Could it be possible that the sunshine we have had this summer has had a positive impact on our mental health? You often hear people say things like “Everyone is happy when the sun is out” or “People are in good spirits”! Well, a study carried out in 2016 by scientists at Bingham Youth University (BYU) declares that sunshine can have a significant decrease in mental distress. In fact, many others declare that more sunshine can offer powerful restorative, protective and healing benefits and this includes better mental health.
Historically, we know that many of the ancient people actually worshipped the sun and believed it was the cure to many serious ailments. Also, people spent much more time working outdoors in the sunshine until the industrial revolution hit and forced people to work indoors not to mention the pollution that was caused by the revolution which led to decreased sun exposure due to emissions from the factories. But we live in 2021 and the world has changed but has it changed for the better in terms of our home and work life and does it actually enhance our chances of having positive mental health?
Vitamin D is very important for our overall physical health however it is not well known that a lack of Vitamin D has also been linked to an increase in mental health disorders. Mental health conditions are actually more common in countries that are further away from the equator such as the Nordic countries as they get less sunlight. Could it be the lack of Vitamin D and is there a correlation between the two?
Numerous studies have shows that people with depression often have lower than normal amounts of Vitamin D and that Vitamin D supplementation can lead to a reduction in the symptoms of depression. Could this be because many people spend their time working in office jobs and find it difficult to find the time to actually spend time out in the sun? Much like the industrial revolution, we are witnessing a new revolution of sorts where many people are confined to the office as apposed a factory. The improvements in technology and globalization are probably the cause of this increase in office type careers but how do we start to get more sunshine if it is in fact so important for our mental health? I guess firstly, we would need to change the weather in Ireland. He he.
But seriously, it has been suggested that we need to shorten the working day here in Ireland and abroad. It is believed that this would actually increase overall productivity across the board but can you imagine the decrease in stress we would witness in the workplace. Of course, an americanised work culture would squeeze every last inch of productivity out of staff if this actually happened however a shorter working day would allow people to decrease stress and also get more sunlight.
Going to work in the dark and driving home in the dark after sitting at a computer screen all day has certainly taken its toll on many people and can have serious impacts on a persons mental health. I would still love to see the working day being shortened here in Ireland as I think there is a direct correlation between work stress and mental health as well as burnout. That will be the day says you!
Mental health is much more complex than the simple solution of getting more sunlight and of course people who live in countries where there is sun all year round also suffer from mental health difficulty. However, every little bit helps and if increasing your Vitamin D intake may reduce the symptoms of depression than I would suggest getting more Vitamin D to see how the body and mind react to it. This can be done via supplementation or through simply getting outdoors more often.
It may seem like a simple task to get outdoors more often however I am aware of the crippling aspects depression can have and where one person may be able to get outdoors, depression may actually confine another person to the indoors or even to the bedroom.  A gentle form of movement outdoors would kill two birds with the one stone so to speak and get some exercise in while also getting Vitamin D through sunlight.