Guilty – I have to admit I’m feeling a bit that way these days as I’m enjoying unseasonably warm February days full of sunshine while it seems the rest of the Northern world is freezing solid.
What this also made me think about was how important the sun is to my overall mood and energy levels.
A little bit of research shows that the science confirms the “good feelings” that more sunshine can give us:
Sunlight Boosts Serotonin
Researchers from the Baker Heart Research Institute in Melbourne found that levels of serotonin—a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite, sleep, memory, and mood—are lower during the winter than the summer. Serotonin is the body’s natural happy hormone. That’s why we tend to feel happier and more energetic when the sun shines. It’s also been shown that exercising outdoors creates more endorphins in the body than exercising indoors.
Apparently Northern schools finish the school year earlier and bring their students back in August instead of September. The kids simply have too much energy to sit still in the class room in May and June and instead can be found playing soccer outside at 1 am in the morning!
Natural Daylight Can Improve Sleep
Sunlight shuts off the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone produced at night that makes you feel drowsy. Constant exposure to sunlight can help your body maintain its circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that regulates biochemical, physiological, and behavioral processes and makes you feel tired when it’s dark outside. This is why you need less sleep in summer but still feel livelier.
Paddling under the Midnight Sun
This past summer we had an intrepid group of paddlers who requested a trip down the Yukon River in mid June over the Summer Solstice. For all of us, the chance to experience 24 hr daylight in the Yukon on a wilderness canoe trip was truly fantastic. In fact it was such a great trip that we just knew we had to add the dates to our regular line-up. For 2015 we’ve added a June 15-24 trip in addition to our regular July/August tours. It was not uncommon on the trip to look down at your watch and be amazed that it was past midnight but you couldn’t tell by the amount of daylight or our own energy levels.
True 24 hours of sunshine doesn’t happen unless you are above the Arctic Circle but the one or two hours where the sun is not above the horizon in the central Yukon is anything but dark. Walking, paddling, heck even reading are all easily done in the amount of residual daylight that still abounds.
For all of us who don’t live in a far northern community experiencing the overwhelming energy boost of 24 hour daylight it is something special and something that everyone should experience at least once in their lives! And remember as visitors instead of residents you get to experience the 24/ 7 daylight and avoid the 24/7 darkness on the flip side in the winter!
See you on the water!