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AlisonBrill Posted by Alison T. Brill, MPH, Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Imagine the feeling of the sun shining on your face, showering you with warmth and life. Feel good? The sun awakens the senses and breathes life into our spirit. Sunshine isn’t always easy to catch, especially here in New England. Picture me racing block to block trying to find a sliver of sunlight in between the concrete jungle in downtown Boston. Now that you’ve had a good laugh, let’s talk about just how important sunlight is to our health.                                                    SunDrawnWithPaint2

Many of us have heard that sunlight is a crucial source of vitamin D, which strengthens bones and the immune system. Lack of vitamin D has been linked to muscle pain and weakness, multiple sclerosis, and some forms of cancer. Time spent in the sun, however, can lift your mood naturally by increasing levels of the brain’s natural mood-lifting chemical, serotonin. Many people feel more depressed in the colder months, and what some call the “Winter Blues” is directly related to lack of sunlight. Sunlight is so powerful that it can ease depression for some people, as the brain produces more serotonin on sunny days than on darker days.

And that's not all. The sun encourages us to get outside more often and be active, which in turn improves mood. Sunlight also helps us sleep more soundly, as natural light helps to regulate our internal clocks and keep them on track.  

It can be hard to find time to get outside for natural sunlight during the winter months. But please note: tanning beds are not a safe alternative to natural sunlight. In fact, their harmful UV rays have been linked to the deadliest forms of skin cancer. If you’ll be out in the sun longer than 10-15 minutes, make sure to grab your shades and apply a sunscreen of at least SPF 15, which helps protect you from the sun's harmful Ultraviolet (UV) light. Find a list of safe and effective sunscreens here.

Even on chilly days, I find that when I face the sun, breathe deeply, and feel its warmth, I’m not actually cold. And when I return to my indoor activities, I feel refreshed and more alive. So go out and catch those rays whenever you can, and notice how you feel! 


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