Do you struggle to wake up in the morning?
I used to struggle so badly that I’d press the snooze button until I had 15 minutes to be to work; just enough time to shower, dress, and rush out the door.
Today, I get up two hours before I need to work (and I now work from home).
I centered my morning routine around getting sunlight.
We often take the sun for granted, given it’s just… there. And while our everyday activities are typically done inside, this tends to hurt our health. Humans spend 90% of their time indoors. This causes us to miss out on all the benefits of the sun, leading to poor mental health, lousy sleep, and so much more. In this article, I’ll highlight morning sunlight benefits, how you can incorporate it into your morning routine, and alternatives to sunlight when it’s hard to get outside.
The Benefits of Morning Sunlight
Helps Create a Healthy and Productive Morning Routine
This benefit is listed first for one reason: morning routines are vital to success, happiness, and mental well-being. Whether you start your day in the sun, having a set routine each morning can make a massive difference in your quality of life.
If you find yourself hitting the snooze button multiple times in the morning, you know the tone it sets for the day. You end up feeling like you’re playing catch up for most of the day. Setting yourself up for morning sun can put you on the right track.
How you start your day matters; it sets the day’s tone. Morning routines aren’t necessarily about focusing on being productive. They’re more so about empowering yourself to start each day with confidence, peace, and positivity.
If you don’t have a morning routine, getting morning sunlight can be a great way to start. You’ll gain the benefits of sun exposure and having a routine. It will promote other positive wellness practices such as eating a healthy breakfast, mindfulness, exercise, and more.
Better Mental Health
Adequate exposure to the sun and good mental health go hand in hand.
One tremendous benefit of morning sunlight is better mental health. The reason lies in our body’s serotonin and melatonin production. When we get a healthy dose of sun, our body produces more serotonin which eventually converts to melatonin.
Serotonin, known as the “feel-good” hormone, is a hormone that transmits signals between various parts of the brain. One of the critical areas it regulates is mental health and mood. Most medications given for depression and anxiety are designed to aid in serotonin production. Getting serotonin from the sun is a natural way without the use of prescription drugs.
Melatonin, on the other hand, has a calming effect. It’s known for its calming effects on the brain and ability to reduce stress levels. Melatonin has been linked with mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Deeper and Less Interrupted Sleep
Getting morning sun is key to a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Research has found that spending an hour in the morning sun enhances sleep quality. When we expose ourselves to morning sunlight, our bodies become better at increasing or decreasing melatonin levels. They’re able to produce the needed serotonin, which later converts to melatonin when it’s time for sleep. Without sun exposure, our sleep-wake cycle is thrown off, which can lead to poor sleep.
More Energy to Focus and Be Productive
If you find yourself feeling sluggish or sleepy throughout the day, you might benefit from sunlight. Serotonin plays a massive role in energy levels. More serotonin equates to increased energy.
Another benefit we get from the sun is vitamin D which links to healthy brain function. One study found those with a vitamin D deficiency had low brain function. When we’re exposed to sunlight, it sparks nerve cell growth in the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain responsible for essential tasks such as storing, creating, and organizing memories.
A Healthier and More Prolonged Life
As mentioned earlier, we get vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D helps with bone strength to prevent injuries and supports a sound immune system to fight off illness and infection.
Experts also recommend sun exposure for 30 minutes between 8 AM and noon to support weight loss. While not surprising, adequate sunlight also equates to a longer lifespan. One study found that those who spent more time in the sun lived six months to two years longer than those who spent less.
How to Incorporate Morning Sunlight into your Routine
Morning routines, with or without sun, are best implemented when planned out. It creates a structure for your morning and ensures you do the things needed to enhance your well-being. When adding morning sun to your routine, try to spend 30-45 minutes outside. Even if it’s cloudy, you can still get the health benefits of sunlight.
Be sure to wear sunscreen and look up your local sunrise times. An added tip is to get a healthy amount of sleep (7-8 hours) the night prior. Doing so will make waking up easier. Below, you’ll find a list of ideas for getting yourself outside to incorporate morning sun into your routine.
Get outside and get moving! Outdoor exercises such as walking, running, and yoga can help boost endorphin levels while soaking in the sun. One study found that compared to indoor workouts, outdoor exercise increases energy levels, revitalizes the body, and decreases feelings of confusion, anger, depression, and tension. An added benefit is that it can spark the inner goal chaser within you, trying to meet fitness goals as you go.
Take Your Dog for a Walk
Having a companion to walk with you can make getting up and outside easier. I love taking my Golden Doodle for walks in the morning. He gets overly excited when he sees his leash, and it makes me happy. I also enjoy showing him off to my neighbors. He loves it, and I love it. It’s a win-win for both of us!
Eat Breakfast or Have Coffee Outside
This tip is quite simple. Most of us already eat or drink something in the morning. Doing it outside is a simple way of getting sun. I enjoy drinking a cup of joe while sitting in the morning sun.
