This week begins the season of spring. The sunsets are later, the temperatures warmer, and it is the perfect time to enjoy the beautiful Southern California outdoors. Spending time in the natural sunlight has many health and wellness benefits. Take note of the many reasons the outdoors is important and make sure to prioritize this time.
Many are familiar with how natural sunlight helps us produce vitamin D. We produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, or when we eat certain foods, including salmon and fortified milk. This vitamin does so much to improve our health, including increasing bone health, improving our mood, and enhancing cognitive functioning. Vitamin D is also known for boosting our immune system and, therefore, helping to prevent certain diseases.
Vitamin D also helps our bodies to regulate the melatonin we produce, which improves our sleep quality. Sleep quality is important for every area of functioning. In people who have dementia, it is especially important to experience natural daylight. This helps reset the body’s timeclock and increases the ability to sleep at night.
When people spend much of their day indoors or in front of a television, they usually have trouble sleeping and are not getting enough exercise. All of this leads to increased risk of developing chronic health conditions. It is recommended that older adults make getting outdoors a priority and part of the daily schedule. While outside, use it as time to enjoy a walk or activity outdoors to increase movement and physical health.
As the weather heats up take precautions, as well. Too much of a good thing is not healthy either. Remember to wear sunscreen, stay hydrated and on very hot days you may need to stay indoors.
Recently a friend was waiting for a loved one in a medical building waiting room. Once a week she had to wait for 2 hours in this waiting room, and she found it to be a very sad time that brought her mood down. One day she realized there was a patio outdoors where she could wait instead. This simple change in location made all the difference in her mood that day. She left feeling revitalized instead of burdened and sad.
The great outdoors has a natural effect on our mood. Scientifically, they have found it is a result of the serotonin our body produces in the sun. But anecdotally we know it has to do with the sights and sounds and feel of being outside. And yet, even though we all probably agree this is true, it sometimes takes an extra push to motivate ourselves to move to waiting on an outdoor patio rater then an indoor waiting room.
Remind yourself of these benefits and take advantage of our location. There are hundreds of parks in Ventura County alone. We have both beaches and mountains to enjoy. Get outside and reap the benefits of this free natural resource.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.