Here Comes the ☀️Heliotherapy
Can you sunbathe your way to better health?
We are approaching the shortest day of the year. For many of us, the inclination is to hibernate. It’s cold, it’s dark when we rise, dark when we get home from work. We get SAD (and not just blue… Seasonal Affective Disorder, a condition where we don’t get enough vitamin D and literally become more depressed and lethargic).
There is beauty in the hibernation, beauty in the darkness. It can be a time to go more inward, get more cozy, and embrace the rest and reflection. Last year at this time I was on a self-imposed retreat of sorts, sequestered in a little apartment in the barren and freezing plains of Iowa, alone with my own company (plus two cuddly felines), committing to do long group meditations every day and determine my next move (literally - I then moved cross country).
That alone time was powerful. It was a deep dive into self for me, pulling back the arrow.
But it was also fucking freezing and challenging and scary and a little depressing. There were weeks where it barely got above zero. I was kind of in the middle of nowhere. Save for one friend nearby, I was far from my family and friends or social circle.
Fast forward a year, and I live in practically the sunshine capital of the US. It is nearly always sunny in San Diego (266 days a year worth). Needless to say, I adore it. The plants and the sun and the ocean and the whole place seem to light me up like a Christmas palm tree decked out in lights. I love being outside and take walks or hikes often.
And it does a body a lot of good. Recently, I’ve been getting the impulse to not only be outside, but go out first thing in the morning, getting the early rays on my face and body. Then I was listening to an interview with Nadine Artemis of Living Libations, where she talked about the benefits of being in the sun, sans sunscreen (in moderation), and the recent science on mitochondria and the healing effect sunshine has on our cells. We have swung so far to being so scared of sun exposure, and she was advocating its benefits. The key is really listening to your body, paying attention to when your skin starts to feel warm, and making sure you cover or remove yourself before you start to overheat or burn. I even started coming home from my morning walks, stripping down, and eating breakfast nearly nude in the sunshine in my living room. Hilarious, but feels really good.
And all this sunshine feels AMAZING. Not only does it feel wonderful physically, but getting that healthy (but not too much) dose of sunshine, especially the morning sun, has a profound effect on my mental state as well. In fact, when I’m able to go down to the beach first thing, take in the morning sun and ocean, and ground my feet into the sand, just breathing and being… it’s magic. Rejuvenating, like my meditations, but physically supercharged.
Of course, animals know this already. If you’ve ever watched horses outside in a field in the morning, or even your indoor cats, you can watch them orient themselves to the morning sun. They turn their faces toward it and just bask. It’s like they know how healing it can be.
I’ve decided that heliotherapy must be a new addition to my arsenal of wellness tools. Perhaps not every morning, but whenever I can, I head out to soak up the morning sun. If I can’t make it out in the morning, I’ll take an afternoon break and head out for a walk. I feel so lucky to live in a place with sunshine, where I love being outdoors.
The light must always follow the darkness. When we can open ourselves up to it, nourish ourselves with it, we can heal so much.
Image via Kindred Seekers, San Diego palms ablaze (with sun, not fire).