The sixth foundation habit is getting into nature. Keeping your body and mind connected to the natural environment is an important tool for physical and mental renewal. Maximizing natural light is an important starting point.
Your body’s natural circadian rhythm signals when to be alert and when to rest. Having energy to accomplish tasks during the day and peace to sleep soundly at night are two significant predictors of quality of life. The sleep-wake cycle is set by specialized light sensors within the eye. These detect the light and dark in the environment and adjust the circadian rhythm so that the internal and external day mesh.
It doesn’t take extreme circumstances like jetlag or shift work to interrupt the cycle. Even the shift of an hour over daylight savings can disrupt healthy hormone production. A sudden change to your rhythm or confusion in the cycle can cause challenges with mood, appetite and metabolic rate. Fortunately there are things you can do in your daily life to support a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Top tip one is to expose your eyes to natural light early in the day. As soon as you wake up pull the curtains and look outside. The light reinforces your natural rhythm which improves your chance of better sleep that night. There is also a link between light and serotonin, the happy hormone. Light in the morning is an uplifting and energizing start to the day. Avoiding blue light exposure late in the day further reinforces a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
Top tip two is to set up your home and workspace for optimal light management. Not all homes are blessed with natural light – a skylight or mirror may help you use what you have more effectively. Many offices have fluorescent lighting which some people find jarring to work under. For optimal eye health, follow the 20-20-20 rule endorsed by the American Optometric Association – every 20 minutes look out the window at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Not everybody is able to get out into nature every day but most people have the ability to improve the amount of natural light they see. Any adjustments you can make to your habits and environment are a great investment in your physical and emotional health.
This article provides general health and wellbeing information. It is not intended to be medical or nutritional advice specific to you. Please consult an appropriate healthcare professional, such as your GP, a registered dietitian or nutritionist for any specific concerns.