Ever get so involved in working on a project that you time warp and realize it's been a couple months when you come up for air? Yeah. Me too. That's where I've been since April - head down, devouring information, learning everything I can, changing my life. I am so EXCITED to tell you about it!
There are many moving parts to this part of our journey to Evolve at Home, so I'm going to break it down into digestible chunks of information over a few blog posts. Of course, if this information lights your fire, take it and RUN - find more, do more, be more. Don't wait for me to write it all down!
So the title might give you an inkling of what I'm itching to talk about in this post... Yes, SUN! There are so many things the sun influences in every life (human, animal, plant, bacteria) here on Earth. One small piece of it has to do with guiding us, and everything else, through the natural rhythms and cycles of life on Earth. Unfortunately, we humans are just so intelligent that we've invented our way into a 24/7, artificially lit, constantly-plugged-in, sanitized existence that has made us forget just what it means to live with the sun. And it's been absolutely detrimental to our hormone cycles, our sleep, and, ultimately, our health.
While living with the sun entails a great deal more than just witnessing the sunrise, midday sun, and sunset, this post is dedicated to just seeing the sun and living your life in rhythm with it. I'll get into more sun related details in future posts. I don't want to overwhelm.
The Circadian Rhythm
Are you exhausted? Do you have to rely on caffeine for your 'get up and go'? Is your brain foggy? Are you depressed? Are you anxious? Do you have trouble concentrating? Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you have trouble staying asleep? This sounds like one of those commercials for a miracle pill or a used car. HA!
All joking aside, every living thing has a natural circadian rhythm that is driven by the sun, which is the energy source for life for our planet. For humans, the sun is the guiding light to our circadian rhythm, telling us when to wake up, when to go to sleep, and providing cues for our bodies throughout the day. If you're not living with the sun, you're likely experiencing all those symptoms in some way. Living with the sun means being completely in and aware of the sun to truly fix your circadian rhythm, which in turn corrects hormone dysfunctions (along with dietary changes and exercise).
How many of you hear the alarm and hit snooze 50 times until you're late for [insert activity] and are stumbling around the house trying to get out the door? What a way to start the day. (#amiright?) No judgment here. I was one of those people. I thought that was how life went. But what if it doesn't have to be that way? What if you made some small changes and started waking up a bit earlier every day and catching a bit of the sunrise? What if you started spending more time watching the sunrise - just a little more each day? How do you think it would change your life?
I can tell you it radically changed my life. I cannot even begin to describe it, and turns out it was just the tip of the iceberg. We started watching sunrise in Dec 2021. At first, Dr. Jason and I would wake up just in time to step out on the porch and spend maybe 5 minutes watching it come up. Then back to our regularly scheduled programming of stumbling around, looking for coffee, maybe some breakfast. But then we stayed a little longer and noticed the changes in the sky and the birds' songs... and one morning we were earlier getting to the porch, I noticed the colors were prettier in the sky just a few minutes before sunrise... and so we started adding more time to the beginning of our morning vigil and then more time to the end. Soon, Dr. Jason and I were spending a good 20 minutes on the back porch, facing east, with naked eyes (no glasses or contacts).
The Why of Sunrise
The morning light triggers our "wake up and go" hormone cycles. It tells the brain to make cortisol so you can go hunt down those eggs (or bacon...yum) in the refrigerator for breakfast and energizes you on a level that coffee can only dream of doing. Trust me - when you start watching the sunrise regularly you will notice your energy naturally picking up when that big, beautiful ball of light peaks over the horizon. BUT I'm not a monster. Please drink your coffee and enjoy it! We do. :)
The morning light also does so much more than energize us. It's a type of quantum download of information for every cell in your body, including the mitochondria which are like battery cells that supply energy for every function in your body. Our cells have evolved because of and with sunlight. When the sunlight hits your eyes, your body takes the information (photons) to trigger a host of hormone production and other functions needed for your day. Think of it as your daily briefing.
