10 Ways to Make the Most of Daylight Savings
We spring ahead on Sunday, March 12. You're probably looking forward to a little more light in your day. DST started back in World War I as a way to decrease energy usage. The idea was that people would burn fewer candles at night and not sleep through dawn.
More daylight hours can do some good for all of us. For example, car crashes tend to decrease in the months we're in DST. The extra sunlight helps in that area. In fact, if we switched to living this way all year, there could possibly be 366 fewer auto crash deaths per year, according to a 2004 study published in Accident Analysis & Prevention.
Regardless of the stats and science, I think many of us look forward to more light in the evening hours. Here are some ways you can prepare for and even thrive with the time change.
1. Head to Bed Early Now
Most of the downsides to DST have to do with lack of sleep and its impact on the body. Fortunately, your body's internal clock will adjust after only a few days. Why not plan ahead — especially you night owls! Start a few days in advance and set your bedtime back 15 to 20 minutes each night. That way, by the time you make the switch, you're already adjusted to it.
2. Spend Time Outdoors
Shifting the clock forward is a lot like experiencing jet lag. You can have symptoms ranging from insomnia to irritability to poor concentration. Sunlight has the power to help reset your system. So you may want to go outside in the morning on Sunday to help reset your body's circadian rhythm.
3. Exercise and Keep at It
Want to protect your heart? Use the added light after work to start a new exercise program. Current recommendations for adults say to get 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity in per week. You can split this up to 30 minutes or 15 minutes per day, just five days of the week. Try taking the dog for a walk around your neighborhood after dinner or heading out on a run with a friend.
4. Take a Hike
Exercise can be about more than just burning calories and getting fit. If stress has been taking you hostage this winter, being out in nature has tremendous power to change your mood. According to a 2015 study published in PNAS, hiking may reduce what is called "ruminative thought" or the kind of thinking where you rehash negative things you've recently experienced, improving your mental health. With more hours of sunlight in your schedule, those trails aren't off-limits as much as they are during the darker months.
5. Save Energy
Why not try to save some energy now that there's more daylight? After all, that was the original plan! Make a habit of switching your lights off in the afternoon hours and keeping them off as long as possible. Tear open your curtains, open your windows, or even head outdoors to read that novel you just started.
6. Boost Your Vitamin D
Soaking in more sun isn't just good for the soul, it can boost your vitamin D levels. Many of us are chronically low in vitamin D. My own levels were almost zero at my latest physical. Vitamin D is responsible for the body's ability to fight off disease, resist depression, shed pounds, and more. Taking supplements can help, but getting more sun in your day is best — and it's free.
7. Check Off Chores
You may have been waiting to do some maintenance on your outdoor spaces. In the light of day, you can revisit those lists and make some plans for getting stuff done. Spring is a great time to secure roof shingles, scrub moldy house siding, clean clogged gutters, and lots more. (See also: 8 Easy House Maintenance To-Dos for Spring)
8. Get Your Garden Growing
It isn't too early to plan for your harvest this year. Planting season is coming, and you can use the early weeks to step outside and prep your plot. Or you can head into the garage and take stock of your tools, and get a compost operation started. There are even some plants that will grow in colder weather. Try veggies like beets, broccoli, corn, kale, onions, radishes, or turnips.
9. Spend Time With Others
The darkness of winter made the days feel impossibly short. You may have felt like a hermit. Now that the days feel longer, resist the urge to isolate yourself. People of all ages gain huge benefits from socializing. Anything from having a renewed sense of purpose and belonging, to improved self-confidence and self-esteem. Join a club, check out the local calendar, volunteer, or do whatever else will bring you around people.
10. Say "No" to Screen Time
We also don't have to light our world with artificial lights and screens as much now that spring has sprung. Embrace this excuse to put down the technology and reconnect with your roots. Put your phone down, close your laptop, and just go outside with your friends and family. There's a lot to do in this world of ours, and with some extra sun, we can enjoy it all the better.
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