The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.Isaiah 9:1a
This past Sunday’s readings were all about light. Imagine that. Maybe it’s the church’s way of letting those of us in the Northern Hemisphere know Christ and his light are always here for us. And that the days are getting longer! We frequently hear about light in a spiritual context, but light is also a requirement for our physical health, too.
Yes, we do need the light of Christ, but light also affects our physical health. Most of us don’t get the right kinds of light at the right times of day and we pay the price. Our bodies were designed to follow the natural rhythms of light/productivity and darkness/rest. With the advent of electricity, light bulbs and now TVs, computers, phones and other screens, we’re getting our natural rhythm off track. Here are some ways to use light to work with our bodies and get back on track!
Morning Light-Mood, Attention, Productivity
We need bright light in the morning. Especially the blue light waves or frequencies. It’s what we get when the sun shines in a bright blue sky. It wakes us up, perks us up and has been associated with increased attention and mood. Living in the upper Midwest, not only do we have cloudy, foggy, short winter days, we can have several in a row. Not that a good cloudy, foggy day isn’t great to snuggle up with a good book or other self-care project, but too many of them really dampers a sunny disposition.
Switching on the lights 1st thing in the morning (or as soon as possible if you rise long before others get up) really helps with this. Bright light tells our internal clock, “Its time to wake up and be productive!” Something else that helps a lot of people with Seasonal Affective Disorder or the winter blues, is using a full-spectrum light box. I got one last May after a looooong winter and dreary start to spring. It sits on the “L” part of my desk and shines at me from the side as I work. It has 3 brightness settings and a 60 minute timer. I usually just use it on cloudy days. Sometimes I leave it on high for 60 minutes 1st thing in the morning. On really dreary days, I’ll leave it on the lowest setting all day (or until about 4pm). It was $35 well spent on Amazon and has helped with my creativity and productivity.
Evening Light-Winding Down
As we move toward supper, though, we want to lessen our light exposure. Our bodies need time to wind down in the evenings, and that includes light exposure. Dimmer light tells our brains it’s time to start making melatonin-the hormone that helps us get to sleep and stay asleep. Working with our bodies and turning down the lights a few hours before we hit the hay can divert the need to take supplements or the nasty side effects of prescription sleep aids.
We’ve become accustomed to the extra hours of productivity and digital entertainment electric light has brought us. Unfortunately our TVs, phones, tablets, computers and some LEDs emit a lot of blue light. And yet what do we do most evenings? Turn the lights on, watch TV, surf the net on our phones, tablets, or computers. Fortunately there are some simple ways to enjoy your technology and entertainment in the evenings as well as the eco-friendly LEDs.
You can buy LED bulbs with a variety of coatings. Just be sure to look for the soft white, or a warmer color for many areas of your home, especially those areas you tend to occupy in the evening, like family or living rooms. Daylight or cooler colors are good for an office or other area where bright light is a must. Personally, I just use soft white everywhere in our home. It’s more like incandescent or ‘regular’ bulbs but they don’t get hot, use near the electricity or burn out as fast. I’ve had some LED bulbs in my kitchen for well over 5 years, now.
TV’s, Phones & Other Screens
Once upon a time I wanted a TV in our bedroom, but am SO glad it never materialized. The TV distraction may help some fall asleep, but most people who watch TV right before they go to bed (especially while in bed) do not sleep well throughout the night. I do however, read my kindle before I go to sleep. And how many of us are on our phones, tablets or computers in the evening?
They’re all emitting blue light (and at such a close proximity) right into our eyes! Our brains receive those light messages and think it’s time to be awake! Fortunately our devices have apps or settings that actually block the screen from shining the blue light. Some will also turn down the brightness. And most apps and settings have timers so the device changes automatically without you having to think about it! Bonus!
Do an internet search for ‘blue light filter for ____________ (the name of your device)’ so you can set it up on your devices and not have to worry about it. Unfortunately I do not know of a blue light filter for TVs, although the newer TV makers are keeping this in mind. And some filters do give off an amberish light so the colors on your screen may be a little off. Unless you’re working on something where the color has to be spot-on (photos, video, graphics, etc), it will all be OK, you’ll sleep better and get your internal clock back on track. That leads to better decisions, food choices, money choices, movement choices, word choices in our personal and professional relationships. And that’s just the beginning!
And as with anything, light also needs to be balanced with darkness. Darkness triggers deep, restful, healing and restorative sleep. That’s why you see all the light-blocking curtains and blinds for bedrooms. And yes, many people like a nightlight so they don’t stub their toe when they make their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. If you do need one, try a dimmer light, only turn it on when you get up, or find a motion detection light so it only turns on when you walk past it.
I can also relate to people, especially children, who have real fear of the dark. One thing that really helped me was to imagine God, Jesus, my Guardian Angel or other ‘force field’ protecting me. I started out by imagining it during the day and when it was light out. As my connection to God grows stronger, its easier to imagine him surrounding me with his love, keeping me safe, as I drift off. It’s a powerful practice that’s carried over into my waking hours. Just knowing I am safe in God’s love, no matter what happens, I will be OK has helped me move forward.
It may take a few weeks. But using light to work with our bodies according to God’s design is associated with positive health outcomes. It will help you feel more awake, focused and happier during the day and help you sleep better at night. It’s also another avenue for you to connect to God as you seek his light and love as we continue to enjoy the journey!
How are you making light work for you?
Are you struggling to with your health? Finding it hard to keep those New Year’s resolutions? Are you ready to invest in yourself, your health, your productivity and make changes that will have a positive effect on your quality of life for years to come? Wish you had someone who will work with you and your unique situation instead of just telling you what to do? I have a few open coaching spots. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time for a free 30 minute call to learn more. I’d love to help you light up a path to better health and wellness so you can be who you want to be, do what you want to do and enjoy your journey!