Alternatives to Sunlight
Getting outside during colder months can be challenging, even in the afternoon. There’s something about cold temperatures that makes you want to stay in bed all day. And snowy or rainy weather can make it impossible. Try the following alternatives to sunlight. While they won’t completely replace the sun, they can help.
Bright light therapy involves using a specialized lamp designed to mimic sunlight. These sun lamps produce an intense amount of light at 10,000 LUX. Exposing your eyes to these lamps tricks your body into producing serotonin and melatonin.
Using them for 20-30 minutes each morning offers a proven way to improve your energy levels, sleep-wake cycle and aid in treating mental health conditions such as seasonal affective disorder, depression, anxiety, and more. They are very safe with few side effects.
As mentioned earlier, the sun is a significant source of essential vitamins and hormones. When we can’t get outside for sun exposure, finding another source of those vitamins and hormones is vital. The following foods offer those benefits and can be a great way to compensate for lack of sun.
- Lean proteins: Lean proteins such as salmon and rib-eye steak are packed with amino acids, which boost energy levels.
- Flax seeds and walnuts: These foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve your mood.
- Berries: Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries block the stress hormone cortisol. Regularly eating berries can help keep your stress levels down and more manageable.
- Folic acid: Foods rich in folic acid can give you a boost in serotonin. Try adding foods such as leafy greens, soybeans, and oranges to keep your serotonin levels intact.
- Turkey: Turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving. This food is rich in tryptophan and melatonin, which create a calming effect. If you feel anxious, Turkey might be able to help.
- Bananas: This fruit is also rich in tryptophan and carbohydrates, natural sugars, and potassium which help fuel your brain. They also have magnesium which enhances sleep quality and lowers anxiety.
Supplements and Vitamins
If you’re a picky eater or don’t have a taste for the foods that offer the needed nourishment, supplements and vitamins can be a great alternative. The following supplements and vitamins can provide some of the benefits sunlight offers.
- Vitamin B-3 and B-9: These two vitamins can help regulate moods and make emotions more manageable.
- Vitamin D: One of the more prominent vitamins we get from the sun, vitamin D aids in strong bones and good mental well-being.
- Melatonin: A significant key to getting healthy sleep. If you struggle to get to sleep at night or don’t have quality sleep, melatonin is a must-have. Increasing your melatonin levels can help you fall asleep fast, in addition to reducing anxiety.
- Vitamin C: This vitamin is an excellent aid for boosting the immune system and fighting off illness and disease.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These supplements help prevent mild to moderate depressive symptoms during darker months.
While this one’s pretty obvious, you might want to try to center your workout routine around the benefits you’d typically gain from sunlight. It doesn’t have to be centered around the physical gains, either. Instead, it can be used for a boost in mental and emotional well-being. Pure Gym recommends the following exercises for an increase in mental health:
- Walking/Running: This can be done on a treadmill or just around your home (or even at work). If I can’t get outside, I’ll usually take short walks around my home throughout the day. Not only does it help my health, but it also offers short breaks throughout the day.
- Yoga: Yoga is based on principles of spirituality, meditation, and breathing exercises. Aside from the physical benefits, yoga offers a way to improve your body’s awareness, reduce stress, and relieve muscle tension. Consistently practicing yoga can lower the heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure, and cardiac output. Not only that, but it gives you a boost in serotonin. Another excellent benefit of yoga is it’s very flexible in practice. Some programs are more physically demanding, while others are relaxed. This gives you the power to choose based on your needs/goals.
- High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): If you’re looking for a challenge, HIIT might be suitable for you. This method of exercise typically involves short intervals of fast-paced exercises. It’s great for those short on time or looking for something they can do from the comfort of their home.
- Resistance Training: This exercise method involves pushing or pulling against some force such as free weights, weight machines, or your own weight. It’s an excellent way to boost your self-esteem and confidence. It’s also proven to improve memory, reduce anxiety, enhance sleep quality, improve cognitive ability, and aid in reducing depression and chronic fatigue.
- Martial Arts and Boxing: If having fun is a must to get you moving, these two might be for you. Both can be done in your own home with the use of a punching bag. You can even sign up for online courses if you need guidance. The high movement of these exercises is a great way to boost endorphins. Not only that but the kicking/punching involved can be a huge source of stress relief.
Much like anything, getting started is always the most challenging part. The key to turning exercise into a habit is how you fit it into your life and make it enjoyable. Luckily, there are many ways to exercise. Don’t be afraid to keep trying out various exercises until you find the perfect one to meet your needs and taste.
Getting morning sun can be one of the simplest yet benefitting health decisions you ever make. The simple act of basking in the sun can do wonders for your mental, physical, and emotional health. Just be sure to practice safely by wearing sunscreen and be mindful of how much time you spend outside.
What are a few ways you incorporate sunlight into your daily routine? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author: Brandon Landgraf is the digital marketing manager for Carex Health Brands, a health company that creates a series of light therapy lamps. He finds passion in writing to help others reach their physical, mental, and emotional health goals.
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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