Rigel.
If you've got skin, the following applies to you. There are two types of skin cancer. Nonmelanoma -- basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma -- usually looks like a little pimple or sore, may also bleed and doesn't go away after a few weeks. "Anything that's bleeding, scabbing, crusting and not healing needs to be checked by a dermatologist," says Lisa Chipps, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Melanoma is a potentially deadly form that often shows up as an irregular mole. Follow the ABCDE guide. If your spot fits any of the descriptions below, get yourself to a dermatologist, stat. Asymmetry: one side is different from the other Borders: scalloped or irregular edges Color: multiple shades instead of a uniform brown hue Diameter: larger than a pencil eraser Evolving: anything that changes in size, shape or color over time Special Alert Attention, darker-skinned women: You are more susceptible to a specific form of melanoma that tends to develop on palms and soles, says Carlos Charles, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. It may also appear as a linear pigmented band on the nail bed, so check those areas regularly.
Don't leave the house this summer without one of these ten hardworking bodyguards. 1. Clarins UV Plus Anti-Pollution Broad Spectrum SPF 50, $42; Clarins.com 2. SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair SPF 50, $75; SkinMedica.com 3. Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream SPF 50+, $36; Shiseido.com 4. Paula's Choice Resist Anti-Aging Lip Gloss SPF 40, $18; PaulasChoice.com 5. SkinCeuticals Physical Matte UV Defense SPF 50, $34; Skinceuticals.com 6. L'Oréal Paris Advanced Suncare Invisible Protect Clear Finish Spray SPF 50, $11; drugstores 7. La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Cooling Water-Lotion Sunscreen SPF 60, $36; drugstores 8. Coppertone Ultra Guard AccuSpray Sunscreen SPF 30, $10; drugstores 9. Avène Ultra-Light Hydrating Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+, $24; drugstores 10. Neutrogena CoolDry Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30, $10.50; drugstores
What's the best sunscreen? "The one you'll wear every day -- as long as it's broad spectrum and at least SPF 30," says Chipps. "You have to like the texture, or you aren't going to use it. It's a personal preference, and finding yours may take some trial and error." Won't sunscreen make my oily skin break out? It's not the sunscreen agents causing your pimples; it's the formula, says Rigel. If blocked pores are a problem, look for OIL-FREE or NONCOMEDOGENIC on the label. Is the SPF in my makeup enough? That would be a resounding no, say dermatologists. "If you wear a thick coat of foundation all over your face, then maybe," says Chipps. "But most people don't -- they apply a thin layer and put on only a little extra if they're covering a blemish." If you want to thwart the rays, first smooth on a lightweight sunscreen, then put on your makeup.
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