Don’t Let ‘Cloudy Ohio’ Make You Sad | News, Sports, Jobs

As I write this, bright rays of sunlight are howling through my editorial office window and bouncing off my computer screen, nearly blinding me. It’s on days like this that I realize I really shouldn’t have left my sunglasses in the car.

The irony, however, is that the subject of this week’s column is a recent report of cloudiness in our region.

According to a press release I recently received from an outdoor motorsports company, Polaris has partnered with The Weather Channel television network on a promotional idea that was meant to get people outdoors.

Good idea, I admit – but on a day like today, it probably wouldn’t take long – especially in usually cloudy northeast Ohio.

According to the study, The Weather Channel – identified in the press release as “authority in the collection and reporting of meteorological data” — Youngstown is one of the 10 cloudiest cities in the country.

Shocking, I know!

Others making the gray list include Pittsburgh; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Washington D.C.; and Chicago. Don’t look now, but it sure looks like we’re surrounded by cloudiness.

According to the study, clouds also frequently hover over Detroit; Syracuse, New York; Seattle; Louisville, Kentucky; and Newark, NJ

That’s the bad news.

Now here’s the good news. Studies indicate that it only takes 10 minutes outdoors to improve your mood.

And sunlight especially improves your mood.

Researchers have found more mental distress in people during seasons with little sun exposure. Very sunny days are generally associated with better mental health.

Hooray for the sun!

Earlier this year, during my annual physical over the winter months, my doctor asked me a series of routine questions. Among them, she asked me if I sometimes felt depressed.

Oh good?

“Of course, I feel depressed. It’s January in northeast Ohio,” I answered. I wonder what other answer she was expecting.

The doc laughed, then went on to tell me about the benefits of using “SAD” lamps during the winter months and when the weather is, well, cloudy. No, it’s not called a “sad” lamp for obvious reasons. Rather, these special lights help ward off SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, which can include forms of depression and anxiety. She told me that when we’re stuck in cloudy conditions, as we often are here in Ohio, light therapy lamps can be a good investment to provide a temporary alternative to the sun and help lift our spirits.

This is because SAD lamps produce light that mimics the sun and helps your body produce the hormone serotonin, which has been linked to improved mood and helps you feel calm and focused.

And in our cloudy little corner of the world, most of us know all about the need for sunshine.

Yes, the sun and its ultraviolet rays have negative effects, but we should also not forget the important benefits of the sun, including those that go beyond our mental health.

Medical experts point to some tangible benefits of the sun like these:

• Vitamin D: The sun is nature’s best source of vitamin D, and it takes less than 15 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week to notice a difference. Vitamin D, of course, helps strengthen bones and teeth. Low vitamin D has been linked to diseases such as osteoporosis and rickets.

• Having trouble sleeping? Serotonin from sunlight helps you get more restful sleep at night. Working in tandem with serotonin is melatonin, a chemical in your brain that lulls you to sleep and which the sun also helps your body produce.

• Blood pressure: Sunlight also triggers the release of nitric oxide in the blood, which can help lower blood pressure and improve heart health.

Of course, a sunscreen with a high SPF is a must if you’re going to be outside for any length of time. But when you get the chance here in cloudy Ohio, I urge you not to miss the opportunity to soak up the sun.

Guess it’s time for me to stop squinting at my computer screen and go soak up the sun while I get the chance!

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