Sunlight, Serotonin & Sensory Needs: A Neurodiverse Guide
Exposure to sunlight has been proven to stimulate the release of serotonin in the brain. This may be the reason for seasonal patterns with mood disorders, as briefed by this study. Serotonin, a hormone that aids in mood regulation, can elicit feelings of calm and focus. This becomes particularly important for neurodiverse individuals, who may often encounter challenges related to mood and focus.
How can you get adequate sun exposure while staying safe and taking into consideration sensory sensitivities? Incorporate sunlight into your daily routine including seating proximity to windows, taking short breaks outside, walking in the early morning or late evening before UV rays are intense, wearing sunscreen or sun protective clothing, and wearing sunglasses to reduce sensitivity.
Learn more about these techniques as we explore the topic of sunlight exposure for neurodiverse individuals.
Incorporating Sunlight Exposure into Daily Routines
Given the benefits of sunlight, it is essential to contemplate ways to incorporate sun exposure into daily routines, keeping in mind your unique health and sensory needs. Here are a few suggestions:
For individuals spending extended periods indoors due to work or study obligations, consider positioning your desk adjacent to a window. This arrangement allows for indirect sunlight exposure while performing necessary tasks. You may also put a comfy lounge chair next to a window and enjoy natural sunlight while you read, listen to audiobooks, watch TV, meditate, etc.
Opt for taking your coffee or lunch break outside whenever possible. Not only does this provide an opportunity for sunlight exposure, but it also varies your surroundings, which can be mentally invigorating.
Even a few minutes outdoors on a short break can act as a reset during a hectic day and allow you to settle back into work refreshed. If you are not at work, set an alarm on your phone for outdoor breaks throughout the day.
Early Morning or Late Evening Walks:
To avoid the intensity of midday sun, consider taking short walks in the early morning or late evening. This activity allows for sun exposure while also providing a pleasant start or end to the day. Many apps show the intensity of UV exposure, or the UV Index. You may choose a time to walk when UV light is less intense.
A Reminder about Sun Protection
While discussing the benefits of sun exposure, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of sun protection. UV radiation from the sun can be harmful to the skin, so wearing sunblock or sun-protective clothing is recommended, especially during peak sun hours. Sunlight exposure for neurodiverse individuals may also result in sensory overload due to temperature intolerance or extreme eye sensitivity to light.
For those with sensory sensitivities, consider wearing sunglasses or a hat to make the experience more comfortable. If you are sensitive to the scent of sunscreen or if your skin reacts badly to it, consider investing in UV protectant clothing and a large-brimmed hat for further protection. Often taking protective measures such as sunglasses can turn an unpleasant sensory experience into a delightful event.
A personal anecdote that highlights this principle comes from a TEDx Talk given by a young man diagnosed with autism. Initially, his sensitivity to sunlight led him to believe he disliked being outdoors. However, with the aid of sunglasses to mitigate the intensity of the light, he discovered a newfound enjoyment in sun exposure.
Assessing Your Sun Exposure as a Neurodiverse Person
Take some time to assess your daily routine. Are you getting an adequate amount of sunlight exposure? If not, consider incorporating some of these suggestions into your schedule. You may find that these small adjustments can have a considerable impact on your mood and focus.
In summary, sunlight exposure is an essential component of our overall well-being, especially for those within the neurodiverse community. Thus, it is worth exploring ways to safely and comfortably incorporate sunlight into daily routines. In doing so, we can harness the natural mood-boosting benefits of sunlight while protecting our skin and sensory comfort.
For more information about the importance of incorporating self-care for neurodiverse individuals, read this blog post.