Before reaching 30 degrees in the sky, the sun's infrared light is abundant and can help with inflammation (think red light therapy that you pay some therapist thousands of dollars to shine on a sprain, strain, rash, bald head, etc.). As the sun rises, more colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) are added to the spectrum and your skin and eyes are absorbing it all. This cues your body for the day, fires up your mitochondria, and readies your skin for the UV (ultraviolet) window, which is optimal for creating Vitamin D.
Who has the afternoon slump? You're going strong in the morning, make it to lunch, eat, and then an hour later you're fighting sleep at your desk (or if you're a lucky duck you're taking a nap in your bed). It's okay. Raise your hand. I was there. I thought it was part of "getting older." Well, turns out, it isn't a natural state of being.
Your body is meant to be in and around the sun morning to night. It plays your DNA like a symphony (Dr. Courtney Hunt). In the afternoon, it's prime Vitamin D making time, not to mention a huge boost in energy to avoid that afternoon slump. So, try going outside to eat your lunch. Fun fact: Vitamin D is actually a hormone. How does your body use the sun to make this vital hormone? Cholesterol. Wait. What? Yes. Cholesterol. Cholesterol is the building block of a healthy brain and body. Don't believe me after years of hearing cholesterol kills you? Check out The Great Cholesterol Myth by Johnny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra.
The afternoon "D Window" is a great time to take a quick 20 min walk around the block (or your office parking lot), make your Vitamin D, and boost your energy. Download an app like Dminder that will help you understand when and how to expose your skin to the sun to generate Vitamin D and not get burned without using sunscreen. Make sure your skin is naked (free of oils, lotions, sunscreens, anything) so you can detox.
Side note: if you're going to be in the sun, ditch the sunscreen, lotions, oils (yes even that organic free range stuff), and any other nonsense sold to you for soft skin. You're just trapping toxins your body is trying to expel through sweat. Use an app to help you track how long is safe to be in the sun with naked skin.
Also, ditch those sunglasses. They're just blocking vital information the sun is providing to your body via your retinas.
Ahh the evening. This is unwinding time, am I right y'all? How many of you spend all that time parked in front of the TV or phone scrolling (or both)? It's okay - no judgment here. That was us too. What if I told you that your entire day sets you up for failure or success with sleeping through the night, along with eating your last meal before 6pm?
WAIT! You say. We don't eat dinner until 6:30 or 7 at night. There's no way we could possibly eat before then! Okay! Hold on a minute. I hear you. I see you. I feel you. This was our routine as well. I'd wait dinner until Dr. Jason came home from the practice about 6:45 after helping all you wonderful people live your best life. Then we'd eat. But digestion would be in full swing when it was time for bed, especially when we started seeing the sunrise every day (early to bed, early to rise...), and we wouldn't digest well OR sleep well - lose/lose situation right there. There's no way your body can heal itself if you're not sleeping well. Something had to give, and we knew it couldn't be living in sync with the sun.
So, we made changes and prioritized eating with the sun, not against it. Does it mean I don't get to eat dinner with Dr. Jason Monday though Thursday? Yes. Does it mean we both sleep better, which means we're healing better at night, which means we're on our way to living an abundant healthy life? Yes. Is it worth the small sacrifice of eating a meal together? Absolutely. If your last meal is done by 6pm, your body has the opportunity to finish digesting by 1am, which is when your gut functions shut down because your body has other things to do!
But this is our family time, you say. I hear you. I do. I really understand. I was a stickler for "we must have a meal together because it's important." It was something I held onto because I believed that this one meal at the end of the day was pivotal to our bond as a family. But my values were misplaced. So, if we're not having at least one meal together during the week, how do we spend time together? Where's that connection for end of day discussion and catch up?
Well, I'll give you a hint. It has to do with sunset...
We unwind the last hour or so before sunset outside. I can feel those of you in Texas and the other southerly situated states side-eyeing me right now. HA! Trust me. I know. It's hot. No two ways about it. But around 7:30/8pm, it starts cooling off so we go outside in the backyard and sit while our dogs do what dogs do (play, bark, dig, sniff, sleep). No TV. Very little phone time.
