When it comes to my favorite season of the year, summer easily places itself at the top of the list. For an entrepreneur, the longer days are great for getting more done. But how do you maintain your team’s attention when they get that summer glow and are anxious to bask in the summer sun? New research from the United Arab Emirates show that sunshine is correlated to happiness and what better way to enjoy the sun than summer Fridays?
Since making the transition from neurosurgeon to entrepreneur, I’ve come to know and love the opportunities that summer brings. For our team, it provides the opportunity to build company morale through group activities, while also boosting each employee’s overall health and wellness. Many entrepreneurs have a tendency to focus on a specific goal and overlook the importance of crafting solid relationships with their employees. Summer Fridays should be viewed not only as a bridge connecting employers and employees, but also as an investment in the emotional stability of your team.
Still have doubts? Here are three reasons why I take our summer Fridays seriously:
1. Time outdoors is linked to positive moods.
Ever heard of SAD? It stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder and occurs when a person with vitamin D deficiencies (from lack of natural sunlight) suffers from symptoms such as feelings of depression and hopelessness. Multiple research studies have found that people who got more sun exposure showed less signs of depression and had improved cognitive performance.
In addition, various works within the Journal of Psychopharmacology state that warm weather signals the brain to produce more serotonergic neurons -- serotonin, your body’s “happy” chemical -- which results in a feeling of relaxation and well-being.
Simply put, more time spent outdoors equals happier employees, which leads to increased productivity. Basically, a win-win-win situation.
2. Natural light can improve quality of sleep.
I’ve noticed that “I’m so tired” has increasingly become the default response to “How are you?” And I’m definitely guilty of this as well. Our addiction to screens and social media has greatly diminished our quality of sleep each night.
How do we combat this? Experts recommend turning off electronics an hour before bedtime, but in our 24/7 society, some may find this hard to do. Here’s where sunlight comes in. A 2013 study from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana showed that individuals who received sun exposure during the workday got 46 more minutes of sleep, on average, each night, as compared to those without sun exposure. Some sunlight, plus more sleep, equals a refreshed and more productive employee. Are you starting to see the sunshine?
3. More vitamin D is linked to a healthier heart.
It’s long been known that vitamin D is beneficial for bone health, decreasing the risk for osteoporosis. It has also been associated with the prevention and treatment of other diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Recent studies have suggested that vitamin D plays a role in lowering blood pressure and vitamin D deficiency is a known risk factor for heart disease.
Though it’s not yet conclusive whether increasing vitamin D will actually prevent heart attacks, there’s no doubt that time spent in the sun is good for your overall health.
Of course, like everything these days, there is a need for balance. It’s obvious that time spent in the outdoors comes with excellent health benefits, but I urge you to be smart about it. We’re in the midst of a hot summer season, and the heat can be harsh on the heart. So while you’re enjoying your summer Fridays, don’t forget to:
- Hydrate with water to replenish fluid lost from perspiration;
- Dress heat-friendly to allow your body to cool itself;
- Stay alert for symptoms of heat stroke, including fatigue, nausea, headache, confusion, and increased heart rate. If you know your personal heart numbers, taking advantage of a device like MOCAheart can help you to spot early warning signs of heart distress.