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Sunlight's feel-good effect combines infrared heat, light therapy

(NaturalNews) Most of us have heard of the affliction known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, which overcomes many in the northern hemisphere during the winter months. What we don't totally grasp or even think about is the question behind why the sun has such a powerful effect on our mood and overall emotional well being.

It's actually quite fascinating how profound the effects of sunlight exposure are. It's also scary how vilified sunlight exposure has become in the past few decades. Instead of being viewed as a powerful source of renewal, disease prevention and vitality, it is viewed by many as an aging accelerant and agent of skin cancer.

Natural light exposure and your mood

Natural sunlight is several times brighter than even the brightest overhead lights in any office or home environment. Our eyes register much less "light flow" indoors than they do outdoors. This influx of light has an interesting chain reaction once it filters through the eye.

Once sunlight hits the retina, a signal is sent to the brain center which controls the production of critical "mood" transmitters, namely melatonin and serotonin. If we go for long periods being deprived of this light, it gradually affects the everyday production of these critical mood-lifting neurotransmitters.

This is why people often report having the blues during the winter months, especially if they live in climates that have distinct and severe changes in daylight and weather with the seasons. Not only are they affected by the lack of mood-boosting, natural light, but the lack of vitamin D (the best form of which comes from our skin's interaction with the UV rays) plays a pivotal role in mood regulation as well.

Essentially this is a double whammy when it comes to mood regulation in the dark winter months. Your body goes into a sort of hibernation mode when it is deprived of light. This is due to a general lack of energy, a darker mood to go with the darker environment and a general malaise that can accompany this type of natural light deprivation.

Light therapy has proven helpful not only for SAD but also for non-seasonal mood disorders and different types of depression. It has even been studied for improving the symptoms of anorexia nervosa as well as epilepsy. Various types of sleep disorders may also benefit from light therapy, since it plays a role in producing the critical neurotransmitter melatonin, which plays a critical part in sleep patterns.

Natural sunlight gives off healing, deeply warming infrared heat

Have you ever noticed how good it feels to be bathed in the uniquely warming light of the sun? It seems to have a totally different warming effect on the body than the type of heat received from a car's heater or the heat of a fireplace or home heater for instance.

That is because the sun generates what is called radiant, or infrared, heat. Radiant heat penetrates the tissues of the body, causing a much more intense warming sensation than other types of non-penetrating heat. Not only can this feel wonderful, but some say it even may have healing qualities.

Since infrared heat penetrates the tissues, it is thought that it may be able to help detoxify and rejuvenate these tissues by increasing circulation and producing an even, cleansing sweat throughout the experience. Infrared saunas have been used as a means of both detoxification and profound relaxation for this reason.

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