After an exceptionally long and brutal winter, Mother Nature has gracefully decided to finally bless the Northern Hemisphere with summertime weather. When that very last bit of snow finally melts and the trees begin to bud once more, it’s as though everyone comes out of their hibernation mode and begins to bloom just as much as any spring lily – People begin trying to eat better foods (if only because Farmers Markets open and become our main grocery stop on Saturdays), the various walking trails that looked all but abandoned (but for the tracks left by snowmobiles) during the coldest months start becoming populated again, and people flock to the beach in droves every chance they get to lay out in the sun all day and hope to return back home that evening with a slightly bronzed color.
You thought it wasn’t safe to go to the beach and sunbathe, didn’t you?
The sun’s reputation has been getting slaughtered quite extensively recently, especially now that the hottest months of the year are fast approaching – It seems as though just about everywhere you look, an ad or commercial warning you that going into the sun is going to highly increase your risk of getting melanoma (skin cancer). What those ads and commercials fail to tell you is that as much as 80% of melanoma cases are benign and the spots are removed simply for aesthetic reasons.
That’s not to say that if you see a spot on your body that’s never been there before that you shouldn’t go to the doctor – You absolutely should. What you shouldn’t do is automatically assume that just because you’ve discovered a spot on your body that’s never been there before, that you have skin cancer and you’re going to die.
When it comes to the sun, how much is too much?
Just because not every little spot on your body needs to be removed, doesn’t mean that you can freely go out and bake yourself in the harsh afternoon sunlight without a worry in the world. While it’s true that the sun is incredibly crucial to the survival of the human race, reaping the (spectacular) benefits of it without heightening your risk of getting skin cancer isn’t the same thing as lying out on the beach and tanning.
If you want to gain all that the sun has to offer you, you have to start out slow. If it’s been a long time since your skin has seen the sunlight, spending some time under a nice shady tree reading your favorite book is a good way to start. Increase your sun exposure by about five minutes a day until you’ve reached your comfort level – The sun should never burn you; once you’ve hit a point where adding an additional five minutes makes the sun feel like it’s burning your skin, take those five minutes back off and you’re at your comfort level. Coconut oil is great to keep on hand, and there are countless plants and herbs that you can use for pre and post summer skin care – Aloe Vera is one hardy houseplant that will grow in just about any room of your home and can be used for a wide variety of different things from soothing irritations and insect bites to simply moisturizing your skin. If you’re not a fan of commercial SPF products (and their associated health hazards), there are plenty of natural oils and herbal extracts that offer a decent level of protection against the harmful UV rays and are perfect for low to moderate sun exposure.
You should really try to avoid sunbathing for health (or any) reasons during the midday – Try to avoid going into direct sunlight between the hours of 11am and 3pm as much as you can because the sun is incredibly intense during these hours. If you do have to go out in direct sunlight, protect your skin as much as you can. The optimal time to catch some rays for your health is in the morning hours.
What are the benefits, anyway?
We all know that sun provides out bodies with vitamin D – Real vitamin D, not the kind that we’re forced to take in pill form during the long winter months, but do you know just how good the sunshine vitamin is for you?
Not only does it promote strong and healthy bones and teeth, but it also plays an incredibly important role in our immune systems. It turns out that every single cell in the human body needs adequate amounts of vitamin D in order to function properly, yet over half of Americans have less of the vital nutrient running through their blood. Not having enough of the sunshine vitamin could potentially cause or contribute to heart disease, stroke, depression, obesity, diabetes, and more.
With proper amounts of vitamin D running through your system, you’ll be less likely to get sick, you’ll have more energy, your skin will glow and your hair and nails will grow long and strong. You’ll just feel better in general – There’s just something about the warm summer sunshine that makes you feel instantly happier.
Simply sunbathing is just one step though
Having enough vitamin D is great, but it’s not going to matter much if your diet is terrible and you’re inactive. In addition to getting your daily dose of natural sunshine you should remember to eat organic and whole foods as often as you possibly can and drink lots of water and herbal teas. Staying active is equally important – Feel free to get your sunshine while out taking a stroll, doing yoga or meditating.
The important thing to remember is that time flies, especially during the few months of warm sunny weather we get blessed with – Get out there and enjoy it any way that you can!