The summer season is fully upon us. With that comes warmer weather, longer days and the activities we all know and love—i.e. barbecues, swimming, camping, etc.
But summer is also a great time to reset and reclaim your health! If you’re looking to do just that but don’t know where to start, here are some ways you can take advantage of the summer season and set yourself up for success all year long.
Part 1: Sunlight
Sunlight and optimal health are inextricably linked and exposure to full spectrum sunlight is critical all year long. But the summer season means longer days, more UV light and more time naturally spent outdoors. This makes it the perfect opportunity to optimize your light environment to recharge, repair and reenergize. Here are just a few of the ways sunlight plays a critical role in optimizing health:
- Vitamin D: One of the most widely recognized benefits of exposure to full spectrum sunlight is production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin following exposure to UVB light, which is more dominant during the warmer months when solar intensity is greater. Although Vitamin D is referred to as a vitamin, it functions more like a hormone, playing a critical role in a number of biological processes including cellular signaling, regulation of the inflammatory system and modulation of the body’s immune response. Given the extended winters and fluctuating light environment characteristic of northern latitudes (such as New England), it’s of even greater importance to take advantage of any opportunity to naturally build Vitamin D levels to offset periods of the year when production is more challenging. To optimize Vitamin D, consider getting outside for at least 20 minutes when UVB light is present—more time is always encouraged, but be sure you’ve built up your solar callus. The amount of UVB light present throughout the day changes seasonally, but during the summer months, you can generally count on it between the hours of 10am to 4pm (sometimes longer). The more skin you have exposed the better! It’s also important to remember that the use of sunglasses and sunscreen inhibit your ability to properly assimilate UV light (and sunlight in general), reducing Vitamin D production.
- Red and Infrared Light: Sunlight contains two more wavelengths of light critical to optimal health and present in abundance during the summer—Red and Infrared. Both Red and Infrared are capable of penetrating the skin at a depth of 8-10 cm, giving them the ability to influence our physiology and health, at a deeper level. What makes these two spectrums of light unique is their ability to act at the cellular level—specifically within the mitochondria. The mitochondria are most commonly recognized as the cellular energy producers—but, their role is far more complex and the way they interact with red and infrared light is a perfect example of that. Mitochondria are actually capable of capturing red and infrared light photons to enhance their ability to produce energy. With greater cellular efficiency and availability of energy comes decreased inflammation and enhanced repair—key factors in creating an environment that supports long-term wellness. Red and Infrared light are both present throughout the entirety of the day, giving your body the energetic download it requires to harness the benefits. When outdoors, focus on exposing your bare skin to sunlight in order to fully take advantage of the red and infrared light present.
The summer season is one of opportunity—the opportunity to grow, work towards better habits, strengthen your relationship with nature and reconnect with family and friends. Not to mention, the most purposeful practices you can work towards integrating this summer are 1.) generally free and 2.) enjoyable—i.e. trips to the beach, time spent in the sun, local food, etc. This year, reclaim your health and set yourself up for long-term wellness by taking advantage of all the summer has to offer!