Now that summer is here, it’s time to soak up the benefits of natural light.
A 2018 Future Workplace survey found natural light in the workplace — along with views of nature — to be the number one desire of employees. Exposure to natural light helps regulate mood, improves sleep, and reduces digital eye strain issues.
Sunshine never looked so good, huh?
Since social distancing measures are still very much in place in most workplaces, why not send some of your employees outside to comfortable workspaces? If employees are still working remotely, encourage them to set up shop on a patio or in their backyard to reap the positive perks associated with sunlight and mental health.
Below, discover the biggest benefits of natural light and why soaking up the sunshine should be added to everyone’s health to-do list this summer.
How Sunlight and Mental Health Go Together
Not surprisingly, sunlight has a positive impact on mental health.
Serotonin is a hormone released by sunlight that boosts mood and also induces feelings of calmness. It’s known to help people focus, too.
On the other hand, when individuals don’t get enough of it, mental health may suffer.
When rooms or the outdoors are darker — think wintertime — the brain creates melatonin, a hormone that encourages sleep. This may explain why it’s harder to get out of bed when time changes occur and the sun sets earlier in winter. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons, too. The exact cause of SAD is unknown, but research points to a lack of natural light as the main contributor.
Even for dark and dreary days, there is some help in the form of the sunshine “vitamin” that can be bought over the counter.
It’s thought vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. It can also serve as a supplemental treatment for depression, according to a 2010 study titled Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine?
More Benefits of the Sunshine Vitamin
Not only is sun exposure beneficial, but it’s necessary for good health. It provides adequate levels of vitamin D — a must to absorb calcium — because of how UV light hits the skin and synthesizes the vitamin.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 15 minutes of sun exposure, two to three times a week during the summer months is sufficient to keep your vitamin D levels where they need to be.
Additionally, vitamin D helps with:
Bone health - Vitamin D is known as a fat-soluble vitamin that helps with the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the digestive tract to help keep bones strong. People with low vitamin D levels are more prone to develop osteoporosis.
Reduces cancer deaths - In 2019, The New England Journal of Medicine published a randomized study of over 25,000 people with cancer or cardiovascular disease. Those with cancer who took vitamin D supplements for two years or more had a 25% reduced risk of dying from cancer than a control group who took a placebo.
Improved immunity - Vitamin D may help support the immune system and help people fight off viruses and infections more successfully. Vitamin D deficiencies increase susceptibility to infections, according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine.
UV Exposure Can Help a Variety of Health Ailments
Aside from the above benefits from an increase of vitamin D via the sun, getting natural light regularly has other perks, too. One small study in 2014 found that office workers exposed to natural light throughout the day slept better at night.
A few other reasons natural sunlight exposure is a good thing:
May Reduce Cancer Risk
Over the past decade, numerous studies have uncovered and supported a strong association between UV exposure and a decreased risk of several different cancer types. Regular, safe sun exposure may decrease cancers like colon, ovary, breast, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, according to a 2019 study published in Dermatology Practical & Conceptual.
Can Potentially Help Skin Conditions
Phototherapy — which mimics sunlight and uses UV rays — is often used to help a variety of skin conditions. This includes skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema, or vitiligo and skin cancers like cutaneous lymphoma. Phototherapy is also known to help heal diabetic skin wounds.
Reduced Risk of Other Health Issues
Studies show a powerful connection between safe levels of sun exposure and decreased risk of developing serious health conditions.
This includes health issues like:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Alzheimer Disease
- Arterial hypertension
- Nonalcoholic hepatic steatosis
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome
A Word of Caution: Prevent Overexposure
Like most things in life, too much of a good thing is possible. That’s especially true when it comes to soaking up the sun’s brilliant rays. Overexposure to the sun's UV radiation can cause immediate negative effects like sunburn. Long-term problems include the potential of skin cancer, cataracts, and ages the skin faster.
Consider the following tips when spending time outdoors:
- Drink plenty of H2O
- Use an SPF of at least 30
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat
- Wear UV-protective sunglasses
- Don’t spend too much time in the sun
- Head for the shade, when possible
- Limit your time in the sun during 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
By taking a few simple precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk of sun-related illnesses. Check out our FREE guide to Summer Sun Essentials for foolproof tips for staying safe in the sun!
Start Reaping the Benefits of Natural Light Today
As long as you keep a few key safety tips in mind, catching some rays this summer may do wonders for your health and the health of your employees.
A few ways to safely enjoy the sun together:
- Host a company BBQ - If everyone can still socially distance and enjoy themselves, consider hosting a summer BBQ event or company picnic. Keep plenty of hand sanitizer and sunscreen around. To be extra safe, have everyone bring their own food.
- Head to a local park - Consider getting in exercise and the benefits of natural light by planning a weekend this summer to meet up at the park. Set up a team scavenger hunt for an easy team-building exercise.
- Create an outdoor workspace - If your facility can accommodate it, consider setting up a patio where your team can work outdoors when the weather permits.
Do you notice any health benefits of natural light? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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