Step into the Sunshine

42

I interrupt the series on worry to give you this month’s healthy tip: Direct your feet to the sunny side of the street!

We hear so much about protection from the sun (which I heartily advocate) that we sometimes forget about “the rest of the story.”

A couple of hundred years ago, everyday life generally required most people spend a good bit of time outdoors. Exposure to sunlight was a natural consequence of getting life done. Our grandmothers talked a great deal about the benefits of fresh air and sunshine as they sent their kids outside each afternoon. Gradually, though, office jobs and climate-controlled homes became the norm, and much of life just moved inside. Skin cancer came into the spotlight, too, spawning shelves full of sunscreen. Before long, many of us were getting very little sun at all. What’s wrong with that? Actually, a great deal. Exposure to sunlight is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It can even affect your mood.

  • Serotonin encourages relaxation. This chemical, produced by our bodies, is elevated by exposure to light.
  • Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is crucial for proper absorption of calcium. (And the rays that cause our skin to manufacture vitamin D will penetrate neither glass nor sunscreen.)
  • When we are outside, most of us tend to move around more, and we all know exercise is a good thing.

Many of us need to adjust our habits in order to get enough exposure to the sun. How much is enough? I’m not talking about hours of sun worshipping here. The New England Journal of Medicine says that, “In the United States…the ultraviolet exposure can be as little as three 3 times per week exposure of the face and hands to ambient sunlight for 20 minutes.”

‘Wanna work on soaking up more sunshine? Consider moving just a little bit of your life outdoors. Get sun while you…

  • Work: Catch up on phone calls. Spruce up the lawn. Fold your laundry on an outdoor chair or table. Get ahead on your reading, or Bible study, or prayer.
  • Rest: Take a nap. Spend some time in quiet contemplation. Visit with a friend or loved one.
  • Play: Take a walk. Play a game. Toss a ball. (If you don’t have a kid of your own, find one in the neighborhood to bless with a few minutes of your time.)

Wait 15 minutes or so, and then apply your sunscreen and don your wide-brimmed hat. (Because skin cancer is still a very real threat if you over indulge in those rays.) Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Those moments outside may well help you stay happy and healthy, so may the sun shine on you today!

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