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How to Get More Sunlight Exposure Working Indoors

Many ancient cultures revered the sun as deity- the bestower of light and life to the cosmos. In today's times, though, we're far removed from solar worship and instead spend much of our modern lives indoors. According to an EPA study, Americans spend less than 8% of their time outdoors. We all know that too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer and premature skin aging, but what about too little?

Too Little Sun Exposure

During the First Industrial Revolution, scientists began to link reduced sun exposure to vitamin D deficiencies and Rickets, a softening and weakening of bones due to prolonged vitamin D deficiency. Low vitamin D levels can lead to: (5)

  • frequent illness and infections

  • fatigue and tiredness

  • bone and back pain

  • depression

  • hair loss

  • anxiety

Benefits of Sun Exposure

In contrast, exposure to sunlight results in:

  • Vitamin D absorption

When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol. The sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, providing the energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur. (1 )

  • Sensation of well-being and mental alertness

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. (2)

  • Improved immunity

Professor of the Faculty of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing (FKKMK) UGM, Prof.dr. Madarina Julia, Sp. A (K), MPH., Ph.D. notes, "Vitamin D also has immunomodulatory effects that can improve the body's immune system," Meanwhile, if the body lacks vitamin D, it can inhibit growth and be susceptible to viruses or bacteria. (3)

How to Increase Sunlight Exposure if you work Indoors

It's clear that sunlight plays a vital role in health and wellness, but how do you get more exposure to sunlight if your work mostly involves being indoors, particularly in front of a screen?

  • Note your time spent outdoors

Simply keeping track of how much time you're spending outdoors can help bring your awareness to opportunities to spend more time in the sunlight. You can use your notes app in your phone and keep track for about a week of how much time you spend outside. This will give data to inform your strategies for increasing sunlight exposure.

  • Park further away from your building

Parking a little further away from your building's entrance gives you the chance to spend an extra minute of two in sunlight on your way into and out of work. While it might not seem like much, starting small is often one of the most sustainable ways to build habits that lead to impactful change.

  • Eat your lunch outside

Many job sites offer picnic tables or benches outdoors that you can utilize during your lunch break to get some time in the fresh air and sunshine. Sometimes it's just a matter of breaking habitual patterns of where you normally eat and finding outdoor spaces that already exist for you to use. If there aren't picnic tables or benches, you can always bring a blanket or towel from home to enjoy your lunch al fresco.

  • Take your breaks outside

When I worked as an elementary school teacher, I would often take a yoga mat outside under a tree on my breaks and take some deep breaths and create small moments of stillness. My coworkers would notice how enticing and peaceful this was and ask to join me. Even if you just step outside for 5 minutes, notice if it makes any difference in your overall sense of wellbeing.

  • Spend time outside on the weekends

If getting outdoors during the workday and week is particularly challenging, make an effort to spend time outdoors in sunlight on the weekends. This could be taking a short walk through your neighborhood, playing a game in the yard with your children, or just laying on a blanket watching the clouds.

We know that along with the many miracles of modern day technology and life come some drawbacks, like reduced time outdoors. You can take small measures toward being a good steward of your health and wellness by looking for opportunities to get more sunlight exposure and outdoor time in your day to day life. Once you bring your awareness and focus to the goal of spending more time in the sunlight, you may notice more opportunities present themselves. As always, test what works for you and apply strategies that fit into your own personal wellness goals. Best wishes for a sunny day inside and out!

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