Sunshine Helps Maintain Mental and Emotional Health: Study

“The two basic items necessary to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk,” actor Dustin Hoffman once said. Though he made the statement in a lighter vein, it actually holds true. Especially for sunshine, which is indeed very important for living beings.

Sunshine is the ultimate source of energy for all living beings. According to a recent study by the Birmingham Young University (BYU), sunshine is pivotal to one’s mental and emotional health. The amount of time between sunrise and sunset is the weather variable which is very important.

The researchers said no matter how bad a weather may be because of soaring temperatures, pollution, overcast skies and untimely rainfalls, even a little bit of sunshine during the day can help lift one’s mood significantly.

Sunshine helps check emotional distress

That brief beam of rays from the sun will ensure that emotional distress remains stable. Once the sunshine disappears from one’s life, emotional distress can surge. That is the reason why a lot of people have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

“That’s one of the surprising pieces of our research,” said Mark Beecher, clinical professor and a licensed psychologist in BYU Counseling and Psychological Services.

“On a rainy day, or a more polluted day, people assume that they’d have more distress. But we didn’t see that. We looked at solar irradiance, or the amount of sunlight that actually hits the ground. We tried to take into account cloudy days, rainy days, pollution… but they washed out. The one thing that was really significant was the amount of time between sunrise and sunset.”

“Mark and I have been friends and neighbors for years, and we often take the bus together,” said Lawrence Rees, the other collaborator of the study who is a physics professor at BYU.

“And of course you often talk about mundane things, like how are classes going? How has the semester been? How ’bout this weather? So one day it was kind of stormy, and I asked Mark if he sees more clients on these days. He said he’s not sure, it’s kind of an open question. It’s hard to get accurate data.”

Speaking on the utilitarian aspect of the study, which they claim is steps ahead of earlier studies, Beecher pointed to four vital advantages of their research:

  • The current study took several meteorological variables into consideration like wind chill, rainfall, solar irradiance, wind speed, temperature and more.
  • They analyzed the weather data down to the minute in the exact area where the clients lived.
  • They zeroed in on a clinical population rather than a general population.
  • They used a mental health treatment outcome measure to examine several aspects of psychological distress instead of relying on suicide attempts or online diaries.

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in November 2016, concluded that sunshine is very important to enjoy a sunny mood. Enough sunshine is a guarantor of a happy mood as it can melt away a lot of emotional distress.

Dealing with mental problems

Mental disorders are more common than people think they are. Millions across the world suffer from mental disorders. While some go on to seek treatment and overcome it, others shy away from approaching a treatment program due to varied reasons. Mental conditions are treatable and can be successfully managed with timely intervention. But if left untreated, symptoms can exacerbate.

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