When I was growing up, I remember hearing my mother say, “Go outside! It is a nice day!” This was probably therapy for my mother as I had three siblings very closing in age. But I also remember it just felt good to be outside.
My favorite place in the world is the beach. I think it is because I feel calmer and more relaxed, thanks to the sun and the whole beach “atmosphere.”
It is very common for people, including me, to not feel as well in the winter as we do in the summer. If the symptoms are great, it is called “Seasonal Affective Disorder.” This is due to the temperature change that limits outdoor activities as well as the shorter duration of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere in the winter. Artificial sunlight may help as well as traveling to the Southern Hemisphere. The seasons are reversed, so winter in the Northern Hemisphere is summer in the Southern Hemisphere. For most of us, living there for six months out of the year is not feasible and I would not want to go to Australia or New Zealand right now.
We have been inundated with all of the negative aspects of sunlight, including sunburns and skin cancer, to the point of avoiding the sun altogether. But, there is another side, a very beneficial side, to sunlight.
Let’s start with what sunlight is. Sunlight is multispectral in that it is composed generally of six types of solar radiation that reach the earth. This includes visible light, ultraviolet light, infrared light, radio waves, x-rays, and gamma rays. Radiation is simply a way to transfer heat.
Commonly accepted benefits to sunlight include:
- Production of melatonin, which is a potent anti-oxidant that helps promote sleep
- Reduces stress by increasing serotonin (a brain transmitter which improves mood) levels
- Helps maintain bone health via an increase in Vitamin D levels
- Strengthens the immune system via stimulation of the T-cells, which directly plays a role in immunity
- Fights off depression (refer to serotonin production mentioned previously)
- Lowers blood pressure by stimulating nitric oxide
- Can increase longevity
- UV light from sunlight will destroy most pathogens, including bacteria and viruses.
In The Journal of Internal Medicine, published 16 March 2016, an article by P.G. Lindquist et al, featured a Swedish study of 29,518 women with active sun exposure habits. These women were followed for 20 years. Even though they had exposure to the sun, and subsequently an increased risk of skin cancer, the results of the study showed that these women also had increased longevity, lower rates of heart disease, and lower rates of death from non-cancer and non-heart disease. The conclusion is that “nonsmokers who avoided sun exposure had a life expectancy similar to smokers in the highest sun exposure group, indicating that avoidance of sun exposure is a risk factor for death of a similar magnitude of smoking.”
I don’t think we can ignore the negative effects of sunlight, but I believe sunblock helps the potential harm. We should not fear the sun. Sunlight is required by all living organisms on the earth. All are directly or indirectly dependent upon sunlight for survival.
According to an article in Israel Medical Association Journal, 2014 Jul 16, Vol. 7, pages 431-433, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
We would not be living on earth, benefiting from sunlight, if the earth were closer to, or farther from, the sun. The earth is positioned exactly the distance needed to sustain life. What are the chances of that happening by a random enormous explosion without any design? I believe the sun and earth were created so that we can have life and health. I do not think the positioning and relationship between the two are random in any way.
Due to my faith, I see that life-sustaining sunlight from the sun is vital to survival for the living organisms on earth. It is not more important and would not be possible without the light provided for us by Jesus.
According to Jesus, good and evil are represented by light and dark. And in the most important book ever inspired, we learn that Jesus tells us this.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV
“While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:5 NIV
Spiritual light will drive out darkness. This is a cleansing process just like sunlight destroys germs that can harm us. Spiritual light will help cleanse our souls and draw us closer to God. Getting more sunlight and light from our Savior is the best way to help improve our life here and now and to assure us that we spend eternity in the right place. So I recommend getting more sunlight by going outside in the wonderful world that God created when you can, reading the Word, praying, and contributing to your church home.
A word of thanks to my editor and wife Ann.
– Dr. David Jayne, M.D.