Brain Benefits for Women Over 50 this Summer
Summer brings longer days, which means more time to spend outdoors… soaking up that precious sunshine. While we may all know that feel-good feeling from spending time outdoors brings, there is actually more to it than you think! There are very real mental and brain benefits of getting adequate sunshine exposure.
Spending time in the sun is essential for good physical and mental health. Vitamin D is a hormone that our body makes and it is also an essential nutrient that we can get from food. As we age, however, our body begins to make less and less on its own so it’s important to look for different sources of vitamin D. It is now known that Vitamin D helps create strong bones, has an impact on the reduction of inflammation, and can reduce cancer cell growth. Vitamin D is also an essential nutrient cofactor that is needed for amino acids to convert to neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Vitamin D is important for physical and mental well-being.
The sun offers us mental health benefits that other sources can’t!
The sun is a superior source of vitamin D. The absorption of vitamin D is dependent on a number of factors. Age and geographics are two of the most important factors. As we age, we create less vitamin D naturally in our bodies. Geographically, many people don’t have full-year access to the sun. In both cases, one would need to focus on vitamin d rich food and supplementation. A factor is the use of reef-safe sunscreen , hats, and sunglasses when outdoors. Though the risk of skin cancer exists, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword…
If you protect yourself from the sun , you won’t get the vitamin D you need to protect yourself from other cancers and mental health issues. However, if left wholly unprotected your risk of skin cancer increases. So, it is a good rule of thumb to not overdo your sun exposure, but don’t shy away from it all together either.
LivingBetter50’s 3 outdoor, sun-packed activities that can help boost your mood and improve mental health:
Head to the beach!
Not only will you get your vitamin D recharge but ocean water is full of many minerals that our bodies need. Not only are those minerals good for your skin but they are particularly good for mental well-being. Magnesium in particular is an excellent calming mineral and a nutrient cofactor for your brain chemicals.
Go for a walk!
Walking is an excellent, low-impact way to get moving. All you need is a decent pair of shoes and socks and off you go! Want to amp it up a bit? Head to a local national park and go for a hike. You will breathe in the fresh air and get those endorphins pumping. Not only that, but that reward pathway of dopamine will tell you ‘hey, let’s do that again!’.
Try something new!
Recently, I took my grandkids to dig for shark teeth in a river. The excitement we had leading up to the adventure was endorphin pushing. The adventure didn’t end at the end of the dig… when we got home we talked about the adventure and sorted through the treasures we found. All of this was a connecting experience and one that fired all the neurotransmitters. Can’t go hunting for shark teeth? Try some new outdoors!
What are some good ways to ensure you are safeguarding your mental health when out in the sun? Here are recommendations for a day out in the sun that can help keep both your mood and energy up.
Don’t forget the H20
Don’t forget that hydration is key! Our body relies on hydration for our organs to function properly, and that includes your brain. Make sure you pack extra water and start hydrating before you leave and after you return.
If you are gone for longer than 2-3 hours (on a low impact adventure) make sure you bring protein snacks. Not only will protein snacks help keep your blood sugar in balance, but they will also reduce your stress load and fuel your brain’s neurotransmitters. If you are doing a high-impact adventure, make sure you fuel up frequently!
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