how an extra hour of sunshine can benefit your mental health

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In many countries in the northern hemisphere, people have now put the clocks forward an hour and are enjoying an extra hour of daylight in the evening. As the weather gets a bit warmer too, it gives us that nice feeling that summer isn’t too far away.

But there are a variety of ways that extra daylight can improve our well-being.

When sunlight hits a specific area of ​​the retina in your eyes, it actually triggers the release of serotonin (the “feel good” chemical) in the brain. An increase in serotonin is linked to higher mood levels.

In fact, a lack of sunlight can lead to a condition called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as “winter depression.” This disorder, characterized by a low mood, is more common during the winter months, when there are fewer hours of daylight.

The sun is a source of vitamin D, which has important functions in the body, such as reducing inflammation. Besides its physical health benefits, a lack of vitamin D can cause people to feel depressed and anxious, while direct exposure to sunlight can improve mood. Five to 15 minutes in the sun is enough to enjoy the benefits associated with vitamin D.

Sunlight also promotes the production of melatonin, the chemical that helps us sleep well – insomnia is more common during the darker winter months. And a good night’s sleep has a positive effect on our well-being.



Read more: Seasonal depression: why it happens – and how to manage the symptoms


More daylight hours can also encourage people to socialize more. Socializing and connecting with other people is associated with improved mood and well-being.

More light in the evening also gives many people more opportunities to get outside at the end of the day. Although the physical and mental health benefits of exercise are well known, the simple act of being outside in nature can improve our well-being. It can have a calming effect on the mind and can create a sense of peace. It can also help us cope with daily stress and mental fatigue.

The therapeutic benefit of being outdoors in nature is such that ‘nature therapy’, ‘ecotherapy’ or ‘green therapy’ are often recommended as part of the treatment of illnesses such as depression. .

We could socialize more when the days are longer.
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

With all of this in mind, it is perhaps unsurprising that evidence shows that when the clocks go back in the fall, the rate of mental and emotional problems increases compared to when the clocks go forward in the spring.

Make the most of it

After two years of the COVID pandemic, and as war continues to rage in Ukraine, caught up in the worries of daily life, it is natural to feel stressed and emotionally tired. Making the most of extra daylight is one small thing you can do that could improve your mood.

Simply stepping out into your garden to enjoy the long hours of daylight can be revitalizing. If you don’t have a garden – or even if you do – make the most of outdoor spaces like parks.

You can also try mindfulness meditation. It involves feeling what is happening around you in the moment (like sounds and smells) and allowing yourself to imagine positive images (like lying on a sandy beach with the waves crashing in the distance) without judging or interpreting what you are. think. Sometimes called “guided imagery,” this practice can help you relax your body and mind, which in turn can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Being in and around nature can enhance this process, allowing you to pay attention to the sounds of birds, the smells of flowers, the warm feel of the sun on your skin. Find a peaceful place to sit quietly and focus on slow breathing. As with any new skill, this one should be developed gradually. Start with five minutes, and with regular practice, you’ll soon be able to do it much longer.



Read more: Why clock changes are good for your brain


The extra hour of light at the end of the day should be even more meaningful to us because of all the extra time we’ve spent indoors over the past two years. So use that precious daylight – step away from your desk, take a walk, and pay attention to your surroundings. Chances are you’ll feel better.

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