Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused.

Without enough sun exposure, your serotonin levels can dip. Low levels of serotonin are associated with a higher risk of major depression with seasonal pattern (formerly known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD). This is a form of depression triggered by the changing seasons.

The light-induced effects of serotonin are triggered by sunlight that goes in through the eye. Sunlight cues special areas in the retina, which triggers the release of serotonin. So, you’re more likely to experience this type of depression in the wintertime, when the days are shorter.

Apart from mood-boosting, the sunlight has several other health benefits associated with catching moderate amounts of rays.

Building strong bones

Exposure to the ultraviolet-B radiation in the sun’s rays causes a person’s skin to create vitamin D. This is according to one study from 2008Trusted Source.

Cancer prevention

Although excess sunlight can contribute to skin cancers, a moderate amount of sunlight has preventive benefits when it comes to cancer. According to researchers, those who live in areas with fewer daylight hours are more likely to have some specific cancers than those who live where there’s more sun during the day.

Healing skin conditions

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Trusted Source, sun exposure might help treat several skin conditions, too. While light therapy isn’t for everyone, a dermatologist can recommend whether light treatments will benefit your specific skin concerns.

From treating skin conditions to improving mood, sunlight has many benefits. If you live in higher latitudes with little sunlight, a lightbox may provide some of its mood-boosting benefits. Because excess sun exposure is linked with increased skin cancer risk, don’t stay outside too long without sunscreen. If you’re going to be outside for longer than 15 minutes or so, you’ll need a sunscreen with a sun protection factor SPF of at least 15.

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