Sun powers all life on this earth. The sun has been revered by diverse ancient cultures through millennia – both for its ability to enable life, as well as its healing powers. Today scientific research is proving these beliefs right, by spotlighting the various benefits of sunlight. Despite this, there is much noise about sun exposure and related health hazards, and we have been conditioned to fear the sun, and stay away from it. This article explores these popular perceptions and myths, and brings forward the truly transformative power of Sun on our health. Read on so that you can make more conscious and informed choices, with respect to your holistic health.
“Turn your face to the sun and let the shadows fall behind you.” – Old Maori Proverb
This old proverb packs in timeless life wisdom, using a beautiful metaphor. We can even take this analogy literally in context of our health. The sun is a source of life, light and nourishment, and has been worshipped by ancient cultures across the world. Moreover, it was regarded to have healing powers essential for maintaining good health, which is why these cultures designed rituals around morning sun gazing, sun salutations and even sun bathing, to ensure a minimum level of sun exposure. Today, we see more and more research validating this belief, and discovering the many benefits of sunlight.
However, if we look around, we see a very different story being played out. Most of us are now conditioned to turn away from the sun, to safeguard ourselves from sunstroke, dehydration, premature ageing, and even skin cancer! When we go out in the sun we lather on layers of sunscreen – which other species on earth does that?!
Moreover, we tend to spend a large part of our lives in enclosed, indoor spaces which do not allow us a direct contact with sunlight. And while there are hazards to excessive sun exposure, you must know that this isn’t the whole truth. The sun is not our enemy, and the only thing we must avoid is sun avoidance!
Some quick Sun facts
The sun is our primary source of life energy
Our lives revolve around the sun… literally! It sets our circadian rythm
Sunshine is a natural anti-depressant
Sunshine promotes natural health & healing
The sun is our primary source of life energy
The sun powers all life on earth. From regulating tidal waves and weather, enabling growth in plants, providing the heat and warmth for life to exist and even harmonizing the human body’s own natural rhythms, almost all the ecosystems around us are directly or indirectly influenced by solar energy. And nearly all beings eat sunshine in some form or the other! How, you ask? Let’s take a closer look.
The sun is the 1st level of energy that’s abundantly available to us. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants capture and convert this energy to make their own food, and also store this energy for humans and other life forms to consume, forming the 2nd level of energy. Humans and animals, who feed on plants and their produce, store this energy and become the 3rd level of energy. So essentially, everything that we consume as food is actually processed sunlight!
Recent research also suggests regular exposure to the sun would give us a richer quality of blood, stronger bones, increased resistance to disease and an improved capacity to heal. This makes sunlight an integral part of our nutrition, and the best natural tonic we can have.
Our lives revolve around the sun… literally! It sets our circadian rhythm
The sun does much more than just meeting our basic energy requirements. Our lives are literally shaped by sunlight – be it the day-night cycle or even the changing levels of light across different seasons. Fluctuations in the levels of seasonal light and darkness influence our growth rates, reproduction, diet and other activities. Like for instance, in Finland, the conception rates peak in June and July, when there is an average of 20 hours of sunlight every day. Studies from Germany, Sweden and Scotland also show a predominant increase in height and weight in spring and early summer seasons when the days are longer.
At a micro level, the sun activates the pituitary and pineal glands - also known as our master glands, to keep our body in optimal alignment with natural rhythms.
The pineal gland is responsible for setting our natural body clock right, by producing melatonin, a hormone which regulates our sleep patterns, and our quality of sleep. Melatonin can only be produced when daylight levels go low, signalling that it is now time for the body to slow down and rest.
In this period of darkness and sleep, the pituitary gland actively secretes hormones that control growth, and also affects the body’s metabolism and excretory processes.
Do note that both these glands are photo-sensitive, and work best when they receive around 15-20 minutes of sunlight a day.
