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.
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!
Weekly Flu Report, December 19, 2014 posted on Dec 19
Rates of flu-like illness increased slightly over the past seven days in Massachusetts, as indicated in the latest weekly flu report. Flu season doesn’t tend to peak until later in February or even March – so there is still plenty of time to get vaccinated …Continue Reading Weekly Flu Report, December 19, 2014
Weekly Flu Report, December 12, 2014 posted on Dec 12
This week’s flu report shows a slight dip in rates of flu-like illness since last week’s report – which is entirely in keeping with the unpredictable nature of flu season. One thing we know for sure is that no matter what, the single best way to …Continue Reading Weekly Flu Report, December 12, 2014
Highlights of the Public Health Council Meeting, December 10, 2014 posted on Dec 10
The December monthly meeting of the Public Health Council featured the consideration of one Determination of Need (DoN) request, two votes on final amendments to existing regulations, and an informational presentation to the Council on a key DPH community initiative. First, the Council took up …Continue Reading Highlights of the Public Health Council Meeting, December 10, 2014