I know it’s March, but let me opine: there’s nothing practical about New Years and the mentality that everything magically resets when the clock strikes midnight on December 31. Sure, I guess New Year’s makes sense on paper (I’m familiar with your precious “calendars”) but does anything ever feel different on New Year’s Day? The weather’s the same, your problems are the same, you might have even woken up in the same clothes as the night before. That’s no way to kick off a new year, even if you’re not making full-on resolutions this time around.
Instead, a modest proposal: we treat the first day of daylight savings time, March 15, as the real start to 2021. We get to flirt with warmer weather, smell some of the first blooms, and soak in more of that sweet, sweet daylight. We don’t shed the past year in the middle of winter, we do it at the start of spring. And why not capitalize on this daylight savings and all it brings to do some things for yourself, maybe make some improvements in your life? Daylight savings can actually be the ultimate lifehack if you know all the benefits. Here’s exactly how to make the most of this spring forward.
Connect With the Earth
One of the most positive collective benefits of daylight savings time is its environmental impact. It goes without saying that more daylight means reduced energy use, with more people opening their blinds and windows for light and increased solar power. One study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy depicted a 0.5 percent of the nation’s electricity per day, or 1.3 trillion watt-hours in total—contextually, that’s enough wattage to power 100,000 households for a year.
If sustainability or even just a stronger connection to our planet is important to you, daylight savings and spring in general are an excellent time to do things with your hands to reaffirm that connection. At-home herb and veggie gardens are available in seemingly infinite combinations of sizes and styles, from miniature, 800-square-foot-apartment-friendly versions to backyard-dominating behemoths that’ll keep you stocked on basil for a millennia. Being among plants comes with its own set of psychological benefits, which is part of the reason why #plantmom is trending on everyone’s feeds. The calming effects of gardening, or even just planting some flowers in a window box, are well documented. In one study conducted by a cluster of Bay Area hospitals, nearly 80 percent of participating patients reported feeling relaxed and calm after spending time in a garden, and a quarter even said they felt stronger and more refreshed. It’s not just the plants, either. Another such published study found that soil itself, and the bacterias it contain, also release that oh-so-important serotonin also found in sunlight and the song “Ribs” by Lorde.
Even if gardening isn’t your thing, you can still reap the benefits of nature. “Earthing” or “grounding” sprouted up as a trend a few years ago but has stuck around for good reason. The practice, which is basically just walking in the grass, sand, or dirt barefoot, showed positive physical benefits in multiple studies including reduced post-exercise aches. For a shortcut, just move your yoga mat outside or go lay down in a grassy part of the park. Increased sun and warmth means it’s easier to hang outside, so invite some friends the pandemic’s kept you from seeing to a socially-distanced park hang: gaze at some clouds, feed a duck, ride your bike down a hill, read on a beach towel, and just feel the outdoors. You’ll certainly feel better for it.
Soak Up The Sun (Safely)
Undoubtedly the greatest part of daylight savings time is the actual daylight itself. Human beings need the sun, need daylight, for a number of physical and brain-regulating functions. You’re probably familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a cousin of depression, which can strike at any time of year but by and large is most common in the winter. Directly related to shorter, darker days, one of the most common therapies prescribed is phototherapy, done with a light box to simulate the sun’s affects. Even if you don’t suffer from full-blown SAD, you probably experience lower moods and/or sharp drop-offs in energy levels during the January-March stretch of winter thanks to the minimal sunshine. Once the clock jumps forward, we’ll slowly get more and more sunlight daily before it plateaus mid-June. The increased sunlight is thought to release serotonin, the good-mood hormone, and doctor-supervised UV exposure is even often recommended to treat certain skin conditions like jaundice, acne, and eczema.
Benefits aside, the extra hours of sun can also be dangerous without proper sun care, meaning taking a few minutes for a refresher before patio drinks with your friends is probably a good idea. Dr. Nazarian warns that although sunlight and vitamin D are psychologically beneficial, you shouldn’t let your guard down. In addition to reapplying sunscreen frequently, she recommends enjoying outdoor activities when the sun is less threatening. “Choose to walk outdoors earlier or later in the day, before 11 a.m. or after 3 p,m. when it’s still mood-boosting but the sun is not as strong so risk of burning and sun damage is less,” Dr. N advises, adding that you still need sunscreen even then. Research points out that even a 30-minute daily walk can contribute to lower blood pressure, boosted immune systems, and even extended life. One such study out of California State University at Long Beach found that mood correlated with number of steps taken per day.
Prioritize Sleep Over Everything
Every time I think losing a single hour of sleep when the clocks spring forward isn’t something to prepare for, I invite myself to look back at all the 8 a.m. classes and meetings I’ve accidentally slept through. Especially if your body is used to going to sleep and waking up at exactly the same times each day, shaving off an hour on a Monday morning can be rough and even affect your sleep patterns and skin for the rest of the week. “Sleep is vital for renewal and repair of many skin processes, including combating free-radical damage and building defenses against premature aging from external sources (radiation, pollution, arid climates etc),” dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD explains.
“In general, diminished sleep can lead to increased morbidity and mortality of multiple diseases but it also creates a lowered immune system and this may effect collagen production as well.”
Not to sound like my mom before the first day of sixth grade or anything, but preparing some breakfast, going over your calendar, and even laying out clothes the night before means more sleep the next day, but also helps with that disorienting “What time is it?” feeling that comes with delayed sunrise. The day of, consider going minimalist: dry shampoo (Redken’s Deep Clean Dry Shampoo ($25) managed to usurp a different kind I used for 13 years because it’s absorbent not powdery), eat something with protein, and pare down your morning skincare routine to the essentials.