As we move into the colder darker months of Winter it can be easier to stay inside, cozy up with a blanket by the fireplace and stay out of the dreary weather. While this is often more comfortable, I want to encourage you to still find time to get outside on a regular basis both for your physical and mental health. There is an amazing amount of impressive research done by neuroscientists that have shown a connection between getting sunlight in the eyes first thing in the morning as a key trigger for your body’s “circadian clock”. This is the internal clock your body uses to release hormones throughout the day to promote wakefulness as well as sleepiness.
If you’ve heard of the issues some have with “blue” lights emitted from phones and screens at night, it is because this light tricks your circadian clock into acting as if it isn’t night time. On the flipside, 5-10 minutes of being outside in the morning, even on cloudy days allows your eyes to absorb a high level of photons that trigger a number of hormonal responses your body uses to signal wakefulness. If you have trouble sleeping, take a few minutes at the beginning of your day to spend outside, whether it is going for a quick walk around the neighborhood, or just drinking your coffee outside. If possible, get this natural light exposure within an hour or two of waking up. This is one protocol you can use to help your body remain in sync with the rhythms of the day to wake up and feel ready for the day in the morning, and also to allow you body to send the proper hormone signals at night to become tired preparing you for better rest.
There are countless studies that show the relationship between good quality sleep and mental health. Sleep is a pillar of personal health, and most mental health issues come with one form of sleep disturbance or another. If you’d like to learn more about the eyes receptivity to light, and how light triggers the body’s response to day and night, I recommend Dr. Andrew Hubberman, Ph.D in neuroscience. He has a podcast which is “The Hubberman Lab” and you can find it wherever you find podcasts. So throw on a sweatshirt, or rain coat, grab a mug of coffee or tea, and spend a few minutes outside in the morning to get your day started off right.