The Power of Sunshine on Endorphins
Generally speaking, it is typically preferred to be in a good mood as opposed to being overwhelmed by intense negative emotions. Although there are many factors that influence a person's mood, the chemical activities that occur within the brain play a vital role.
Endorphins are neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, that are produced by the body to relieve stress and pain. According to Medical News Today, the word endorphins derives from 'endogenous', which means 'from the body', and 'morphine', which is an opioid pain reliever.
Biochemist, Hans W. Kosterlitz, and his former student, John Hughes, are known to have originally discovered endorphins and enkephalins, which are naturally occuring substances in the brain, in the 1970s (LA Times). Their findings led to future research regarding non addictive painkillers and have proven that endorphins play an important role in mood regulation.
Commonly referred to as "feel good" chemicals that can produce a "high", endorphins are directly linked to mood, act as natural pain relievers, and can cause a sense of euphoria. Produced by the central nervous system, specifically within the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, endorphin levels increase when completing various activities, such as, exercising, meditating, having sex, indulging in certain foods, laughing, listening to music, and enjoying the sun!
Humans are heavily affected by sunlight, both physically and psychologically speaking. Like everything in life, exposure to sunlight must be done in moderation. Due to the fact that sunlight is directly linked to skin cells, too much of it can lead to damage in the eyes, heat strokes, sunburn, skin cancer, wrinkles/aging, among other physical impairments (Unitypoint).
Contrastly, some physical benefits of sunlight are the improvement of sleep, stress relief, absorption of Vitamin D (which involves maintaining healthy bone strength), and mood enhancement. Thus, internally and psychologically, the sun directly impacts mood, which in turn stems from the release of endorphins.
When it comes to mood regulation, endorphins work with neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, as well as the hormone oxytocin (University Health News). The body's level of endorphins varies from person to person. Generally, low levels of endorphins lead to a higher risk of depression, fibromyalgia, and chronic headaches (Medical News Today).
With that being said, it is important to maintain a normal level of endorphins and participating in activities that naturally increase them. In addition to the previously stated activities, other things one can do to increase endorphins are giving and helping others, getting a massage or acupuncture treatment, taking a hot bath, regularly exercising, indulging in wine and dark chocolate, spreading kindness, and inhaling essential oils.
According to Time, "one Australian study measuring levels of brain chemicals flowing out of the brain found that people had higher serotonin levels on bright sunny days than on cloudy ones, regardless of the temperature." With that said, Healthline recommends exposing yourself to sunlight outdoors several times per week for about 15 minutes. Regardless of the duration of exposure, always use sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher as recommended by the FDA.
Now that you are aware of all the psychological benefits behind a healthy amount of sun exposure, get out there and enjoy the strong summer sun before fall hits! Do this in congruence with the other endorphin boosting activities and you'll be sure to feel their effects.