Let the sun shine: Benefits of getting enough sunlight in your life
How much sunlight do you see during your day? Did you know that the amount of sun you get in the morning can affect how well you sleep at night? Not to mention a whole bunch of other benefits to your body and mental wellbeing. Read on to find out just how helpful the sun can be, and you’ll find a neat little sunlight visualisation technique at the end too.
Depending on your job the amount of sunlight you get from day to day may differ. It is possible for office workers can sometimes go half a day without even seeing the sun properly. Back when I worked in a 9 – 5 office job (that was invariably actually 8:30 – at least 6) I would get into the office early, and sometimes not go back outside until late afternoon. Now this was in a building that had zero windows anywhere near the workspace, so I might not even see sunlight properly until 3 or 4 pm. I didn’t even realise how much damage that would have been doing to me.
Keep your rhythm steady
The amount of exposure you get to sunlight is important in maintaining a steady circadian rhythm, which is responsible for your body’s 24 hour cycle of physical, mental, and behavioural changes. Part of this is the sleep-wake cycle, which relies on morning sunlight to help you sleep at night (yes, getting enough sunlight in the morning can help you sleep better fifteen hours later).
Natural sunlight helps your internal body clock to restart its daytime phase, which lets your body know that it is daytime and not nighttime. Since your body regulates how much sleep you need and when you feel tired and groggy, if this daytime phase is messed with then your energy levels and cognitive processing may be affected.
- Try not to sit in dim settings during the day
- Ensure you spend enough time in the sun in the morning
- Make sure to take frequent breaks outside throughout the day
Of course there are many factors that affect our biological clock and circadian rhythm, but studies show that light appears to be the most important. The timing of the exposure to light is also important, as the body is most responsive to sunlight in the early morning (between 6 and 8:30am). Exposure to sunlight later in the day, while still beneficial for other reasons, doesn’t provide the same benefit.
Keep your mood tiptop
Did you know that sunlight is essentially a drug without the drugs? The chemical serotonin is regarded by some researchers as being responsible for maintaining mood balance, and that a deficit of serotonin leads to depression. Exposure to bright light, such as sunlight, is seen as a way to increase serotonin without the use of drugs.
A study from the National Institute of Health showed that the production rate of serotonin was highest when the subjects stayed in sunlight for longer. The same study found that seasonal affective disorder, seasonal depression, and mood variation are all linked to sunlight exposure. Sunlight exposure during the summer can help your body stock up on vitamin D3, which is produced less in the winter months, and make way for the production of more serotonin. Essentially, spending time in the sun during summer can help you to avoid the winter blues.
Visualise the sun
Before you even get out of bed in the morning, get your day off to a positive start with the sunlight visualisation (if you can open the blinds in your bedroom so you have actual sunlight then even better).
- As you wake in the morning, lie perfectly still. Breathe in slowly and pay close attention to how it feels to hold in all that air. As you slowly exhale, imagine breathing out a brilliant golden light.
- As you continue to breathe, visualise the light growing and growing, until it envelops your whole body and then spreads out to fill the room.
- Enjoy the sensation of being bathed in warm light, allowing yourself to feel vibrant and rested. Then slowly open your eyes and get up.