The other day, all I wanted to do was sleep and stay indoors because I didn’t have the energy to go outside. Then, I realized I became even more tired and fought the blues as I stayed inside. However, when I went outside––even if it was a cloudy day––I felt at least a bit better, especially if I walked around campus.
“Home sweet home” is a real thing, but, at the same time, can home become a stifling place? Does a place of relaxation eventually turn into an anxiety-provoking environment?
Yes, indeed. Staying indoors can harm mental health because God did not create humans to spend the entire day inside. First, we’re often deprived from friends if we stay indoors because it usually means we’re winding down, away from people. Parties and gatherings are the exceptions. Second, sun exposure can help regulate the body’s circadian clock, which controls appetite, sleep schedules, mood, and energy levels, according to Time Magazine. Hence, sleeping all day may actually make you more tired and unhappy. Daylight helps a person’s internal clock stay in sync with their normal sleep patterns, according to Harvard Health.
Furthermore, Harvard Health reports that blue light can suppress melatonin secretion. This is why many professionals discourage screen time before bed. Plus, the bright light on your phone can become very stimulating.
The small amount of daylight in winter can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder because the shortened amount of daylight contributes to an increased use of fluorescent lights and pushes people indoors. Perhaps this is why moods elevate in the summer and depression kicks up in the winter––people stay outdoors longer.
According to Thompson Creek, the longer daylight hours allow for more recreational activities, sunrays can help boost mood, and absorption of vitamin D promotes bone and enamel growth. Just think about it: playing sports produces endorphins, having outdoor barbecues and picnics creates a sense of community, and sitting in the sun just feels good. You can’t receive that same feeling from artificial light. Plus, going outdoors allows us to enjoy nature’s beauty––birdcalls, trees and plants, lakes, oceans, you name it.
While this sounds great, getting outdoors becomes a challenge for people who work or attend school full-time. Therefore, you have to think creatively. Take a walk around the building on your lunch break. Walk around campus with a friend or to a local coffee shop instead of driving your car. Buy a bike and cycle to school or work as the wind blows against your skin and you breathe the fresh air. If nothing else, sit outside your house or apartment for a bit if you start to notice a mood decline. Light is important. Walls can feel confining, but the wide-open outdoor spaces creates a sense of freedom. Yes, it’s tempting to just curl up with a bowl of popcorn and a movie, but later on, you’ll be glad you stepped outside.
However, if you must stay inside, make sure you open some windows and pull back the curtains so at least some light shines through. Don’t sit in the darkness––it’s detrimental to your well-being.