Sunlight Helps Fight Depression

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I’ve written about this before: exposure to sunlight can help fight depression. Coupled with mild to moderate exercise, being out in the daylight can help fight carbohydrate cravings, weight gain, social avoidance, even fatigue!

A 2014 study of office workers compared the mental health of those who had windows in their office, and those who didn’t. The workers with access to more natural light during the day reported more positive changes than those who didn’t.

“There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day — particularly in the morning — is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness, and metabolism,” said Phyllis Zee, M.D., a Northwestern Medicine neurologist and sleep specialist who worked on the study.

Think about this for a minute: by going out into the morning sunlight, you can improve your mood, boost your productivity and concentration, and even help you metabolize more effectively. More exposure to light during the day (and less exposure to light at night) helps your body and mind fall into a natural circadian rhythm (another name for your internal clock, according to the National Sleep Foundation).

So what do you do when sunlight is scarce?

Plan daily walks outside. Remember, as little as eight minutes a day of vigorous exercise can positively affect the rest of your work day. If you go outside during your lunch break, you have the greatest chance of enjoying some good, strong daylight.

Get your vitamin D. A good vitamin D3 supplement is an inexpensive alternative to sunshine. You can also eat foods rich in vitamin D, such as egg yolks, fatty fish (such as salmon or tuna), milk and cheese.

Therapy and medication. If you find it difficult to manage your depression no matter the season, please contact me. In addition to traditional therapy, I also offer one on one “Talk and Walk” sessions on the Greenbelt. Let me help you start off 2019 with better mental and physical health.

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.

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