How the Sun Affects Serotonin and Ways to Get Out Locally

Chandra Rea, Reporter

Our sun is over 4.6 billion years old, and our earth is 4.5 billion years old according to NASAasa. Meaning our sun has been giving the earth sunlight for many years before any sign of life or human existence. With the sun’s benefits, it becomes our oldest source of energy and vitamin D. As summer approaches, it is the time of year where getting out in the 4.6 billion year old sun is going to be highly beneficial and is a great, cheap way to stay busy throughout the season of heat.

The sun’s UV rays help our intake of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. Calcium, According to the National Institution Of Health, “..allows normal bodily movement by keeping tissue rigid, strong, and flexible.” With the sun acting as a muscle relaxant, the term “Seasonal Depression,” makes sense. The number of people who claim to have winter depression is one out of every four to six people, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. “It’s thought that SAD (Seasonal affective disorder, AKA seasonal depression) sufferers are affected by shorter daylight hours in the winter. They produce higher melatonin, causing lethargy and symptoms of depression.”

The Academy explains how the lack of sunlight during winter causes a lack of melatonin- melatonin being the chemical in our bodies that controls our circadian rhythms, our abilities to sleep. Sleep has a huge impact on how we respond, think and collect information.

While summer starts to bloom, getting away from the SAD that may be affecting you and going outside to collect the calcium and melatonin from the sun will help with sleep and muscle movement, making you feel happier and more awake.

Psychology Teacher Leslie Anderson, explains how the sun affects serotonin, “Serotonin is produced in the intestines and the Brainstem. And in the brain, serotonin and melatonin are like “yin and yang,” they depend on one another.The light that enters your retina sends messages to your pineal gland- that essentially helps regulate both melatonin levels and serotonin.”

Anderson goes on to explain how melatonin and serotonin can affect mood by stating,
“For instance when people suffer from SAD- it’s because they aren’t getting enough light. For a long time people got SSRI (Antidepressants) for SAD but with the connection of how sun affects these levels, it was found that Box-Light therapy (being exposed to artificial light- though not as effective as the sun’s light, still helps.) can reset the “clock,” and balance your levels.“

As Anderson explains that the sun’s light physically changes the way that our body is able to produce these hormones, she also goes on to explain ways to get these intakes explaining, “Going for a walk, especially in the morning, or even sitting by your window on a cooler day or afternoon can help. Spending time outside for a few minutes a day can really change these productions.” As Anderson gives these examples, it is good to note that as the summer starts to get warmer and warmer it is easier and a good time to get out and do simple things in the sun: it will be beneficial.

As the school year ends and students start to gain more leisure time, The Grand Valley has an abundance of outdoor activities and places that are great to get outside for. The area is surrounded by mountains, the trails and national parks including The Monument, Fruita Reservoirs and the trails around the Colorado River. All these places are either free to the public or a small fee for whatever vehicle you bring, but some local libraries including the Fruita Recreational Center Library have tickets for these parks that can be checked out by anyone, and some even come with a backpack of supplies. Many of these parks and trails that do have a fee also have some sort of military discount.

More free outside activities include simple things such as taking walks around neighborhoods and Main Street in Fruita or Grand Junction. The valley has many parks, all free to the public. Whether you are going to the park with a pet, a bike, skateboard, a book, friends, family, the park is a great place to go.

As the weeks fade and the weather starts to get and stay above 70, the Grand Valley has an abundance of places that are there to be taken advantage of for free, all covered by the Sun that offers endless benefits. Find that SFS sunscreen and get the shorts and tank tops out and find your way out to the free vitamin D and what the Valley has to offer.