It’s common to associate sunny days with moments of joy, relaxation and humor, but is there something real behind this impression? According to researchers at Monash University in Australia, there is some truth to this idea. This is because exposure to sunlight affects an individual’s mental health, and can even reduce the risk of depression or anxiety states.
The findings regarding the benefits of exposure to light during the day were shared in a study published in the journal Natural mental health. However, the same research also discovered that excess light at night can be harmful to a person’s mental health.
In other words, what the new scientific evidence suggests is that people respect their biological clock, i.e. circadian rhythm, to reduce the risk of developing mental disorders.
“Our findings have enormous potential social impact,” Sean Cain, an associate professor at the university and one of the study’s authors, says in a note. “Once people understand that their light exposure patterns have a powerful impact on their mental health, they themselves can take some simple steps to improve their well-being,” he points out.
Effects of exposure to light
To understand the impact of light exposure on mental health, Australian researchers analyzed data from more than 86,000 adults living in the UK. Among the information analyzed: the extent of a person’s exposure to different levels of light, the number of hours of sleep, physical activity and some issues related to mental health.
After comparing the data, the researchers discovered that individuals who “bathe” in the sun during the day — in other words, are exposed to sunlight — had a 20% lower risk of developing depression. In extreme cases, people with significant exposure to light at night have a 30% risk of developing depression. Therefore, research highlights the importance of respecting the biological clock.
The sun and psychological disorders
In general, “correct” exposure to sunlight, such as receiving sunlight in the morning, helps reduce the risk of developing the following psychological disorders:
Because of this effect, increasing exposure to daylight could be considered a non-pharmacological way to reduce the risk of depression, for example. However, this does not replace adequate monitoring and medical treatment sessions and does not seek to replace them, when necessary.
Now, if an individual is repeatedly exposed to various forms of artificial light at night, the risk of developing previously reported mental health problems increases. These effects are independent of demographics, physical activity level, season, and social aspects.
Modern life affects the mind
Although human biology works best when there is plenty of light during the day and little light at night, modern life and the advent of electrical power have greatly modified human behaviors. It’s relatively common for someone to spend a sleepless night delivering an urgent project or even watching the new season of their favorite series. But “this confuses our bodies and makes us feel bad,” Professor Kane points out.
Today, humans defy biology, spending about 90% of their day indoors under electric lighting, which is very dim during the day and very bright at night compared to natural light. [do período]”, says the expert. To improve mental health indicators, this logic must be reconsidered.
It is worth noting that in the Brazilian case, the general perception of the population was that mental health was not as good as it could be. Other research also suggests that modern living causes our brains to age at a faster rate.
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