Spring is beginning to bloom — from the bright daffodils and forsythia to the vibrant tulip trees and cherry and apple blossoms. After even a milder winter, we all look forward to longer days and fresh air.
Of course, this is no ordinary spring in the United States. During these unprecedented times of social distancing and widespread closings and cancellations due to COVID-19, we are experiencing this season very differently.
The Centers for Disease Control acknowledges that this infectious disease outbreak can cause worry, change sleep patterns, and worsen chronic health problems. It advises managing stress through digital connections, limiting news, taking care of your health, and doing things you enjoy, such as spending time outdoors.
There may be no better time to soak up some sunshine in the hammock or lounger on your deck. Fresh air and nature in bloom provide some natural boosters for our mood, to reduce stress and even make us happier.
Psychology Today reports on a study from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City that found “significant mental health benefits” due to participating in outdoor activities. Another study in the Journal of Leisure Research confirmed that “spending time outdoors, and especially participating in outdoor activities, can lead to a variety of positive mental health outcomes.”
Apparently, time outside elevates our mood and has positive effects on our mental state. While we practice social distancing, we can still be creative, like the Spaniards exercising on their balconies. You might take your laptop out to the deck and do an exercise class or hold a Microsoft Teams (you can get it for free right now) call with your book club as you enjoy a nice glass of wine.
Why does sunshine make us feel better? Time magazine reports that it’s a brain chemical called serotonin. “…higher levels of serotonin correlate with better mood and feelings of satisfaction and calmness, and lower levels link to depression and anxiety.”
Sunshine also helps your body to metabolize Vitamin D, which has numerous health benefits. Doctors recommend about 15 minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure to maximize these benefits. For more time in the sun, be sure to wear sunscreen.
So bring on the sunshine. And let’s all look forward to brighter days ahead.