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How morning sunlight cured my chronic anxiety

The simple life hack that can make you happier and healthier

How morning sunlight cured my chronic anxiety
Donna Francis
Donna FrancisContributing Editor US
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What’s better than watching a beautiful sunrise? There is definitely something so soothing and uplifting when you are lucky enough to witness that warm halo of light peeking over the horizon: it’s hard to feel anything but calm and peace. 

Yet we are often too busy in the mornings to even acknowledge that the sun is rising, let alone go outside to see it. And not many of us are lucky enough to catch a clear view to see one either.

But, according to a growing number of studies, the simple act of going outside to absorb the morning light, whether you see the actual sun rising or not, can do wonders for your health, well-being and happiness. Exposure to bright light early in the day can improve sleep, reduce anxiety, clear brain fog and even reduce the risk of developing obesity and diabetes

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Dr. Kelli Ritter, a Quantum Health expert and host of The Nourished Soul podcast, had been suffering from crippling anxiety and exhaustion before discovering the health benefits of natural morning light exposure three years ago.  “I started getting out for sunrise because I was told if you want optimal health, this is where you start,” she explains.

“So now I get up about 10 or 15 minutes before sunrise every day. I don't even brush my teeth! I just hit the bathroom, go outside and situate myself. Usually I'm either walking in my yard with my dog, or if it's cold or I'm tired, I'll grab a blanket, wrap up and find a cozy spot to sit for as long as I can,” Kelli explains. 

Dr Kelli Ritter watching the sunrise
Dr Kelli Ritter watching the sunrise

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Since Kelli has been getting out for sunrise daily, she has found that her anxiety is finally under control.  “I sleep so much better and I am so much more positive,” she explains. “Whatever's happening in my life or whatever stressful thing is going on, I find that being out at sunrise is very hopeful. I may not even see the sun, or it may be cloudy or rainy, but it’s like my body and mind recognizes that the sun is up, and that sets positivity for my day.” 

So convinced by the practice, Kelli has now become an expert on it. “I spent most of my career in traditional mental health counselling before personally discovering the huge benefits of more holistic strategies like this,” she explains. “I promise all of my clients, especially those that are suffering from exhaustion and anxiety, that it will improve their sleep, the brain fog will start to lift, and they will also see a lift in anxiety and depression. Even my clients with bipolar disorders or OCD see a benefit.”

Dr Kelli's dog often joins her for sunrise
Dr Kelli's dog often joins her for sunrise

How does morning light work its magic?

“Natural light is the most important element for setting our circadian clock, or our internal 24 hour rhythm,” says Kelli, “and if you get out in early morning light, you’re setting the clock at the right track for the rest of the day. But if you’re not outside very much and not getting the natural light, or you’re a night owl and stay up late, or you’re indoors on technology all the time then your clock will be completely out of sync.” 

Kelli explains that we all have one master clock in our brain, called the hypothalamus, which receives most of its information through the light and dark frequencies that come through our eyes. Sensors in our eyes and on our skin then read this information which tells all of the other clocks in our system when to release hormones. “If these clocks don't sync with the master clock and your circadian rhythms are dysregulated, then your health will start to suffer, particularly your mental health.” 

Morning light has a different kind of light frequency than daylight and evening light too, which releases the stimulating hormone cortisol.  “It helps to get your brain clear and fired up for the day - a bit like a cup of coffee,” says Kelli.  

“Getting the light first thing in the morning basically sets your body clock right,” says Kelli. “If your body has the information that it needs, at the right time, it's going to run much more smoothly and you're going to feel a whole lot better.”

Dr Kelli capturing the morning light at sunrise
Dr Kelli capturing the morning light at sunrise

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5 rules for achieving the perfect morning light routine

Kelli recognizes that there is no cut-and-dried routine, since everyone's lives and lifestyles look so different. But she believes that these 5 must-do rules will help you get the best results:

1. Do it daily 

“Consistency is the key, because it takes a few days for your system to start to get into the rhythm. And some people are so dysregulated that they need months to get that figured out.”

2. Don’t worry about the weather

“Even if the weather is bad, and yes that means even when it's dreary, rainy, overcast - or even snowing, those frequencies will still get through.”

3. Fit it around your schedule

“Pop outside in between cooking breakfast and getting dressed and getting the kids out – whatever you can do – it's going to be better than nothing.” 

4. Take off your sunglasses

“Naked eyes to the skies! But don’t directly stare into the sun - you have to be really careful about that. So as long as you are not wearing sunglasses, you are still getting all those frequencies of light that will tell your body that it's time to get up, feel energized and ready to start your day.” 

5. Open the windows 

“Sometimes clients will say to me, oh, but I sit next to a window that counts right? No! Windows block out all of the circadian rhythm setting frequencies.” So Kelli advises if you can’t get your whole self outside, and you’re in the car or at your desk, then just make sure to crack that window or door open. 

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