Sunshine and mental health: do vitamin D levels have an effect on mood?
Updated: Jan 29
The recent warm and sunny weather has been a welcome change from the rain and cloud that we’ve been subjected to over the last few weeks in the UK.
Now that I am finally well enough to appreciate life again, I am noticing lots of subtle changes in my mood and the change in weather has prompted another positive boost.
I haven’t experienced this natural upshift in mood for many years, in fact I’d forgotten what it feels like to respond positively to a sunny day, and it is such a relief to be experiencing some normality rather than being continuously stuck in a relentless cycle of despair and suffering.
I am now experiencing the normal ebbs and flows of mood, just like everyone else which is such a relief, and I now have the same mood lift as everyone else does when the seasons change and the temperature rises.
Spending so much time outside in the sunshine over the bank holiday made me think about the reported positive effect of vitamin D on mood, so last night I had a look on the internet to see what I could find.
The link between vitamin D and depression
According to a 2017 review article in the journal Neuropsychology, researchers found there to be;
“a significant relationship between depression and vitamin D deficiency.”
Although the researchers acknowledge that more research is needed to define whether low vitamin D levels are a cause or effect of depression, the relationship between the two things was clearly recognised.
The findings of the research prompted the authors to recommend screening for, and treating vitamin D deficiency in subjects with depression, noting that it is;
“easy, cost-effective and may improve depression outcomes.”
Other factors to consider
I’m sure that the research is right, and that vitamin D is important for mental well-being but I think it’s important to note that getting better from mental illness isn’t as simple as sitting in the sunshine!
This is something that is highlighted in a video which analyses the results of other vitamin D / depression research where the link between the two things is not so clearly defined.
In my own experience, my first two depressive episodes came in summer and I was an event rider who worked outside all the time.
I was the fittest I’d ever been, and I was tanned from spending so much time in the sun, yet I was still suffering terribly with low mood and that escalated into severe depression.
‘This is not my fault’
I think it’s important for people to know that even fit sports players who look after every aspect of their physical health can still suffer from depression. There is so much more to it than exercise and vitamin D, so please don’t ever assume that if someone is suffering from depression that it is in any way their own fault for not getting outside or going for a run because it really isn’t that simple.
The other thing to note is that when I was severely depressed, I couldn’t cope with sitting in the sun because I was in such mental agony that anything even remotely uncomfortable on top of depression was simply too much.
I remember forcing myself to go outside and sit in the sun and Mum encouraging me to get some vitamin D at different interludes of my illness, but I just felt so terrible that I had to go back inside and sit in a darkened room again.
Forcing yourself to do things like engaging with life, getting some sunshine or taking exercise is never the answer when it comes to defeating an episode of mental illness so I think it’s important to only do what you feel you comfortable with doing and listen to your own mind.
It makes me so sad to remember that I missed so many glorious summers when I was ‘dying to stay alive’ with depression and mixed state, and even though I am now able to enjoy the weather, I never for one minute stop thinking about those who can’t.
I hope and pray that I can get my book published and get the treatment that gave me my life back rolled out and available to other sufferers. I know that it can help thousands if not millions of people.
This can only happen if I get noticed so please keep sharing these posts and forwarding the website to others.
If you would like to read the research paper in the journal Neuropsychology then you can find it here.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,