At this time of year, I become intensely aware of light. I drive to work as the sun is rising, and I drive home as it is setting. Fortunately for me I drive in the right direction to enjoy the splendour, driving eastish in the morning and westish in the evening. Sunrise and sunset can be the highlight of a busy day. I have been known to gasp, or stop the car to enjoy it.
In February I start to really notice the increasing light levels. The sun rises two minutes earlier and sets two minutes later each day. By the end of February we have nearly eleven hours of sunlight, compared with nine hours at the start of the month. We are on the up.
I feel natural daylight in my bones. It is like a tonic. Our skin is transparent. You can see this if you shine a light through the end of your finger. Sunlight is important for making Vitamin D, regulating our circadian rhythms (when we feel awake and sleepy, but also when we need to eat and fast) and regulating our hormones. Exposure to direct sunlight has been shown to help with a range of skin conditions. Research also suggests it is powerful in treating depression.
Human beings evolved for thousands of years being exposed to many hours of natural daylight and almost complete darkness at night. There is some evidence to suggest that disrupting this pattern with artificial light and not getting enough time outdoors can have consequences for our physical and mental health.
Light levels are measured in ‘lux’.
A sunny day can be measured at 10, 000 lux. A cloudy day might be 1,000 lux. Indoors tends to be around 25-50 lux.
On a working day, I have limited opportunities to lux out. But there are certain steps that can make a big difference. I try to take a half-hour walk every lunch time. Morning light is believed to be best to regulate our sleep, but any natural light is better than no natural light.
If the sun is shining through the window, I will get up for a movement break and stand in the sunshine for a few minutes. I know I am not getting the benefits of UVB (95% of UVB is blocked through windows). But I am getting the psychological benefit from the sun’s warmth.
Even on a cold, blowy, rainy day, I feel significantly better after a short walk outside. Grey sky overhead feels better than no sky.
This post has featured Iris reticulata ‘Katharine Gold’. This is in a pot on the step which I see from my kitchen table. Katharine has withstood high winds, lashing rain and biting frosts. Her delicate structure is angled to catch the maximum sunlight for her small frame. She stretches out her standard and fall petals in each direction, along different planes. She lets the light shine through.
She has soaked up all the sunlight she possibly can. I am following her lead.
You can read more about the effects of natural sunlight and how light may be improved in the work place here:
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