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Sunshine and Good Mental Health

So it looks like after all that rain and cold weather that summer may actually be on it's way. The forecast is improving with more sunshine and warmer weather forecast in the near future.

So why is it that sunshine so good for us?

Vitamin D naturally boost Serotonin (the happy chemicals in our brains) production as does exercise. 20 minutes of daylight (preferably sunshine) into our irises 2-3 times weekly can do wonders for your Serotonin levels particularly if your skin is darker such as in individuals of Asian or Afro-Caribbean heritage. If your skin is fairer it absorbs sunshine easier which is why the natural inherited skin colour in people of northern European heritage is very fair and is darker in people from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean where they receive a lot more sunshine.

With the limited sunshine in northern Europe those individuals with fairer skin are less likely to get Sunlight Affective Disorder (SAD) than those with darker skin due to an ability to absorb more sunshine. However that is not always a given and anyone can be affected by SAD, particularly in the months from October to April.

And why is exercise also good for our Mental Health?

Outdoor exercise including walking is also good for reducing stress and boosting Serotonin levels. Fight or Flight response is our naturally evolved reaction to predators and other threats based on our last stage of evolution 100,000 years ago. When we perceive a threat, we build up large amounts of adrenaline, this spreads blood supply and energy around the body to areas which makes us stronger and faster.

Naturally, when we are feeling threatened, we build adrenaline, we then choose whether to run away, stay and fight or freeze (less common). In modern society we still build adrenaline when we are feeling threatened but also when our family relationship issue become difficult or complex; as well as when we have large demands on our bodies and brains through work or other life demands. However, we tend not to release this adrenaline effectively as we tend to be more sedentary particularly if we work in offices. This leads to stress. Unresolved stress can become anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety include palpitations (heart racing), an inability to sit still, physical pain particularly in the back or shoulders, panic attacks and a number of other symptoms.

One good way to relieve stress and anxiety is to get exercise, outdoor exercise is particularly effective as it reduces stress, increases Serotonin levels and it's free. Good forms of outdoor exercise include walking, running and using an outside gym in a nearby park.

If you have joint problems or are injured through exercise, consider going to see a podiatrist for orthotic insoles and only walking on low impact surfaces such as trail or grass.

So, whilst the weather is nice why not get out there and get some exercise. It might be hard work to start with I can promise you that in the long run you will feel more energised, happier and fitter for it. Your anxiety and stress should also reduce which will lead to feeling healthier in both body and mind.

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