This is our time together without distractions - soaking up our lives, our dogs' lives, living in the moment, slowing down from the go-go-go of the day. It's also time for our bodies to start the nighttime hormone production, which is signaled by.... you guessed it! ... the sunlight in the evening. This light tells your brain that it's time to start producing melatonin (and other functions), which helps us sleep and does a host of other science-y things in the body while we sleep.
BUT I LOVE MY REALITY SHOW!
If you want to watch that latest episode of the best tv show ever, invest in some blue light blocking glasses and put them on after seeing the sunset. The best thing to do is just to avoid screens and overhead lights entirely after sunset. Midwest Redlight Therapy has some affordable and reliable options. Swanwick also has some moderately priced options and are reliable. Don't fall for those gimmicks on Amazon that are $10.
Just remember to get in bed at a good hour to support ample sleep before waking up to see the sunrise. It's a cycle and you should be a part of it - every day.
So, What's in it for Me?
Being aware of and living with the sun allows you to get a real sense of the rhythm of life. I don't ever feel like I wasted any part of the day anymore. I don't go to bed saying to myself, "I wish I had gotten up earlier." Or "I wish the day hadn't gone so fast." Or "I wish I had done more today." Also, the second my head hits the pillow, I'm out. Goodnight. See ya tomorrow. No tossing, no turning, no laying there while my mind gnaws on the events of the day. It's the best sleep of my adult life so far.
A Glimpse into the Future
Since we started living in sync with the sun, we're waking up an hour before sunrise, walking 3 miles every morning, while watching the sun from its earliest flecks of pink in the sky to its full risen glory. Every. Single. Day. Yes even on the weekends. It's amazing. There are no words for the difference watching the sunrise, being in the sunshine, and watching the sunset has made for us. We're eating a hearty breakfast, not snacking at all, eating lunch that fuels us, and ending our day with a delectable dinner, yes separately, before 6pm. We're sleeping through the night and waking up rested and rejuvenated. We're experiencing the full day, every day.
Don't start by doing what we're doing now. (I'm talking to you folks who are like me and are all or nothing, go full in from the start, I'm going to be an expert the first time... yeah...you know who you are.) Dr. Jason and I took six months to get where we are now, and we're not even half way to where we want to be. This is the first time I've slowed down to make changes. It works. Go slowly. Make sustainable change.
The first thing? Get hydrated. Use electrolytes. STOP drinking alcohol every single day (that is another post entirely!). Get that right. It could take a week or two. Maybe a month. Give yourself time and grace.
Then start waking up 5 minutes earlier every day until you're seeing the whole spectacular show that is sunrise (use an app to find east if you have to). Once you're consistently seeing sunrise, start working on your breakfast. Take a week and really just get breakfast right. The next week, get lunch right. Then next, dinner. Just take the time to really get it all right. Once you're hydrated and well fueled, start generating your own Vitamin D using an app to track so you don't get burned. Start walking a little more each day. Don't push too far, just walk 10 min, then 15, then 20.
Bonus points: (who doesn't like bonus points?) when you're outside and are able to, be barefoot and standing on your grass or concrete to ground with the earth! Grounding has a host of health benefits and deserves its own post.
Beware of Sabotage
If your first and last thing to do is scrolling on your phone (or computer), or watching TV, or having on every single bright light turned on in your house, or sleeping with the TV on - STOP! Just STOP. Doing any of this sabotages your natural wake/sleep cycles and hormone production. You're cheating your brain and body of their natural rhythms and ultimately setting yourself up for failure (exhaustion, anxiety, insomnia, obesity...).
Enjoy being free from whatever nonsense is on your phone or on the TV, especially in the morning and a couple hours before bed. It can wait. Enjoy the soft warm light of a lamp if you need some light. We have these Hooga bulbs in our lamps, which have a minimum amount of blue light. See the sun rise and welcome the new day or go watch the sun set and say goodbye to the day. Leave your devices inside and feel the day, beginning to end.