Recent studies have shown that mental illness is being increasingly linked to a lack of vitamin D – an element commonly found in sunlight. In a city (and a country) renowned (perhaps stereotypically at times) for its grey and cloudy skies, and dreary weather, underground transport and days of rain (which sometimes roll into weeks of rain) could this be posing a problem for Londoner’s and Britains alike? Life after all, needs sun to survive.
I was sitting in soho at one of my favourite bars recently, heading in to the night as it started to fill with its regular patrons. Being fairly new to the city, the weather outside had led me and the gentleman beside me (John) towards a conversation on London’s infamous weather. It was winter time, and I was acutely aware of the possibility of my current feeling of stagnation and ill self-esteem being caused by my absence of repent to my sun god. I had recently found myself questioning my goals, my aspirations, work, life, love – my situation in general.
A few years back, he told me, John was clinically diagnosed with a mild form of depression, due to his lack of sunshine (not his fault of course, and something that his G.P blamed on London’s turbulent weather and John’s office-bound work environment) and was subsequently told to increase his exposure, from when he took it upon himself to appoint one of his staff member’s sole responsibilities to find out where the sun was shining, and arrange him the flight and 3 days beneath it, every 4 weeks. Some of us may not have this luxury, though seemingly, it is something we should be weary of in our often hectic lives, short of making sure that we get enough of that beautiful, natural, life-giving light.
It seems a lot of us see value in having tanned skin, but are we aware of the value of gaining that colour from the sun, and receiving the associated benefits? Studies have found that vitamin D improves mental health, while it has also found an association with reduced sun exposure as well as low 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels. They also made note of the need for vitamin D in a brain’s function. That dragging feeling that you haven’t been enjoying during those often dull and lifeless winter months (and sometimes, summer days) might be a simple vitamin deficiency.
What does this all mean? Perhaps there is a distinct link between the dreary faces on the tube and starvation from sun? (not just the fact that some of them are attached to bodies that are heading to, or coming from work) ; the often bowed heads slowly plodding lonely streets that have long since been outside their homes, also dim of light; the small windows in crammed council and ex-council blocks. When was the last time you spent the whole day outside? – It’s easy to neglect what you’re missing out on, become accustomed to it and (lacking self-awareness) fall into that inevitable, gaping rut.
Look up to the sky, and soak up that precious sun. Allow its natural anti-depressant into your body and mind. Draw your curtains, wind your window down, take your top off, get outside, forget the tube, have a picnic, play some sport and live. A little happier and a little healthier.