Welcome back everyone. This week we are going to concentrate on vitamin D and nature. Instead of looking at how to achieve our vitamin D daily intake through food and supplements, we will be looking at a final way that we can increase our vitamin D levels which will ultimately lead to an increase in happiness. Which is through nature. Throughout the month we have covered the wellness pillars. First nutrients, then physical wellness, then mental wellness and now our final pillar is spiritual wellness.
Why is spiritual wellness important?
Spiritual wellness is connected to our purpose in life, to find a deeper meaning or where we ask questions like why are we here? Some people seek organized religion while others have found yoga or meditation to help ask these questions. It’s our search for connectedness or a feeling of belonging to something that is bigger than ourselves. We thought to close out the month on vitamin D, we would discuss the importance of not just gaining vitamin D from the sun but also the benefits of being in nature (1).
Nature connects us through love and empathy. When participants in a study viewed pictures of nature, the areas of their brain that are associated with love and empathy light up. If the participant was shown pictures of urban environments, the areas of the brain that correspond to fear and anxiety were shown to be active (2). This shows the profound effect that nature can have on our emotions that connect us with others.
Getting outside and in nature can have other benefits in regards to our happiness as well. We are seeing that getting out into nature can not only help you connect with other people but also lower anxiety and stress, while increasing our attention capacity and creativity (3).
With more of our time being spent inside at a computer or binging the latest Netflix series, it is even more important to set aside time to enjoy the outdoors. While getting outside is great, taking a hike through nature is even better. It has been shown that people walking in a forest had lower heart rates as well as less anxiety and better overall mood compared to those who walked in an urban setting (4, 5). In one Stanford study, they were able to show rumination levels decreased more in walks through nature compared to walks through urban settings. Rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self) has been shown to be a precursor to the onset of depression and anxiety (6).
Vitamin D From the Sun
You may have noticed over the last couple weeks that getting all of your vitamin D through food alone can be very difficult. Unless you are planning on eating fish daily, it can be almost impossible to meet the recommended minimum 600 IU of vitamin D (1). Luckily, there is a reason that vitamin D is considered the “sunshine vitamin”. Our body is actually able to produce vitamin D through the sun’s rays. Our skin synthesizes vitamin D3 from cholesterol using the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays of sunlight (7).
You don’t have to be outside for all that long to get your daily amount of D3 either. A study found that 30 minutes of mid summer sun in Oslo to the whole skin surface is enough to produce the equivalent of 10,000 to 20,000 IU of D3 (8). While you won’t be exposing every inch of skin while you are outside, on average you only need 1/10th of this amount of D3. Another source suggests that if you are wearing shorts and a tank top you will only need 10 to 30 minutes 3 times a week. D3 from sunlight might be better than D3 from supplements for people that are deficient. It has been found that D3 from sunlight helps bone homeostasis more than D3 from supplements (9).
It is also important to note that light coming in through windows will not have the important UVB rays needed to create vitamin D (10). So you must get your rays outside.
As you can see, spending a little time out in nature a few times a week can be transformational to our happiness and wellbeing.
Join Our Community: Find out more about our Challenge and participate by joining our private Facebook group, SPHappinessreset.
THIS WEEKS CHALLENGE: This week even though it will be cold outside, we would like to challenge you to get out into nature three times this week for about 15 minutes and try to get some of the suns rays on your face. Take a picture of your time in nature and share it to the private Facebook group.