Stuck at home for a while?
It could be worse. You could be in Italy.
But even there, viral videos show the country's’ “gioia di vivere,” singing operatic national anthems in unison. And mind you, the glorious voices aren’t muffled from inside cloistered apartments with the windows closed but rather with windows ajar and residents crooning on balconies.
What’s the lesson here?
In Self-Quarantine? Get Plenty Of Fresh Air
We must follow regulatory guidelines but even in the midst of a mandatory lockdown, exposure to fresh air and sunlight is therapeutic and necessary. Why? Because being exposed to sunlight and fresh air makes you happier. Being happy supports healthy immune function. And the oxygen in fresh air helps strengthen the body’s immune system.
Also, exposing some skin to sunshine can boost your blood’s vitamin D levels. Having adequate levels of vitamin D is associated with a more positive mood and a more robust immune function.
As the sun passes the spring equinox, it’s only a matter of time before stronger, more direct sunlight starts eliciting its happiness effect.
It’s a simple equation. The sun makes people happy. Happiness boosts immunity. Happiness, along with sleep and superfood nutrition are the magic trinity of healthy immune function.
Both the current state of affairs and weather may appear somewhat gloomy (as of this writing in late winter). It’s grey, dreary, dark, rainy and depressing. Depression and sadness suppresses immunity. As does anxiety and fear and other distressing emotions that almost everybody around the world is currently feeling.
But happiness, and hence, enhanced immunity will come soon; it’s right around the corner. So in the meantime, try to be happy. Watch lots of comedies; don’t watch too much news. Get outdoors for some fresh air if you can and soak in the sun, even for a few minutes.
How To Get Vitamin D If It’s Still Cold Where You Live
What if you live in Seattle instead of San Diego or Minneapolis instead of Miami? Can your skin synthesize enough vitamin D to boost immunity?
Almost everywhere in North America, the sun is too weak from the beginning of November to the end of March to boost levels of serum vitamin D. And because of sedentary lifestyles, trapped in home and office, even many people who live in San Diego and Miami are deficient in vitamin D.
Unfortunately, there are few foods that are naturally high in vitamin D. And if you’re vegan, your choices are even scarcer. But there is one food that’s high in dietary vitamin D and that’s vegetarian- and vegan-friendly: mushrooms.
Here’s a fungal fun fact from a study titled, “A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D,” published in the journal, Nutrients: “Mushrooms have the potential to be the only non-animal, unfortified food source of vitamin D that can provide a substantial amount of vitamin D2 in a single serving.”
(For more information on how mushrooms can support the immune system, read our blog post.)
The good news is you don’t have to go to the supermarket to buy mushrooms.
Instead, you can get the immune-supporting and health-boosting benefits of 20 therapeutic mushrooms in one delicious powder, Super ‘Shrooms!
(Just make sure you're taking a Vitamin D3 supplement because mushrooms alone aren't enough to optimally raise your serum levels of vit. D; 'shrooms are rich in vitamin D2, the plant form of vitamin D, which is not as beneficial for health as vitamin D3.)
Sunlight: Friend or Foe?
Vitamin D is known as “the sunshine vitamin.” That’s because being exposed to the sun on your bare skin is the best way for your body to synthesize vitamin D.
But wait a second… isn’t the sun bad for your skin? Doesn’t it cause skin cancer? To explore the answer, this research sagely poses a provocative question in the title: “Sunlight Effects on Immune System: Is There Something Else in addition to UV-Induced Immunosuppression?”
In the article, the researchers acknowledge that thousands of experimental papers have been published on UV-induced immunosuppression and its role in the development of skin cancer.
But the researchers also recognize that there’s more to sunlight than ultraviolet rays. And also, exposure is essential to ensuring proper levels of circulating Vitamin D. Furthermore, vitamin D has positive effects on the immune system.
For these reasons, the researchers argue, “Sunlight exposure cannot be considered only as a carcinogen nowadays.” The researchers also suggest that there is abundant evidence showing that sunlight is indeed beneficial and not only due to Vitamin D synthesis.
For example, sunlight boosts serotonin levels. This explains the mechanism behind how being exposed to the sun makes us happy. If you’re currently depressed either because of seasonal affective disorder (SAD; perhaps the most appropriate acronym ever created) or because of what’s going on in the world, or both, research shows that sunlight decreases the risk for depression.
At Home All Day? Maintain Normal Circadian Rhythms For Mental Health, Sleep & Immunity
If you’re sequestering yourself in your man cave all day, that’s bad news. You see, it’s vital that you get sufficient daylight exposure to maintain normal circadian rhythms.
Not getting enough light in your home can interfere with sleep patterns and make your mood worse; you’ll be more at risk for depression.
So to conclude, make sure you get outside a few times a day for fresh air and sun exposure. Even if it’s raining, go outside and take a few deep breaths of therapeutic fresh air.
We can learn the lessons of past health crises, in which fresh air and sunlight were used to heal the sick. (For an excellent article on the potential of outdoor therapy, check out this article.)
Although being stuck at home for days on end may feel like an eternity—especially if you have young kids or moody teenagers—sunshine, happiness and enhanced immunity are right around the corner.