Lots of things that are good for you seem to be very expensive. I’m still not 100% sure what spirulina or maca root powder do or why people put them in smoothies all the time, but they are on my mental list of “things I’ve heard are good for me that are too expensive to bother with”. It’s a long list.
But here’s a thing that’s literally free, though admittedly hard to come by in the winter here in the UK. It is organic, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, you don’t have to wait three days for shipping etc etc etc… yuh-uh, you already know because it’s in the title: natural light. Light! That thing that happens for a lot of the day in the summer, or pretty much all the time if you live in certain places. Just light. The stuff that nature is doing when you go outside. You can even get it when you’re inside, if you’ve got your curtains open.
UV light absorbed through your skin helps to produce vitamin D, and vitamin D promotes serotonin production. Serotonin influences a lot of stuff, but one of the things it affects is your mood – as well as cardiovascular health, memory, sleep patterns, and other things we really want to perform at their best. Higher levels of serotonin correlate with better mood and feelings of satisfaction and calmness, and lower levels link to depression and anxiety.
I get sent a lot of infographics every week and normally they’re either irrelevant or garbage – but this one caught my eye. It’s about the mental and physical health benefits you can get from making like a plant and absorbing plenty of natural light, and it’s just a pretty nice little image about an important topic.
Now, I don’t know that focusing on mindfulness or meditating are necessarily ways to literally get more light into your life (though metaphorically speaking, absolutely) but if you meditate in the garden or enjoy some mindful moments in front of a sunny window, then they probably do help.
Now that summer has arrived, it’s absolutely prime time to get outside into the sun – even if it’s just to sit and watch the world go by, rather than setting off on an epic hike or any other adventurous expedition. I’m a big fan of anything that can give you a mental health boost without requiring a big budget or a lot of effort, and little things like positioning your home workspace to be in a sunnier spot or making the effort to take lunch breaks outside can make a real difference.
Check out my recent post on easy habits to get into for a wellbeing boost for some extra inspiration, and for a little more of the actual science behind why natural light is such a mood-booster, take a look at this great article from TIME.
To find out more about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which is commonly associated with changing weather and a lack of sunlight, visit Mind Mental Health Charity’s page here.