Cavemen weren’t depressed. Restoring your Paleolithic rhythm will boost your mood.
Exposure to nature and tapping into our genetic disposition to an active lifestyle significantly improves our sense of well-being. Investing 30 minutes of our time exercising the heart in a natural environment and in direct exposure to the sun, enhances depression recovery.
Cavemen didn’t spend much time in caves
Our Paleolithic ancestors spent most of their time outside, chasing woolly mammoths, playing in the dirt, and making families. We also know they traveled long distances on foot in direct exposure to the sun’s healing rays.
They lived shamelessly out in the sun. Modern humans spend more time indoors than they did, for sure. When we spend a day outside most of us have to slap on sunscreen. We’re not used to spending much time outdoors. In fact, a Harvard study revealed that we only spend 5% of our day out in the sun.
Sunshine enhances our mood
When sunlight enters our eyes it stimulates our retina, which then causes our brain to increase its serotonin manufacturing capacity. In other words, natural light boosts serotonin levels in our brain.
People with depression often present at our clinic suffering from low mood and loss of appetite. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter and hormone produced in our brain and gut that modulates mood, appetite, and digestion.
When serotonin levels are depleted, we suffer. Sunshine is one way to boost its production.
Stick with it for a while
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are widely used antidepressants that enhance our brains’ use of serotonin. If we take only one or two pills, ever, the antidepressants won’t work. Those medicines work best when taken for many months. Making use of the sun’s healing power follows the same principle. Stick with it for a while.
Here are some things to consider when making use of the sunshine remedy:
- 30 minutes of exposure
- 3-5 days per week
- In a natural environment
- Sunscreen is advised
Consider healing walks in nature
Incorporating cardiovascular exercise takes the sunshine remedy to the next level, but it must be in a natural environment.
It’s been proven that healing walks reduce cortisol by 16%, mitigating the effects of toxic stress. The control group in that study walked through an urban landscape but didn’t experience the same stress-reducing benefit. This is because our senses are evolutionarily attuned to nature, not traffic and concrete. Modern cities are new to our species.
For much of our history, human beings have been hunter-gatherers. They traveled between 5-10 miles per day searching for food. Nobody walks that far every day anymore. We’re lazier than we’ve ever been. The trouble is that our biology hasn’t evolved fast enough to adapt to the extra downtime, and we suffer tremendously as a result.
We need to be more active
Comparing our present energy expenditure to that of our ancestors, we’re 68% less active. Recovatry suggests exercising 3-5 times a week, 30 minutes at a time, with our heart rate between 50 and 85 percent of our maximum. The following activities are strongly recommended in nature and in direct exposure to the sun’s healing rays:
Long-term neurological benefit
There are long-term neurological benefits to aerobic exercise. It produces endorphins that improve our sense of well-being and overall mood. Exercise also increases levels of neurotransmitters like glutamate, GABA, serotonin, and norepinephrine, all of which play key roles in mood regulation.
One lap isn’t enough, though. Think about it like working out. Every time we exercise, our neurons get broken down and repaired much like muscles.
For example, doing bicep curls one time won’t grow our biceps, but many months of bicep curls will have our arms looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. In the same way, frequent cardiovascular exercise over many months changes the way our brain functions, for the better, especially when it’s done in nature and in direct exposure to the sun’s healing rays.