In 1967, “The Summer of Love” shook conservative America to its very foundation with a clarion call—not to battle, but for “peace, love and understanding”—and along with it the glorious rebellion marked by “sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll.” But eons before throngs of flower children massed in Haight-Ashbury, “summer lovin’” (obligatory Grease reference—check!) was a hot topic, and historically has been since mankind started keeping track of such things.
Some of the catalysts that drive summer love are cultural, and some, when you get right down to it, are pure chemistry. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking into a few of the summer-centric elements that truly put the locomotion in your hot-weather rendezvous—and we’re starting off our list with the most ubiquitous factor of the season—sunshine!
Here Comes the Sun
It’s true, The Moon is one of the tarot deck’s most mystical cards, and moonlight may be made for romance, but speaking strictly through the lens of science, the illumination of the moon is really just reflection of sunlight. Much as the sun (another stellar card in the tarot deck) is responsible for our appreciation of a glorious lunar spectacle, it also manufactures some powerful performance-enhancing natural chemicals in the human body that encourage our urge to merge like nothing else can.
As the late great John Denver so aptly sang, “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy”—and with good reason. Sunshine—or more specifically, ultraviolet (UV) rays—gift us humans with a host of health benefits, many of which relate directly to mood, attraction, and—dare we say it? Sex.
Yeah, we know. “UV = BAD!”
There’s no arguing that overexposure to these potent solar darts can be more than a little damaging, and melanoma is certainly nothing to laugh about. However, getting the right amount of sunlight, at the right time of day, can work wonders for your libido. And as a bonus activity: sharing the sunscreen, as in, “I’ll do your back if you do mine…” has kindled many a summertime affair.
In an article for Psychology Today, Alex Korb, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UCLA, notes: “UV always gets a bad rap, because too much of it can lead to skin cancer. However, UV is important because UV light absorbed through your skin produces Vitamin D. Vitamin D plays many roles in your body, including promoting serotonin production.” And serotonin, for those who don’t know, helps regulate mood and libido. A deficit of serotonin can lead to depression and loss of interest in sex, while a healthy level may lead to the less-than-scientific outcomes of “feeling happy” and “making whoopee.”
While tanning might not be healthy for the epidermis, the appreciation of tanning may actually be part of a Darwinian cycle to ensure the race survives—at least, according to some researchers. Dr. Gad Saad, a professor of marketing who holds the Concordia University Research Chair in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences and Darwinian Consumption, has posited that the pursuit of tanned mates may have more to do with our lizard brain than common sense. In other words, our biological imperative to reproduce overrides concerns over long-term negative effects of tanning, but “natural selection could accept such a trade-off.”
And, as Korb also points out, the light you take in via your peepers has a similar effect on serotonin production, so you can give your flesh a rest—but he does caution that the time of day you “ingest” your Vitamin D actually makes a difference, and the earlier the better: “Bright lights at night block the conversion of serotonin into melatonin,” he explains, “and melatonin is essential for a good night’s sleep.”
You Light Up My (Love) Life
Studies show that in addition to boosting serotonin, sunshine also ups levels of the human love hormones testosterone and estrogen, as well as dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. Not bad!
Conversely, as previously noted, sunshine blocks melatonin production, and while that’s not so hot when you need to get your zzz’s, less melatonin may actually equate to fewer inhibitions, mood-wise. According to a study on tanning conducted by Wake Forest University, UV rays may also be responsible for releasing endorphins, which produce a euphoria often equated to a “natural high.” So, as long as you’re careful, and don’t overdose on UV consumption, when it comes to sunshine, what’s not to love?
Looking for someone special to light up your summer? A KEEN advisor can help show you where the action is!