How Can Nature and Sunlight Help Manage Your Emotions

I am so lucky to live in the beautiful, sunny state of Colorado where outdoor time is cherished and it is often said that we have 360 days of sunshine! My most happy days are days when I am outdoors hiking, skiing, working in the garden or just taking time to sit on the deck and watch the humming birds swoop in and out. I just know instinctual that if I get outdoors, I feel happier and more content.
So why is this? Through current research, we now know that sunshine can really make our mood lighter and make us feel happier. When we are out in the sun, just the simple exposure to sunlight can cause our bodies to produce more of the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin! No pills, no specific exercises or diets, just getting out of the house and into the sunshine can improve your mood!
Other research shows that when you get out in the sunshine, your body also produces more vitamin D. This can help with skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, jaundice and acne. Vitamin D from sunlight can reduce the incidences of some forms of cancer and helps to build strong bones reducing the incidences of rickets in children and osteoporosis and osteomalacia. (Of course, prepare your skin and the delicate skin of your child(ren) with a safe sun protector if you are outside for any length of time.)

Make a plan to get outside and enjoy some of the great benefits of the sun each and every day that it appears. Just 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight can have a huge impact on how you feel!

Here are few mindful family activities that can help boost everyone’s mood!

• Go for a barefoot walk Find a park (or maybe even your back yard) and try walking in silence, slowing putting one foot in front of the other for an agreed-upon amount of time. Pick one person to be the leader and everyone has to follow where they go. Notice how the different textures feel on your feet, notice any temperature changes from the different surfaces, and notice how you feel in your
body when you slow down and notice your surroundings. Have everyone report what they noticed and change leaders until it feels like everyone is ready to move on to a new activity!

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If you happen to travel to Germany or Austria, you might seek out a barefoot park. These parks are designed with different textures and experiences like water, mud or climbing stations, all for the barefoot enthusiast. Just going barefoot can help you feel more grounded and strengthen the muscles in the legs and feet!

• Cloud and earth watching Find a warm sunny place and lie down on the ground or a blanket. Take just a few minutes to notice the sky, the trees or plants near you, and just to settle in and relax. Now bring your attention to the clouds. Watch how they move and change and see what your imagination can create. Who know what you’ll see…castles, dragons, trains and cars! The sky’s the limit. A good story to complement this activity is “It Looks Like Spilled Milk” by Charles G. Shaw

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Now turn over, and bring your attention to the ground. What do you notice here? What bugs do you see? What is growing on the ground? How many different kinds of plants do you see? If you can find a patch of clover, you might even start your four-leaf clover collection! Take the four leaf
clovers you find and press them between the pages of a book. When they get nice and flat you can save them in some laminate or wax paper that you press with a warm iron! May the luck of the Irish be with you!

Winter, spring, summer or fall, get outside and enjoy the amazing world of nature!

Resources:
Unraveling the sun’s role in Depression
https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20021205/unraveling-suns-role-in-depression

What are the benefits of sunlight? https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/benefits-sunlight#benefits

Barefoot Parks
https://www.footfiles.com/subject/barefoot-parks

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