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Sun Medicine

The longest day of the year has arrived, and with it, all of the energy of the summer. For some, that means carrying on as usual; for others, it's camping and lake time. Whatever lifestyle each of us has, there is an undeniable change that occurs with the emergence of the season, and no matter how indoors we become as a species, we are imbued with the biology of the generations that came before. There remains a part of us that is intricately tied to the cycles of nature.

Sun Medicine is critical to all life on Earth, yet we know so little of the workings of the universe that we probably don't realize all of the different ways that it helps make life possible. We most likely take for granted benefits that we aren't even aware of, while some of what we do know is pretty amazing. In looking at the full picture of our health, it's important to consider factors like sunlight, as well as focusing on the more commonly acknowledged choices like what we're consuming and how much we exercise.

We hear a lot about the dangers of too much sun, and while it's true that if we're sitting out in the hottest parts of the day without enough water and shade or other skin protection that we can damage our skin or become dehydrated to the point of heat sicknesses, the dangers of too little sun are just as detrimental to our health and vitality. And the issues that come with too little sun contribute to the chronic health conditions that are so common in our modern culture.

Our relationship to the sun influences everything from the strength of our bones to our BMI because Vitamin D in it's natural form is mostly made by our bodies through exposure to sunlight. This crucial nutrient allows us to absorb calcium for better bone health, reduces risk of heart disease and some cancers, improves our mood and brain function, increases energy levels, and helps to maintain a healthy weight.

Direct sunlight exposure, without sunglasses and without staring directly at the sun, early in the day also boosts our melatonin, which impacts how well we sleep at night. The same sunlight exposure from indoors behind glass is much less beneficial, making it important that we take the time to actually get outdoors. Even with cloud cover, we still get the sunlight photons we need to stimulate our internal clock, and activate the cortisol that will make us alert as we move through the day. When this natural rhythm is out of synch we are more likely to experience depression, insomnia and other mental health concerns on top of the physical issues that can arise. And while it might not fix everything, creating the simple habit of spending a few minutes in morning sunlight is a fast, easy way to improve overall wellbeing.

Symbolically, the sun represents fire, and from an energy medicine perspective, the fire element is connected with the summer season. This time of year brings us the energy of play, social engagement and joy. Things feel lighter, less structured whether we have time off work/school or not, because this is part of the natural cycle of life. As we move into this season, there is no better time to start getting in tune with and reconnecting to our sun energy, both literally and figuratively, to start gaining the benefits that are freely given.

Happy Summer Solstice!!!

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