Walk in Sunshine

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I’ve mentioned before that days and days of cloudy gray skies have a negative effect on me. Those symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder? I get those during the winter.

After an abundance of overcast skies this month and days of freezing cold, I was ready to get out of the house when the sun shone brightly today and temps reached the low 60s. I knew exactly how to beat the winter blues and boost my health at the same time.

This is walk number 26, Walk in Sunshine.

Walk in Sunshine title

Discovering Healthy Sun Practices

We owe cats our gratitude. Thanks to a cat that Danish scientist Niels Ryberg Finsen observed, sunlight became recognized as a source for healing.

Finsen suffered from a metabolic illness that would eventually end his life at age 44. However, 20 years before that, as a young medical student, he noticed that cats tend to gravitate to sunny locations. His observations led him to experiment on himself with the sun’s rays. Finsen concluded that sunlight has a useful effect on health.

Finsen won the 1903 Nobel Prize for his light therapy work. As his studies spread, 36 heliotherapy centers, also called sunbathing clinics, sprang up in the Swiss Alps. Patients exposed to sunlight often experienced encouraging results.

Today we tend to avoid sunlight, for good reason. Too much time in the sun isn’t good for us. However, up to 70% of the population is deficient in sunlight’s best known by-product, vitamin D. And scientists now know that isn’t the only benefit from limited sun exposure.

Walk in Sunshine sculpture garden
A place to walk in sunshine, the sculpture garden at Mercy Park.

Vitamin D

Although it’s only one of the benefits of sun exposure, let’s start with how important vitamin D is.

This essential vitamin is created when ultra violet light in sunlight touches the skin. The manufactured vitamin D travels to the liver and then the kidneys before becoming a hormone called calcidiol. This hormone regulates levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body, mineralizes bones and helps with the assimilation of vitamin A. However, calcidol has a relatively short life span in the body so we need frequent “doses” of sunlight to maintain adequate levels. Scientists recommend three to thirty minutes of sunlight a day, depending on skin sensitivity.

We learned during the recent COVID pandemic that vitamin D is crucial to the immune system. The immune system fights off pathogens by creating antibodies and also protects against everyday exposure to germs and viruses. The stronger the immune system, the better the body can resist illnesses during the winter months.

Additional Benefits of Sunlight

But there is more!

Heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, several types of cancers, depression, dementia and multiple autoimmune disorders are linked to low levels of vitamin D AND lack of sufficient sunlight. A 20 year study of 30,000 Swedish women identified a significantly higher death rate for those who avoided the sun.

It is now believed that sunlight activates T cells beneath the surface of the skin. These defender cells move into the blood, circulating throughout the body, boosting health.

Sunlight also plays a vital role in producing melatonin which helps us to sleep well and wake refreshed.

And sunshine triggers the feel good hormone serotonin. That’s another reason why we feel so good when we are outdoors in sunlight.

Walk in Sunshine - Mercy Park
Walk in Sunshine – Mercy Park. The pond still has a thin layer of ice on it.

Walk in Sunshine Tips

To benefit most from the benefits of sunlight, take a short walk whenever the sun shines, with sleeves rolled up and skin free from sunscreen.

Wear sunglasses or a wide brimmed hat to shield eyes from too much light.

Avoid sunburn by covering back up after 10 to 30 minutes, depending on skin type and sensitivity. Out walking, set a timer. When it goes off pull sleeves back down, cover up with a lightweight shirt or jacket and/or apply sunscreen.

Avoid highly polluted areas. Air pollution significantly reduces the amount of UVB and weakens the formation of vitamin D.

Morning sunlight helps to set circadian rhythms and improves sleep at night.

If your skin isn’t used to direct sunlight, build up exposure slowly. Start with five minutes and work up to 10 to 15 minutes.

If you are concerned about not wearing sunscreen, apply a mineral sunscreen that protects from UV rays without hindering the production of vitamin D.

My Walk in Sunshine

I felt an immediate boost in mood today when I woke to sunlight streaming in through the window. In the late afternoon, I drove to my favorite walking location, Mercy Park. Temperatures hovered around 62 degrees.

Carrying my metal water container and pushing my shirtsleeves up, I walked around the park for about 20 minutes, savoring the feel of sunlight on my face and arms. It felt SO GOOD to walk in sunshine. Apparently others thought so too. Dozens of people walked the path around the pond.

Health Boost

I needed that walk in sunshine today, as much as I needed nutritious food. I’ll be watching the weather forecast as we move into a new month and taking advantage of all the sunshine filled days.

If walking provides an important form of exercise and relaxation for you, then 52 Ways to Walk is for you!

The activities in the book are so varied and the information in each chapter is well presented and motivational.

I appreciate that the book contains a full year of weekly walks. You can read about my first walk from the book HERE. And Walk with a Map at this LINK.

Are you getting outside on sunny days and boosting your health?

Walk in Sunshine rays on my face.

 

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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.

 

 

Lentil Potato Stew

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I enjoy soup year around. However, I especially appreciate it during soup season…the winter months when temperatures drop and the days are short.

I’m also always looking for a new soup recipe. I tried this one recently, Lentil Potato Stew, and declared it a success. This simple recipe is adapted from one I saw online. With a few changes I made it vegan, gluten free and perfect for those on the Blue Zones lifestyle.

Lentil Potato Soup title

Making Lentil Potato Stew

This recipe uses readily available ingredients. You probably have everything needed in your pantry. And it comes together in minutes. Because lentils and potatoes cook quickly, you can have this delicious stew on the table in about 45 minutes.

Lentil Potato Stew bowlful

Lentil Potato Stew

Hearty stew that comes together in minutes.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 6 Servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 large potatoes, diced
  • 16 oz dry red lentils, washed and drained
  • 1 cup kale, washed and stemmed May substitute baby spinach
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 32 oz vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water

Instructions
 

  • Heat olive oil in large soup pot, over medium high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute until veggies are soft.
  • Add lentils, potatoes, kale, turmeric and black pepper. Stir to coat lentils and potatoes in oil.
  • Add tomatoes, broth and water. Bring to a boil, cover pot and reduce heat. Simmer 20 - 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. Add salt and additional black pepper, if desired. Makes approximately 6 servings.
Keyword Potatoes, Red Lentils

 

Lentil Potato Stew ready to eat
Lentil Potato Stew simmering

Lentil Potato Stew Tips

This stew is easily adaptable. Switch red lentil for brown. Remove the greens or substitute baby spinach for kale. Fresh greens or frozen work equally well.

Decrease or increase turmeric, as desired. Make your own vegetable broth or purchase ready to use. And you could add chopped squash if desired.

I use a mini vegetable chopper to quickly create diced veggies. This one HERE is similar. And I own a set of three stainless steel soup pots. I used the middle one for this recipe.

Lentil Potato Stew spoonful
Lentil Potato Stew – ladling it up

The Taste Test

Greg and I tried this recipe for dinner and found it full of flavor, satisfying and filling. I like using lentils for protein and pairing lentils with potatoes so I really enjoyed this stew. I also shared the stew with my mother and she liked it as well.

I’ll definitely serve this stew again. It’s easy to make, uses simple ingredients and I love that it’s perfect for my plant based, Blue Zones lifestyle.

Do you love soup during the winter months? Give this nourishing stew a try!

Lentil Potato Stew bowlful
Lentil Potato Stew – bowl full of goodness

 

Other lentil recipes you might like:

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Madras Curried Lentils

Lentils & Brown Rice

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