When the days are short and the air is cool, our thoughts eagerly turn to 1) basking in the sun on an island retreat or 2) surfing the Internet to “visit” Mexico and Hawaii and anywhere where there’s plenty of sun. Sunshine is good, but like all good things, we must enjoy it in moderation.
So whether you’re headed to St. Martins or your own backyard to catch some rays, here are sun smarts you need to know.
*Sunshine helps our bodies feel better so it’s natural that we crave it. But a little sun can go a long way. We’ve all heard of various conditions that happen when humans do not get enough exposure to natural light. How much is enough? How much is too much? The best advice always comes from your doctor, yet if winters make you gloomy, you may want to consult with a medical professional that understand how moods can be negative affected without sufficient sunlight. If you’re visiting or live in a warm, tropical or sunny climate, as I do right here in Southern California, then you’re smart to get sun in moderate doses.
*If you naturally feel out of sorts every winter, keep a sun journal. Write how your moods are affected by the sun. If you just feel better when you’ve been outdoors, gardening, mowing the lawn, playing a round of golf, walking the dog, or sitting in the garden reading a book, you’ll want to add some outdoor hours to every day or definitely on the weekends.
*Sometimes we get enough fresh air and sunshine on the weekends but by Thursday, we’re feeling down and dreary. If this happens to you, add a “dose” of sunshine every other day. Go for a walk outdoors during break time if you working in a high rise or office without natural light. Sit near a window at home. Pull back the curtains and let the light shine in.
*Surround yourself with yellow. Yes, I know, yellow isn’t a good color for many women, but add a big bouquet of sunflowers to your office, get a yellow jacket or cap, put bright yellow sheets on the beds and you could change your mood.
*Open the windows. Depending on the temperatures, open the windows for a short time each day and allow the air to freshen. Switch to light bulbs that give “natural” light and keep the house brighter.
*Bring in more plants, especially those with flowers. My colleague, Dr. Eva Shaw, author of Shovel It: Nature’s Health Plan, says that the more we can be with nature, even if it’s with plants and flowers in our office or home, the healthier and happier we feel.
*Rethinking your need for a tan. And definitely talk with your dermatologist if you’re still going to a tanning salon.
*Check out the self-tanning products. A dermatologist or skin-care professional can recommend the best variety for your skin type. Talk with your skin-care professional about the type of self-tanning products. There are some excellent products on the market that you may be able to apply yourself.
*Make sure your skin is well hydrated. Facials that add moisture to your skin should be part of all skin-care programs, especially for those of us over forty. If you love the outdoors as much as I do, don’t limit the use of hydrating moisturizers to only the summer months. As you select facial and body lotion, see if they have a sun protection factor that’s appropriate for your skin type and the exposure you’re getting. The most important part of any SPF lotion is to use it, every day and under your make up. Reapply sunscreen every two hours when you’re outdoors, even if you’re using waterproof varieties, and do so in the shade. If biting bugs are a concern, find a blend of sunscreen, moisturizer and bug repellant. Some come without a fragrance so you needn’t smell like you’ve tested every variety at the perfume counter.
*Dress smart for the sun. Make sun protection part of a fashion statement. Today’s sun protection clothing has turned to high fashion, with trim styles and great colors. You don’t have to look like someone’s great aunt when you’re outdoors. Instead check the styles that make you look hot and cool. If you’re going to be outdoors a lot, say hiking in Hilo, check out the hats and long-sleeve t-shirt made of fabric that breathe and stay cool next to your body but do not allow harmful rays to reach your skin.
*Wear a hat. If you’ve been shopping in the last two years, you’ve seen the knock-out sunhats, golf hats and baseball caps for all occasions. Even with a hat, apply sunscreen to the tips of your ears, lips and the back of your neck.
Hey, sunshine. Don’t be shy. Respect the sun and stay fit for life.
Sheila Cluff, fitness expert, television celebrity and owner of The Oaks at Ojai, is the author of Take 5: How You Can Benefit from Just Five Minutes of Daily Exercise and The Ultimate Recipe for Fitness by Sheila and Eleanor Brown. Visit Sheila’s Spa on the Internet and see all that’s happening at the resort: The Oaks at Ojai www.oaksspa.com.
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