Who doesn’t love a nice, sunny day? A little sunshine can lift your spirits and make you really appreciate being alive. You look out the window and decide to take a walk, if only for the fun of it. You get a little spring in your step, and the world takes on a rosy glow. Even your neighbors seem nicer when it’s sunny — everyone’s happy just to be outside.

But the sun isn’t simply a nice perk that makes your day brighter. It provides all kinds of benefits you might not have thought of. The sun’s rays are vital for your well-being and the planet’s — most life on earth needs the sun to survive. Even the deepest underwater organisms rely on its warming effect on the planet. Here are some ways you can get more than the bare essentials from the sun.

1. Enjoy Its Health Benefits and Mood-Boosting Properties


Spending time in or looking at the sun triggers serotonin production, which boosts your mood. Regular sun exposure can help stave off symptoms of depression and anxiety. Getting plenty of vitamin D may even help ward off other issues like schizophrenia and eating disorders. People who live in areas with plenty of sunlight seem to be less susceptible to all of these mental health issues.

The sun’s rays can also help protect against other medical issues. Sunlight may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A University of Edinburgh study even found that increased sun exposure was associated with a decreased rate of death from COVID-19. But be careful: Too much sun exposure can cause skin cancer, worsen acne, and damage the eyes and immune system. As with most things in life, moderation is key.

2. Use It to Power Your Home


Another way to take advantage of the sun is by using it to power your home. Solar power used to be extremely expensive and inaccessible to most families. But over the past 10 years, the cost of solar panels has fallen significantly. When you combine the lower price of panels with the reduced energy bills, the sun savings really add up. If you lease solar panels, you can even get started with no upfront cost; for more information, click here.

Beyond saving you money on energy bills, installing solar panels could earn you a tax credit. Solar panels can also keep the lights on when grid power goes out and may increase the resale value of your home. And, of course, solar power is extremely beneficial for the environment because it reduces pollution and reliance on fossil fuels. As a result, solar energy improves air and water quality in ways that benefit public health and lower healthcare costs.

3. Make It Your Trail Companion


For lovers of the great outdoors, the sun can be an incredibly helpful tool for navigation and safety while hiking or backpacking. For instance, you can use the sun to determine how much remaining daylight you have for your hike. Holding your hand in front of you, each finger that fits between the sun and the horizon equals approximately 15 minutes. If you can fit four fingers between the horizon and the sun, you have about an hour of daylight left. This method can help you determine when to turn back if you’re trying to get to your campsite before dark.

You can also use the sun to transform your analog watch into a compass. It’s also possible to put a branch or walking stick in the ground and use the shadow to determine cardinal directions. If all your navigation methods fail, you can reflect sunlight off a mirror, creating a beacon to help rescuers locate you. Then you could use sunlight and a magnifying glass to start a fire and cook snacks while you wait!

4. Let It Juice Up Your Devices While You’re on the Go


As ingenious as the above hiking hacks are, you wouldn’t need any of them if you’d just brought along some solar-powered devices. You can use the sun to power your GPS, your phone, and a portable stove. Some modern tents even have solar panels so you can charge your devices during your woodsy adventures.

But solar power isn’t only useful when you’re out exploring the backcountry. You can use the sun to operate many devices you probably use every day. With a solar-powered laptop and solar-powered keyboard, you can work all day with nary an outlet in sight. If you carry a foldable solar charger, you’ll never be caught with a dead cellphone or tablet. And while you can’t get a fully solar-powered car yet, you can ride a solar-powered e-scooter.

Soaking Up the Sun, Safely

Though the sun is an amazing natural resource, it’s not without its dangers. Too much sun exposure can cause sun poisoning or heat exhaustion. Sunlight can cause wildfires, whether naturally or when humans use sunlight to start uncontained campfires. An excess of sunlight can also cause damage to plants and crops.

So do respect the sun’s awesome power, but don’t let it stop you from taking advantage of its rays. Protected with sunscreen, shades, and a hat, and armed with the right tech, you can channel its immense energy for good.