Your Health and Happiness on Nature: How To Biohack Your Exposure To Artificial Light (Part 2)
In Part 1 of Your Health and Happiness on Nature, we dove into the importance of getting natural sun exposure. We know that allowing the sun to penetrate our eyes and skin sets up our circadian rhythms, determines how much weight we’ll gain or lose and even has a massive impact on our happiness.
But this series would be incomplete without talking about what most of us get exposed to now all day, everyday. While this exposure may seem benign, it is anything but. It’s our exposure to artificial light; especially blue light.
There are things in our environment that while they may not have immediate and obvious impacts, have cumulative and mounting impacts. Those are the ones that we really need to be mindful of. Eating processed food may not show the impact on the first sitting, but after years of doing so, our bodies will show obvious signs of wear and decline.
The same goes for our exposure to artificial and blue light.
When our eyes are constantly looking into a device that emits not only electromagnetic frequencies, but the blue light that backlights these screens (all cell phones, computers, laptops, tablets, television sets and e-readers) our circadian rhythms get confused.
This is especially evident if we’re looking into these screens later in the day or the evening. Our biology is expecting to experience diminishing light. As we prepare for sleep through hormonal output and the visual cues from our environment (increased melatonin and darkness) our systems can calm down, get sleepy and go to bed.
But it’s so much more than that.
Our circadian rhythms tell our brains when to wake, when to sleep, when to be hungry and when to turn that hunger off. They determine hormone production, weight gain and cell regeneration. This is no small deal. So when this is malfunctioning due to underexposure of natural light and overexposure of artificial light, we can get very sick, tired, wired and hormonally wasted.
It would seem that in our artificially lit world, it would be impossible to avoid the perils of exposure. Not true! Here are some great, easy biohacks that can not only improve your health but perhaps rekindle your relationship with the natural world (and lessen the impact of the artificial world).
Get early morning sun exposure. We went over this in part 1. But it’s worth mentioning again. This may be the single most important thing you can do to reinstate your circadian rhythms. Early morning sun exposure can do everything from prevent cancer, lessen the incidence of autoimmune disease, raise vitamin D levels, decrease obesity and the list goes on.
For an enlightening (get it?) article published in NCBI titled, Benefits of Sunlight: A Bright Spot for Human Health, you will find a massive amount of information on the overwhelming health benefits of sun exposure.
Wear blue blocker glasses. They’re inexpensive (I got mine on Amazon for under $30) and cut out the blue light that we’re insidiously exposed to all day, everyday. You’ll want to wear these glasses as soon as the sun goes down. These glasses cut the blue light by diffusing your vision through an orange lens. This diffusion mimics the light we would get from candlelight or firelight. They’re worth looking like Roy Orbison at night while you watch TV or look at your computer.
Light candles at night. Our exposure to artificial light not only includes blue light but the light that is emitted from LED lightbulbs. These bulbs produce more of the blue light that we really want to avoid at nighttime. Fire up some candles instead. Our genetics still expect candlelight or firelight at night, not a house lit up artificially like fireworks.
Commit to a nightly digital detox. Most of us are on computers throughout the day. To then come home in the evening and fire up your computer or device just adds to the toxic load on your body and brain. Why not decide to turn off your devices after dinner and give yourself a break from the constant influx of information. There are so many great reasons to kick off your devices, some of which have nothing to do with your physical health but even more to do with mental health.
Dr. Cal Newport gives an incredibly inspiring Ted Talk on how quitting social media can change your life. So while you might not take a total departure (I still have most of my social media accounts), it may shift your relationship with needing to be online all the time.
We can decide to do things a little differently in this modern age of artificial exposure. We can simplify our lives again (if we so wish), get outside a little more and change the way we live inside.
We all know that most of us simply feel better in the summertime. We get outside, get that much needed light and reap the benefits that nature rewards us with. Little changes add up to big shifts in health and wellbeing. And as always, you’re worth the effort.
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