Let the light in: Improve sleep, energy and mental wellbeing

As sun rises, the darkness of night turns to daylight. Why is this significant, why do we have daylight? Sunlight and light is essential for all living things, especially human beings. We may all notice we may struggle more with energy, sleep, low mood when the seasons change. During the winter months with less daylight hours, many of us may notice the impact of less light on our mental wellbeing.

Being mindful of getting up when the sun rises is really important for our internal body clock known as our circadian rhythm. Our body releases different hormones when it is exposed to light and dark. When it is aware of daylight it releases Cortisol to help motivate us to do things. When it is dark it releases Melatonin to help us feel sleepy. Being in doors in 2021 may affect our body clocks and energy levels and impact our mental wellbeing. Having a routine each day ensuring you get up around sunrise and open the curtains or blinds, let the light in however muted or wet the weather is that day. During the winter months try if you feel comfortable to go outside in the daylight hours. Whether that is in your garden or for a walk, bike ride or run in your local area. Being outside in the sunlight is important to feel the fresh air, hear the sounds around you, notice what you can see. From April to October the sunlight is converted through our skin into Vitamin D.

To help maintain the natural rhythm of your body clock start to reduce artificial lighting when daylight turns to the evening. Use softer lighting, lamps and begin to reduce technology at least an hour before bed. Reducing all the artificial light sources helps your body stop releasing Cortisol and helps it release the sleepy hormone Melatonin. Your are more likely to sleep well if you help follow daylight hours and natural light and reduce light sources in the evening. Have a set time to go to bed each night if you can. This is called a sleep hygiene routine. Similar to a personal hygiene routine where you get up, shower and brush your teeth! Sleep is vital to help our bodies rest, repair and restore its energy levels. Sleep is vital for our mental wellbeing, physical health including our immune system and digestive system.

Light is an energy source. We may all feel exhausted with juggling so many things we have to do. We may feel exhausted with all our overwhelming thoughts, fears, feelings of loneliness and isolation. We may feel dark in mood acknowledging that we are or feel depressed. If we were in a dark room we may switch a light or lamp on to help us see more clearly. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) you may already use a light lamp.

Metaphorically switching on your own light switch and letting light energy flow through your body may help increase energy levels through the daytime.

Try this 3 minute light based meditation exercise to boost energy and resilience:

  • As you sit in a chair feel your feet feel connected to your shoes or the floor
  • Bring your attention to how you are sat, notice the weight in your legs, the position of your lower back, shoulders and head.
  • Rest your hands, palms up on your thighs
  • Close your eyes and bring your attention to noticing your breathing: the sound and sensation as you breathe
  • Imagine if you can a warm light entering through your feet and gently moving up your legs. Notice the warmth and energy it starts to bring to your lower body as you feel aware of being connected to your feet, the ground and lower body.
  • Pause and take a breath in and out before you allow the warm light to enter around your tummy, imagine in moving in a clockwise direction around your abdomen, soothing as it flows.
  • As you pause and take a breath in and out allow the warm light to move to your chest bone and allow and feel the light to expand into your whole chest.
  • Feel the warm light fill your heart with energy, warmth, compassion and peace.
  • Pause and take a breath in and out before allowing the warm light to move through your throat giving energy to your voice, energy to communicate with peace and kindness to yourself and others.
  • Pause and take a breath in and out
  • Feel the warm light growing in energy radiate through your face and forehead, the warm energy giving you the confidence and resilience to keep doing everything you do well.
  • Pause and take a breath in and out.
  • Allow the warm light to sit at the the top of your head like a warm, bright hat or crown. Be aware of how it radiates energy through your whole body and can radiate light externally to others.

Imagine that light source each day for a few minutes recharging your energy and your resilience. Follow the pattern of nature, take time to be, see and move in the daylight. Rest, feel peace and calm when daylight turns to night. Through darkness there comes light and with light comes growth, strength and life.

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