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Depressed? Science Says Pay Homage To The Sun
People who pay more attention to the sunrise and the sunset tend to be happier.
There’s a reason vinyasa-style yoga opening sequences are named “sun salutations.” Our ancestors clearly understood the importance of the sun when it came to ushering in a new day.
New research out this year presents more evidence about the link between sunshine and our mental health. In January, a pair of British researchers published a paper on the impact of landscapes on our emotional state and found those who gave attention to the sunrise or the sunset felt the greatest mood boost.
“We have, as western populations, become very disconnected from the natural world,” Alex Smalley, the lead author on the paper told the Washington Post. “When you see something vast and overwhelming or something that produces this feeling of awe, your own problems can feel diminished and so you don’t worry so much about them.”
The researchers studied the effects of various aesthetics by presenting individuals who took an online survey with “carefully constructed landscape images.” Those surveyed responded most positively to images of the sun’s transition to daytime or nighttime. Individuals were even asked how much they would be willing to pay to see the scenes depicted up to 100 pounds. Natural settings won over urban environments each time, with the highest willingness-to-pay reported for sunrises and sunsets. (On a side note: I was more than happy to shell out $30 for a sunrise yoga class at Red Rocks Amphitheatre this June).
“These moments clearly matter to people: the rhythm of the day held notable significance for ancient civilizations,” researchers wrote.
There’s no shortage of research out there which shows we’re wired to be outside. There’s also no shortage of research that tells us sun exposure is a prerequisite to maintain our spiritual health. Sunlight regulates our hormones, our circadian rhythm and even our immune system. Andrew Huberman, the nation’s most prominent health podcaster, wrote last year that morning sun exposure is “non-negotiable.”
More people should spend more time outdoors, period. Whenever I come across some angry activist on TikTok or Twitter I think these people need to go out more often, whether it’s to climb a tree and kick rocks for an hour. Instead, 1 in 3 adults report keeping a “constant” presence online, and then they wonder why they’re lonely and depressed.
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