“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
you make me happy when skies are grey”
… sang Jonathan Edwards in 1971. And he was right, sunshine does make us happy. When we think of sunshine we think of long carefree days lying on a beach, having a picnic in a park or merely waking up to golden rays of light seeping in between the curtains. Sunshine is good for us both psychologically and physically. For example, sunlight is an important source of vitamin D, a crucial vitamin that keeps bones healthy and teeth strong. Of course, like everything there is a middle ground between too much sunshine, too little sunshine and just the right amount.
Unfortunately for many of us in the Northern Hemisphere long days of sunshine are few and far between. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of those days that are sunny by getting outside and enjoying it. But after a long dreary winter we can sometimes feel out of the habit of getting out, of exercising and of just enjoying normal activities outdoors.
So here’s some science to persuade you:
Researchers studied over 600 participants in three different studies . In one study they asked them about the amount of time they had spent outside on a particular day and also took note of the weather that day. In the second study they controlled how much time different people spent outside on a nice day by asking half of them to complete tasks in a windowless room inside and the other half to complete tasks outside. In a third study they asked people from the United States, Canada and Europe to answer questions about their mood and then they matched this up to the climate, changes in temperature and sunshine over a period of time. All of the results were the same.
They found that the more time people spent outside on a nice day, the better their mood. Their mood wasn’t any better if they stayed inside on a warm day. In fact, the more time people spent inside on a nice day the worse their mood. They even found that people had better memory ability and could think more clearly when they spent time outside on warm days. Finally, they had one last important finding that is good news for us in the Northern Hemisphere. The relationship between mood and weather was strongest in spring, in other words in the period immediately following a long, cold winter. The effect wasn’t as strong in the summer when good weather was taken more for granted.
So take advantage of nice summer days, get outside and use the nice weather to boost your mood, your memory and your vitamin D just by going for a stroll around the block or taking a seat in the sun for a bit.
1. Keller, M.C., et al., A warm heart and a clear head the contingent effects of weather on mood and cognition. Psychological Science, 2005. 16(9): p. 724-731.