In my previous post, I introduced my health merry-go-round concept. If you missed that, you’ll want to read it before reading this because it provides the necessary context. With that said, I think this song provides context, too:
On the one hand, we are literally discussing sunshine today. On the other hand, while we don’t go away when we’re feeling poorly, we do tend to withdraw, and it affects everyone in the house, doesn’t it? Is your husband singing the blues? Mine has before.
So. Sunshine. Let’s talk about it.
Once upon a time, back when I was at my absolute lowest as far as my adult years are concerned, I was so low-energy that things like nutrition and exercise were off the table. Now, granted, I had already been interested in nutrition for a long time, so our usual fare wasn’t bad. But still, the energy to make changes or try new recipes just wasn’t there. I had been regularly exercising, which became a long walk, which became a short walk, which became no walk. I was in a state of decline.
There are a lot of benefits to sunshine. We all know this. I am not going to belabor the point when you can visit a website like The Vitamin D Council for that kind of information. Of course, in addition to Vitamin D, sunshine has other benefits, and in addition to sunshine, being outside has other benefits.
But I digress.
The point is: being outside is good, sunshine is good (as long as you don’t allow your skin to be burned), and vitamin D is also good.
Great. We’re agreed.
So when I was declining, and when I couldn’t do much of anything else, even things I had been able to do in previous weeks, I could still go outside and lie in the sunshine for a while. I had my children help me because I was such a mess. They would pull the lawn chair out for me — the type that allows a person to rotate and tan both sides, bless them. They would lock up my goat flock so that I wouldn’t be pestered. And I would go outside for a short while and soak up some sun.
And that was the only thing I could think of to do.
Now, this didn’t completely revolutionize my health. I’m not going to tell you that being in the sunshine alone changed my life forever and now everything is just dandy. But, at the same time, I felt better. I could tell a difference on days when I skipped it.
I wanted to talk about this before summer is over because, depending on where you live, your time for making vitamin D is quickly slipping away. Only the summer sun actually makes Vitamin D. For some of us, the “summer” sun lasts longer than others. Where I live, I always know that I can make vitamin D from about March to November. A good rule of thumb is to ask whether your shadow is taller than you are. If the answer is yes, you cannot make vitamin D. (The skin’s manufacturing of vitamin D requires overhead sun, not sun at an angle.)
Another thing to consider is the color of your skin. The paler you are, the faster you make vitamin D. The darker you are, the longer it takes. I also recently read that age is a factor — that we make less vitamin D per minute of sun exposure when we are old compared to when we are young.
I am not a doctor. I’m going to tell you what I did as long as it’s understood this isn’t a substitute for actual medical advice (that goes for this whole series, by the way). I did not wear sunscreen, but I also didn’t allow myself to burn. This means that at first, it hardly felt worth it — my children spent longer caging animals and preparing my chair than I did actually getting sun. I spent about 3 minutes on each side. I worked up to greater amounts, always being careful not to burn.
I feel like I learned a few things. First, I felt better from being outside, even if the sun was too low for me to actually make vitamin D. And taking vitamin D supplements never makes me feel as good as spending time in the sun does. My theory is that eventually we will learn that vitamin D is only one of many benefits we get from sun exposure. Maybe some of this has to do with that there are benefits to simply being outside.
What I really want to say is this: there are a lot of ways to try and get back on the health merry-go-round. We talked before about how our ability to do that is affected by our time, energy, and money. Going outside and getting some sunshine is by far the easiest thing on the list. It doesn’t take much time, it requires very little energy, and it’s free. So, if you’re debating over what your next step is, how about going outside?
Just don’t get burned.
Enlisting Outside Help
What does enlisting outside help have to do with sunshine? Well, as you can see, I was in such a bad way that I needed help getting outside. If I had had to round up a goat herd and get my own chair, it wouldn’t have happened. I mean, some people can just leave a chair outside, but that wasn’t possible for me at the time. It pays to ask the question, “What’s stopping me?” Then we can follow that up with figuring out how to remove the obstacle.
Also, while this might belong in the nutrition category, I’ll bring it up here. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with all sorts of health problems, and even with fatigue and chronic pain. We’ll be talking about different kinds of tests throughout this series. It is possible to have your doctor test you for vitamin D deficiency, yes, but it is also possible to buy a simple test on Amazon, test yourself in the comfort of your own home, and send away for the results.
In the winter, it pays to supplement with vitamin D. Or, at least, that is what “they” say. Whoever they are. Anyhow, this is the supplement I like because it is 5000 IUs and non-GMO … meaning I take only one pill a day in the winter. With that said, the more research I read, the more evident it becomes to me that supplementation can never replace sunlight exposure.
Maximizing Outside Time
Here are five simple ways I try to incorporate more outside time into my very indoor life:
- Do school lessons at the park. This is my favorite, and I aim for once per week once the temperatures are reasonable (our highs are still around 107 this week).
- Get some steps outside while listening to a narration. When my oldest comes to narrate, I suggest we walk up and down the block while I listen.
- Read in the sun. The only downside is that this is when I’m most likely to stay too long and get a burn, so I recommend a timer.
- Visit with pets. Having goats got me outdoors more often, and that is one reason I miss my herd. But still, there is a rabbit and a dog to visit, plus all the children who think they live in our orchard instead of the house.
- Take a walk. It’s hard to walk outside this time of year because I’m walking when the temperature is scorching, but in October when it cools down, I’m moving my walk from pacing around my living room or using my treadmill to a real walk out of doors.
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