Whenever the sun shines, it seems to put a smile on everyone’s face. There’s just something about its bright rays that makes people feel good.
Part of this may be because some more activities and events occur outdoors when the sun is out. It could also be related to the shared experience of enjoying a beautiful day with your friends and family.
But there’s another reason why sunny days tend to make people feel happy, and that’s because of the connection between sunlight and serotonin.
What is Serotonin?
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in regulating mood, sleep, and appetite. It is often referred to as the “happy hormone” because it’s closely linked with feelings of well-being and happiness.
Serotonin is primarily located in:
- the central nervous system
- the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract
- blood platelets
Another important area where serotonin is produced is in the skin, likely stimulated by sunlight.
Sunlight and Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during the fall and winter months with less sunlight. These seasons are also associated with lower levels of serotonin in the body.
One theory is that SAD occurs because the lack of sunlight prevents the body from producing enough serotonin.
A lack of serotonin has also been linked with feelings of sadness, irritability, and fatigue. And light therapy is effective at increasing serotonin levels in people with SAD.
Increased exposure to darkness will also stimulate the production of melatonin, which can make you feel more tired and sleepy.
Feeling Better in the Sun
While too much sun can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer, moderate and sunscreen-protected exposure to sunlight may have a positive effect on your health.
It is thought that sunlight exposure stimulates the production of serotonin in the skin, which may be one reason why spending time outdoors tends to improve mood.
If you are struggling with symptoms of low serotonin, spending some time in the sun may help boost your mood and leave you feeling happier and more energized.
Talk to your doctor about the best ways to increase serotonin in your body. They may recommend selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant medication that directly increases serotonin levels in the brain.
Spending time outside and getting some fresh air can also help improve your mood and mental health. So try to make time for regular outdoor activities, even if it’s just taking a short walk around your neighborhood.
And on those days when the sun is shining, take advantage of it. And don’t forget to wear sunscreen so you can enjoy some time outdoors without worrying about skin damage.