Longer Days, Brighter Mood: How to Get the Most Out of Daylight Saving

Now that we’ve “sprung forward,” the extra hours of daylight can also provide opportunities to improve our mental and emotional health. Xavier Arnau/Getty Images

The daylight saving time change provides an extra hour of light that can …

Now that we’ve “sprung forward,” the extra hours of daylight can also provide opportunities to improve our mental and emotional health. Xavier Arnau/Getty Images
  • The daylight saving time change provides an extra hour of light that can help with brighter moods.
  • Research shows that sunlight exposure activates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is connected to boosting your moods and feelings of calmness and focus.
  • Exercising, eating, and socializing are all possible outdoors under the sun.

With the arrival of spring and daylight saving time, more sunlight can help with brighter moods.

In fact, older research has shown that sunlight exposure activates the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is connected to boosting mood and feelings of calmness and focus.

When your serotonin levels are low, there's risk for major depression with seasonal pattern (also known as seasonal affective disorder or SAD).

“Several of the more commonly prescribed antidepressants act on serotonin,” Dr. Nicole B. Washington, psychiatrist, told Healthline.

She said the increase in sunlight exposure can also increase vitamin D levels.

“[There] is data to suggest that low vitamin D levels can have negative effects on mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety,” said Washington.

The good news is with more sunlight in the day, there's more opportunity to get outside and break up your day, all while upping your serotonin and vitamin D levels.

“For anyone working a traditional work schedule, the time change means it isn't dark when you leave work anymore and gives you more time to do things that could break up the pandemic days,” said Washington.

Plus, Gracy Obuchowicz, self-care coach, believes humans have a natural flood of energy that comes during the seasonal shift to spring.

“Look at the other animals around us; they are coming out of hibernation and moving back into life. I know I personally feel this as the desire to do a lot of spring cleaning and get outside every moment I can,” Obuchowicz told Healthline.

“That said, I think that after spending winter in isolated pandemic mode, many of us have unprecedented hunger to be back outside and around other people,” she added.

Using brighter days and positive expectations to improve your mood

As you adjust to the time change and embrace the extra hour of sunlight, Obuchowicz recommends you get in the habit of planning one outdoor activity every morning when you wake up.

“Since positive expectation is so important for our moods, you can get excited thinking about your post-lunch walk that you'll do while listening to your favorite podcast, or look forward to sitting outside in the sun while you catch up on emails,” she said.

Consider adding the following ideas to your daily plan:

Move around in nature

The longer daylight hours and warmer weather helps people remember the power of their physical bodies, said Obuchowicz.

“We've been trapped indoors and our bodies are probably extra eager to walk, bike, and run. Since the pandemic started, I know my relationship with outdoor exercise has changed from feeling like it's something I should do for my health, to an activity I deeply desire for every level of my well-being,” she said.

If traditional exercise isn’t your thing, Washington suggests gardening and working around your yard.

“The promise of spring means focusing on flowerbeds, getting your outdoor spaces ready for warmer weather, and spring cleaning. These activities are a great transition and sure to bring hope that warmer weather is on the way,” she said.

Take your lunch and dinner outside

While picnics are great, if you don’t have time to prepare or get away for a long time, consider grabbing your food and eating it in your back or front yard and then returning to work or household duties.

Another option is to make it a routine to go outside after every meal.

If the weather is halfway decent, Obuchowicz said her family always goes outside after lunch for at least a half hour.

“It makes a huge difference in our moods and helps break up the monotony of the day,” she said. 

Make after-meal activities part of your plan, added Washington.

“Outdoor fun time for families with children [might include] bubbles, races, obstacle courses,” she said.

Combining food with exercise has added benefits, noted Obuchowicz.

“During this shift to spring, it's fun to start eating more leafy green vegetables and trying new, more vigorous forms of exercise. Especially if you know you get stuck in a rut easily, use the seasonal transitions to uplift and up-level your self-care,” she said.

Interact with friends under the sun

Whether it’s exercise, eating, or another activity outside, Obuchowicz said to make sure you're doing them with a friend once or twice a week.

“Then you actually get to have fun doing it! Even if you just meet up at a local park for a socially distanced walk, it's important to make sure you're getting your social needs met, as well as your physical ones this spring,” she said, adding that this applies to both people who live alone and those who live with others.

“We all need to see new faces right now,” Obuchowicz said.

Washington agreed and said that social interaction outside in COVID-safe ways should be a priority this spring, especially for those who have been social distancing.

“More daylight may mean the ability to connect with friends you haven't seen in person all winter for outdoor dining at restaurants, [picnics in your backyard or at a local park],” she said.

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Cathy Cassata is a freelance writer who specializes in stories around health, mental health, medical news, and inspirational people. She writes with empathy and accuracy and has a knack for connecting with readers in an insightful and engaging way. Read more of her work here.