Sunshine is a natural anti-depressant
We all have experienced how the sun has an effect on our moods and emotional wellness. Sunlight triggers the production of Vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient for stronger teeth and bones, and overall growth. But what is probably not as well-known is the link between Vitamin D and beta-endorphins produced by sunlight exposure, and our moods. Inadequate exposure to sunlight, especially in temperate and polar zones, causes what is known as a seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or winter depression. Haven’t we felt gloomy for no apparent reason on dark, cloudy days? Don’t we feel more cheerful on bright and sunny days? The answer is obvious. Sunshine is a natural anti-depressant. And sunny days outside, make us feel sunny inside!
Sunlight promotes health and healing
It is interesting to note that in ancient times, doctors and healers relied on sunlight to accelerate healing of wounds, bone disease and even lung disease, as sunlight is an effective germ killer. Sun therapy, also known as Heliotherapy was commonly used in ancient Greece to achieve radiant health. And Heliotherapy clinics in Switzerland have also successfully treated kids with bone tuberculosis. Even healing systems like Ayurveda, emphasise the therapeutic properties of sunlight.
Sun really nourishes our cells. Even for common ailments such as fever, cold & cough, asthma, wheezing, regular sun exposure fastens the healing process.
Despite all this, there are a lot of health concerns around sun-induced damage, including an increased risk of skin cancer. We are urged to run away from the sun, and slather on sunscreen when going out. But research shows that it is sun avoidance, and not sun exposure, which increases our risk for degenerative and communicable diseases, including the flu, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, tuberculosis and even skin cancer! In fact, ever since the popularity of using sunscreen, the incidence of melanoma has shot up by almost 3000% since 1935. Isn’t that a staggering statistic! And it is now well known that the right levels of sun exposure can actually safeguard us from almost 22 different types of cancers, including breast, colon and prostate cancers! So there is really no reason to shy away from the sun.
Yes, it is true that strong & long duration sun exposure can cause sunburn. So it’s best to use common sense, and guard ourselves with covered clothes, hats etc in extreme hot & sunny days. Listen to your body, and when feeling hot, go to the shade!
How can we get our daily dose of sunlight?
Let’s plan a daily date with the sun! We can take inspiration from ancient practices around sun exposure, and plan a ritual to get your daily dose of nourishing sunshine. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Decide on a time
Just like how you would plan a date, decide on a time that you can completely devote to this, every day. An ideal time period would be from sunrise to any time before 9am, and post 4 pm till sunset.
Slow down and relax
Take a few moments to release any stress or worry on your mind, and try focusing on the moment. Start with slow, deep breaths to calm down your mind, and the rush of thoughts.
Engage with the sun
Depending on your comfort levels, you could choose to sun gaze (while protecting your eyes with leaves/ cloth) or sunbathe, so that you can take in the gentle, healing sunlight. Be mindful about any discomfort or burning sensation while doing this, it’s a sign that you’ve got to stop!
Plan a longer date
Once you get comfortable with the ritual, you can set aside a longer time. Start with 5 minutes, and try to see if you can go on till 15 minutes. Enjoy the warmth and feel the energizing rays fill up your body.
If you are office goer – set some morning or afternoon time
Considering we are always rushed for time, you could do your morning exercise routine in the sun. Or keep some reading time (even if that’s an office document) aside and make your daily date with sun.
Allow kids to play more in the Sun without sunblock
Make your kids childhood outdoor friendly. Allow them to play a lot in Sun esp the morning sun. During winters set some early playtime in the outdoors. If they are unwell, ensure they are getting atleast 15 minutes of sunshine daily
We would love to have you experience the many benefits of soaking up the sun, and get closer to how nature intended us to live. It’s time to embrace the sun, and embrace health.
Disclaimer: The health journeys, blogs, videos and all other content on Wellcure is for educational purposes only and is not to be considered a ‘medical advice’ ‘prescription’ or a ‘cure’ for diseases. Any specific changes by users, in medication, food & lifestyle, must be done under the guidance of licensed health practitioners. The views expressed by the users are their personal views and Wellcure claims no responsibility for them.