3 Easy Ways To Make The Most Of Shorter Days + Embrace The Light
People will often discuss the importance of circadian rhythm as it relates to sleep—like heading to bed at a regular hour and maintaining a consistent sleep-wake cycle. But how can you contribute to a healthy circadian rhythm during the day?
We chatted with board-certified cardiologist Michael Twyman, M.D., on a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, who says the key is to embrace your light exposure. Here, he offers three tips to make the most of your sunlight, just in time for shorter days ahead:
Take a walk in the morning.
"The morning sun hits the receptors in your eye called melanopsin. That blue light detector tells the suprachiasmatic nucleus1 in your brain that it's daytime, and you start making different hormones and neurotransmitters to wake you up for the day," Twyman explains. Bright natural blue light from the sun regulates your natural sleep and wake cycle2, helps boost alertness, and can even elevate your mood. That said, a morning walk may help you start the day more relaxed, as opposed to an artificial light alternative, like scrolling through social media.
"Then when the sun sets and that receptor doesn't see blue light anymore, the body knows it's nighttime. Cortisol will start dropping, melatonin will start to rise. That cascade has to happen to have optimal health," he notes.
Open a window while you work & drive.
If you aren't able to take a walk outside, "at least crack your window," says Twyman, so you can allow some natural light to fill your space. "It's like the equivalent of like a fish tank," he continues. "If you crack the fish tank, all the water spills through, the same way the wavelengths of light are going to spill into your room. They're going to mount off your walls and hit your eyes."
If you don't have any windows in your building, then try your best to add a few quick walks throughout the day to remind yourself what time it is and acquaint your body with the outside world.
Only wear sunglasses when you really need them.
Of course, if sun is getting in your eyes, it's essential you put on some sunglasses to protect your orbs (not to mention, squinting can lead to wrinkles down the line). But wearing sunglasses every single second you're outside might block some of the natural light and mess with your internal clock, Twyman says.
And if you're going to wear blue light glasses, try to reserve them for the times you're in front of the screen, as natural blue light outside is not something to worry about. "Blue light by itself is not the problem," Twyman says. "In Mother Nature, blue and red light are always balanced, and that's the problem—it's the lack of red light that you're getting from your devices," he notes.
If you want to embrace the daylight as best you can, try to take a walk in the morning, crack a window when you work or travel, and only wear sunglasses when you absolutely need them. This will help keep your circadian rhythm on track and may even help you cope with the shorter winter days ahead.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.