We always feel better when the Sun is shining, and this is not exclusive to the English. Sure, us Brits have an obsession with the weather and we like to complain, and those 2 things are delightfully convenient for any Brit living in Britain during the summer months, so maybe when we find the sun it is that bit more extraordinary, but ‘fun in the sun’ is ubiquitous, for every nation everywhere. And it’s not surprising – the sun boosts our levels of serotonin – the body’s natural happy hormone…and we might feel lighter too, both physically and emotionally as serotonin also suppresses our appetite. Under the heat of summer our worries evaporate, we become more care free, breezy, buoyant. When we exercise outdoors the body creates more endorphins then when inside and besides, being out in the sun helps to warm our muscles and eases stiffness, easing tension and reducing the pain caused by inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
In the Sun we produce more white blood cells which fight against infections and pathogens so our immune system and overall health improves. It reduces the risk of heart disease; in Blighty, Blackpool has 27% more hours of sunshine a year than Burnley – and 9% fewer deaths from coronary heart disease. Although exposure to the sun increases our risk of skin cancer, (we get 95% of our Vit D from the sun) vitamin D can actually help to significantly reduce our risk to other types of cancer, to name a few: breast, bladder, womb, oesophagus, stomach and colon cancer (US National Cancer Institute). Cholesterol levels rise in winter, thought to be because we get less Vitamin D, and blood pressure lowers in the summer – because of higher exposure to UVB rays. Vitamin D is oft sited as the miracle vitamin of this decade. “It is essential for absorbing calcium, keeping our bones healthy, and for protecting against serious chronic diseases later in life such as osteoporosis, Type II diabetes, and many common cancers.” It has indeed been proven to prevent Type 1 Diabetes – a study in Finland found children given a supplement for several years had an 80% reduced risk of developing Type 1 Diabetes. It also helps to reduce the risk of developing Multiple Sclerosis – scientists don’t understand why but exposure to sunlight appears to dramatically reduce the chance of developing this debilitating disease later in life. And my personal favourite and one for the boys too, vitamin D helps to diminish premenstrual tension. PMS sufferers have low levels of Vitamin D.
As if this wasn’t enough (and by any means the above is not exhaustive) our libido increases in the summer. Testosterone levels in males are higher in the summer, in fact tests at Boston State Hospital have shown the ultraviolet light increases these hormones by 120% (wow). It also increases the level of female hormones, and reduces levels of melatonin, which suppresses fertility. And sunlight not only makes us more fertile, it increases the length of our fertility. A study in Turkey discovered that women who get less than an hour of sunlight a week reached menopause 7-9 years earlier. No surprise then that more babies are born during the spring and more birth control devices are purchased during the heady days of summer.
And yes there is a direct link to sex and happiness. Back in 2004, they examined the data on the self-reported levels of sexual activity and happiness of 16,000 people, and found that sex “enters so strongly (and) positively in happiness equations” they estimate that getting it on just once a month or more is equivalent to the amount of happiness generated by receiving an additional £30,000 in income for the average Brit. Another study, from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, found that sex is pretty much the best thing going for happiness, generating the most pleasure, meaning and engagement for people.
And guess what; sex has a health benefit too; not only does it lower heart rate and blood pressure but it wards off stomach ulcers and anginas. It’s the perfect stress buster. Women who have frequent orgasms are much more likely to survive breast cancer. (Breast cancer survival depends on largely whether the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body. Orgasms somehow prevent metastasis). And the same goes for men and prostate cancer. Orgasms also increase your pain threshold and have been shown to ease pain for hours.
So in all of this – it’s a no brainer – get out and enjoy the sun. Summer is the season of fun, passion, love. In Chinese Medicine it is the emotion of joy and laughter, and laughter is a sunbeam of the soul, it is tonic to pain, “with mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come”. Summer is the season to idle the hours away, to languish under the hazy heat, it is the time of fervent revelries, of romance, of intense affairs, of love. As George Martin says, ‘Be alive, and drunk on Sunlight’.