Last month, the YLC’s Wellness Committee held a bike ride on the Capital Trail. We rode from the start of the Trail at Jamestown to the Chickahominy River. The 13-mile roundtrip took an hour and a half, including 30 minutes standing in the shade of a tree at the half-way point. Warm, but not humid, weather made for a relaxing outing on a sunny Virginia day. The ride was a healthy step in the right direction as we move into the warmer, brighter months of the year – and not just because we were being active.
Sunlight makes you happier, helps you sleep better, strengthens you bones, can help prevent cancer, improves skin conditions, and may even ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease – according to the internet.[i] It doesn’t take much to see how much of an impact a little extra time outside during the day can have.
Even if you ignore the more sensational benefits of sunlight you can find on the internet, the boost in serotonin levels from sun exposure can do wonders for your mood and your ability to focus. Who doesn’t want to be happier and better at their job? A little extra sunshine can help alleviate the pessimistic, skeptical mindset law school instilled in you. If you are prone to depression, stepping outside during the day could work wonders for your emotional health.
Having enough serotonin in your body during the day can also help you sleep better at night. Serotonin is what the body uses to produce melatonin. The same melatonin all too many lawyers buy in pill form to help them sleep at night. To oversimplify the science, when your body gets enough serotonin from sunlight during the day, your body can better produce the amount of melatonin you need to sleep well at night. So ditch the pills, take a walk during lunch or after dinner, and get some much-needed shut eye.
Sunshine doesn’t just make you feel better – it can make you look better, too! Conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and acne tend to improve with time spent out in the sun. If you have any of those conditions, you may consider this more than just a cosmetic benefit of sunlight. While tanning isn’t the rage it was a couple of decades ago, moderate sun exposure can even clear up your complexion, even if you don’t have a diagnosed skin issue. Did you know dermatologists actually recommend light therapy for people who don’t get enough time in the sun each day? You don’t need a prescription to feel, and look, your best!
Want to spend less time at the doctor’s office? Being a young lawyer isn’t an excuse to ignore things like bone health. The vitamin D in sunlight can help prevent osteoporosis and other bone issues. Do something about that while you have the luxury of choosing whether or not to worry about it. You’ll be glad you did when you don’t have to watch your grandkids playing outside from the porch.
I’m not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice. In fact, it might sound a lot like common sense. You probably already knew more time outside would improve your life, so quit making excuses. Get outside, breathe some fresh air, and catch some rays. In a swimsuit at the Boardwalk or a suit and tie on Main Street, a little extra time outside will make a difference.
About the Author
Steve Grim serves the City of Newport News as an Assistant City Attorney; his practice focuses on civil litigation and foster care matters. Steve graduated from the University of Richmond School of Law in 2017.