Summer brings sunshine, and sunshine brings happiness. It’s hard to not smile on warm sunny days in Chicago. In fact, the sun has a lot to do with human happiness.
The effect of sun on human health has long been explored, and research suggests a positive connection between sunlight and mood. One study explored this connection and found that people exposed to sunlight showed heightened levels of serotonin in the brain: a hormone linked to increased mood and feelings of satisfaction and calmness. Interestingly, many anti-depressant medications work to increase levels of serotonin in the body, in a similar way that the sun boosts our serotonin naturally.
In fact, a study examined exactly this: the effect of sunlight on depression. Researchers found that individuals experiencing depressive symptoms, who spent increased time in the sun, showed significantly less depressive symptoms at the end of a seven-week period, compared to their non-sun-exposed peer controls. This study provides support for the powerful effects of the sun on the body, and in turn, our mood and health.
In addition to emotional health, being out in the sun is proven to boost physical health as well. Sunny days encourage outdoor activities and exercise, eating lighter, and most importantly, soaking up Vitamin D, which promotes healthy cell and bone growth, and strong immune function. Research suggests that 80% of the required vitamin D in humans, is produced and can be absorbed by natural sunlight.
Sunlight also helps the body fight inflammation and infection, and in just one exposure, can significantly lower blood pressure. Numerous studies have shown that sunlight exposure can offer protection against a wide rage of diseases, such as tumors, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis to name just a few.
The benefits of sunlight are numerous, making it important to plan your summer months accordingly. Yet careful exposure to the sun is key, taking precautions to avoid skin damage.
Here are some of our team's favorite summertime sunshine activities!
1. Attend an outdoor concert or movie
Outdoor sounds in the summertime is a can’t miss activity. The mix of upbeat melodies and sun rays are sure to boost your mood and energy. Find a group of friends, pack a picnic, and head out to catch you favorite band play live, or a movie in Millennium Park!
2. Master a new hobby
It’s never too late to try something new. Summer is the perfect time to pick up a racket, dust off your old football, and head out to the nearest park to enjoy the sunshine and master a new hobby. Along Lake Shore Drive you'll find public fields, courts, and even a driving range for those of you interested in swinging into golf!
3. Take a long walk
Pick a new path, and see where it ends. A long adventure walk is the perfect pick-me-up to a long work week, increasing natural endorphins and soaking up rays simultaneously. A great place to relax, stroll, and experience the beauty of nature is Chicago's Botanic Gardens.
4. Fire up the grill
Nothing quite compares to summertime barbecue. Call up your neighbors and friends to join you in the backyard for casual eating, drinking, and mostly importantly, conversation.
5. Jump on in
In Chicago, we get only a few months to dive in the pool, or kayak in the lake. Water sports are an essential part of summer, and can be relaxing and also a great source of whole body exercise. Before it’s too late, hop in your suit and head to the beach! Here is a list of Chicago's top beaches.
When rationalizing work time, it’s important to remember that making time for the sun is not all fun and games-- it’s about health and happiness!
Catch Rays! It’s a matter of health and happiness.