Some people consider the closing of schools in June as the start to the summer season. (That is, back in the good old days, when kids actually went into the taxpayer–funded buildings!) For others, the season officially starts with the opening of swimming pools on Memorial Day, which is right around the corner.
But really, no matter when the season officially kicks off for you, most people report feeling healthier and happier during the summertime…and there are some clear scientific reasons why!
So, today, let’s talk more about them…
Five major reasons why summertime benefits your health
1.) You have more fun out in the sun. Throughout human history, people regarded sun exposure as beneficial to our overall health and well-being. In fact, in European and early-American traditions, doctors even sent ill patients to natural areas to soak up the sun as part of their recovery.
But in the mid-20th century, dermatologists began to argue that we should all avoid the sun to reduce skin cancer risk. Of course, we now know that advice was all wrong, all along.
For one, exposure to strong sunlight during the summer triggers your skin’s natural production of vitamin D. And, as I often report, this critical vitamin protects you against almost every chronic disease on the planet, including cancers, heart disease, and Type II diabetes.
Sun exposure can also decrease DNA damage in skin cells, facilitate repair of any DNA damage, and prevent skin cell death. This self-correcting process protects you against malignant melanoma—the one deadly form of skin cancer! In fact, people with higher vitamin D levels run a much lower risk of developing melanoma compared to those with insufficient or deficient levels.
Plus, in people who do develop melanoma, those with higher vitamin D level have much less aggressive tumors. Clearly, some healthy sun exposure helps play a protective role against this deadly cancer.
So, this summer, do your whole body a favor and make sure to spend 10 to 15 minutes outside in the sun without sunscreen each day. This amount will also help you build up the healthy melanin pigmentation that protects your skin against burning. After that, you may want to use a natural sunscreen. Just avoid the toxic brand names.
2.) You feel naturally happier and more focused. Many people report feeling happier during the warmer, brighter, summer months. And that finding makes sense, as we know natural exposure to sunlight helps boost (and balance) levels of serotonin, your body’s “feel good” neurotransmitter (in contrast to the disastrous, unbalanced effects of the popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor [SSRI] antidepressants). Plus, when days are warm and sunny, you may feel more inclined to go out and spend time in Nature with friends. So, it’s a healthy, virtuous cycle.
Research shows even your mental focus improves during the summertime. In fact, in a recent study, researchers at the University of Liege, Belgium, measured brain function in 28 volunteers each month through an entire year. It turns out, the participants had the highest attention span and mental focus in June, near the summer solstice, and had the lowest in December, around the winter solstice.
3.) You improve quality and quantity of sleep. Many people report improvements in sleep during the summer. Especially when visiting the beach. And here again, that improvement probably relates to increased sun exposure. Because, as I just mentioned, when you spend more time in the sun each day, you have naturally higher levels of circulating serotonin, which your body then converts to melatonin—the sleep hormone—as the sun goes down.
Just remember, as I mentioned yesterday, when the sun goes down, make sure to turn off all electronic screens and dim the lights in your house. The lower light will naturally signal your body to begin the process of converting serotonin to melatonin.
4.) You enjoy fresh, local produce and seafood. Research shows eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables every day is a major key to health and longevity. And, of course, during the warmer months, it’s much easier to find or grow fresh, local, organic produce.
If you don’t have the time or space to grow your own produce, try finding a local farmer’s market. In fact, if you’re in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area, please consider stopping by the Cozzi Family Farm, where you can find fresh, organic, local produce as well as organic, free-range eggs, soaps, and other specialty goods. Or go straight to the website for direct contact information—or other healthy products, including natural botanical sunscreens (as I just discussed), as well as seedlings to start your own garden.
And remember, as I reported last month, you don’t have to aim quite as high as once suggested regarding your daily consumption of fresh produce. In fact, a new study suggests that you can significantly reduce your all-cause mortality (death) risk…as well as your risk of developing three common chronic diseases…by enjoying just five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
The summertime is also the perfect time of year to add some fresh seafood, high in heart-healthy essential fatty acids, to the menu. I recommend trying my classic New England seafood boil.
5.) You get more exercise outdoors. I always encourage you to exercise out in Nature. For one, it’s gentler on your joints. Second, it exposes you to sunshine, which triggers your body’s own natural production of vitamin D, as mentioned above. Third, it will save you money and reduce your potential for exposure to germs, including the coronavirus, and toxic air. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, it’s great for your mental health and increases your sense of well-being!
So, this summer, take advantage of the many benefits of the season. Spend some time soaking up the sun, sleeping with the windows open, and enjoying some healthy summertime treats like fresh fruits, vegetables, and seafood. Your body and mind will benefit.
“Seasonality in human cognitive brain responses.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Mar 2016; 113 (11): 3066-3071. doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1518129113