Wellness is a crucial part of living a healthy, long life. Most people think of nutrition and exercise when they think of wellness. But at the IAWP we take a different approach. Our holistic perspective is called Wellness 360 and it considers all parts of our lives as crucial to balanced wellness. This includes aspects like relationships, nutrition, job satisfaction, and caring for our skin (which is included in our element Sun).
This article focuses on one element in our Wellness 360 wheel, the element of Sun.
Importance of the Sun Element
Talking about the element of Sun is truly important for our health from a variety of perspectives. In our modern world, we often think about the dangers of the sun. Too much sun exposure can produce heat exhaustion and stroke, burn the skin, and create skin cancer. It can also damage our skin, producing discoloration, wrinkles, and dryness.
On the other hand, the sun is necessary for our well-being. It makes our healthy fruit and vegetables grow. The sun brings color and warmth to our skin. It also helps us to assimilate vitamin D in our bodies, which is an important nutrient used to absorb calcium so we can have strong bones. Vitamin D is also crucial for mental health and so many other health-promoting processes in our bodies. The sun can also just make us generally feel more awake and positive about life.
Let’s dive in deeper to this intriguing and important element.
Understanding the Sun Element
Sunshine and the Sun Element
The sun immediately makes us think of sunshine, which has a huge impact on our health in both negative and positive ways. It’s very important to protect our skin from too much sun exposure. But it’s also crucial to get some sun exposure so that your body can create that ultra-necessary nutrient vitamin D, as your bones, sleep, mood, and the immune system depends on it.
There is a balance to making sure you get enough sunshine, without overdoing it. And it’s vital for your health to work to achieve that balance so you can feel peaceful, strong, and well-rested, while also taking loving care of your skin.
Helpful Inflammation and the Sun Element
In our Wellness 360 wheel, we represent Fire with the element of Sun. This additional layer of the Sun element is used to understand inflammation in the body.
Inflammation is a normal body response needed when an injury happens or germs make their way into our bodies. It’s the body’s way of defending itself and triggering the healing process. You can feel the fire aspect of inflammation through the heat in your skin at sites of infection and injury. You’ll notice redness, swelling, pain at external sites, or through fever and aches when dealing with internal inflammation.
Harmful Inflammation and the Sun Element
But inflammation can also be problematic. If your body continues to create inflammation long after the injury or infection has passed, it becomes what we call chronic inflammation. Your body can also produce this kind of inflammation without a specific injury, especially in autoimmune diseases and other similar issues. Chronic inflammation can weaken your body and immune system, triggering a cascade of other health issues, exhaustion, and illness.
You might experience chronic inflammation in the form of chronic pain. Maybe several years ago you injured your shoulder and even though it’s been a long time, you still feel the ache. Or you might have struggled with an illness, such as pneumonia that left your lungs prone to being extra sensitive and reactive.
You could also just experience swelling of the joints, achy limbs, or recurring headaches after eating a specific type of food or for (seemingly) no reason at all. Chronic inflammation can be a frustrating condition to solve and recover from.
IAWP Student Feature
IAWP Certified Wellness Coach Karina Hammer supports her coaching clients to live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. She recommends natural foods and herbs to reduce inflammation including turmeric and ginger. Check out her interview where she was featured in Bustle on the “7 Old Wives’ Tales About Fighting Inflammation That Are True”.
Balancing the Sun Element
Balancing out the Sun element can sometimes be a challenge, but it’s a worthy thing to focus on in your wellness journey. Taking good care of your skin is a vital part of your self-care practice, as well as ensuring that you get enough sunshine to create an adequate amount of vitamin D. Addressing inflammation issues can radically improve the way you feel every day.
Here are some ways to get started in balancing your Sun element so you can create more wellness in your life.
1. Get outside every day, in a smart way.
You don’t need to be out in the sun with your skin unprotected for long to get the vitamin D benefits. Every person is unique, however, so you’ll need to do a little homework to determine what’s right for you. Some people burn easily and others take a while for their skin to burn. With a little careful testing, you’ll find the right balance for you.
You can use the UV Index on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s website to calculate your needs for the day. Follow the instructions in this article to use the UV Index for correct calculations.
2. Take a vitamin D supplement.
You might live in a region that gets plenty of sunshine and have easy access to this natural way of assimilating vitamin D. Or you might live in an area that’s always cloudy or just doesn’t get a lot of sunshine during certain parts of the year. In this case, it might be a good idea to investigate vitamin D supplementation.
There are several ways to supplement, both in food, fortified foods, and vitamin supplements that are taken orally. Vitamin D toxicity is a possibility (though a rarity), so be sure to supplement wisely. You can discover options that might work for your lifestyle and health needs through the US government fact sheet here.
3. Increase your anti-inflammatory foods.
Inflammation can be caused by a number of factors, but the one you have the most control over is the food you eat. Yes, food can be a trigger for inflammation. This could be because certain foods by default cause inflammation in humans or because your particular body struggles with a specific food.
Food allergies and food sensitivities can trigger inflammation, so watch how your body reacts to the foods you eat. If you have allergic reactions, definitely avoid that food. Sensitivities can be trickier to nail down, but keeping a food journal can help.
You can also incorporate certain foods into your diet that help fight inflammation. Great foods in this category include turmeric, ginger, berries, fatty fish, green tea, dark chocolate, avocadoes, and so many others! Eat lots of fresh, whole foods, reduce processed, packaged foods, and add in more anti-inflammatory foods. Get some fresh air, movement, and sunshine, and pretty soon you’ll start noticing your chronic inflammation reducing.
4. Do a Wellness 360 check.
Now that you’ve thought about the Sun element, it’s a good idea to take a look at the other elements in the Wellness 360 wheel. Are any of those elements needing better balance? Pay special attention to those that might be impacting your Sun element.
For instance, relationship struggles might lead to stress eating. You might end up eating a lot more processed foods that you prefer to eat and not feeling as motivated to eat anti-inflammatory foods. This could trigger chronic inflammation, impacting your wellness as a whole.
Finding Balance with Sun
Once you take into account all the aspects of your Sun element, you can begin to take action. Focusing on balancing this element can bring you greater health, happiness, and well-being.
If you think being a Health and Wellness Coach sounds like the right career path, the IAWP’s Holistic Health & Wellness Coaching program might be a good choice for you. You can read more about our unique program and chat with an admissions advisor by clicking here.