The positive effects that vitamin D has on our mental and physical wellbeing are huge. These benefits range from helping fight depression by increasing serotonin, the hormone key to stabilising mood and increasing happiness and also helping improve your sleep.
Your brain, muscles, immune system, and heart have vitamin D receptors. The body transports the vitamin to the kidneys and liver, where it converts into an active hormone. In this form, it assists the body in absorbing calcium. Vitamin D can be absorbed through food, however, the greatest access to Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin.
This serves as a good opportunity to take a look at the benefits of vitamin D that we can look forward to during summer.
So what can vitamin D do for your wellbeing?
1) Relieve your stress
Dark, winter months can bring stress to many, and the science suggests it’s more than just feeling cold and stuck indoors. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression (e.g. low mood, low energy, increased irritability), making seasonal affective disorder (SAD) a common experience for all in wintertime, but even more prevalent in geographical locations that don’t get a lot of regular sunshine.
2) Boost your mood and energy
Although this might sound similar to relieving stress, strong levels of vitamin D not only correlate with reduced stress – it also improves the production of “feel good” hormones. Vitamin D actively fights depression by increasing serotonin, the hormone key to stabilising mood and increasing happiness.
3) Improve your sleep
Accessing regular sunlight helps us to better align with our biological clock, and it fosters a healthy balance of melatonin (rest hormone) and cortisol (alert hormone) production so that we are more likely to get deeper quality sleep when we do hit the sheets. You might even recall those long days of playing in the sun and the delicious sleep that you got afterwards! Simultaneously, getting good sleep has phenomenal mental health benefits of psychological regulation, restoration and repair.
4) Motivate you
This one is a bit of a no-brainer – we are more motivated to get outside if the weather isn’t inclement. Yet, science comes through once again to back us up. Dopamine has also been found to increase when we access those sweet rays of sunshine . This is great, because dopamine is known as the “motivation molecule” for its ability to keep us action-focused, mentally clear and attentive. So increasing your sunshine intake can be a great brain-fog buster.
5) Improve your overall quality of life
There’s a good reason people flock to sunny beach vacations – it creates the perfect conditions for feeling good. Studies have shown that people who spend more time in the sun are more likely to live longer [alongside protective skincare routines] and also more likely to report higher life satisfaction
Increasing your intake of vitamin D can help reduce stress, improve your happiness, improve your sleep and motivation, and overall improve your quality of life. Hopefully this gives you some good excuses to take every opportunity to get outside and play in the sunlight when you can (while minding your skin and exposure levels). But what if the sunny days don’t come as frequently as you’d like? Not to fear! There are alternatives to boosting our vitamin D intake, like consuming vitamin D-rich foods (e.g. fortified foods, fatty protein sources [fish like salmon, liver, red meat]), vitamin D supplements and light therapy [can be done at home]. As always, remember to consult with your GP or medical professional before engaging in alternative form of supplementation.