November 25, 2013

GUEST ROOM | Sunshine in Wintertime

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By FELIX TABARY

Hey Cornellians, go outside and get some sun. Seriously. If everyone spent a minute taking in the sun every day, we’d all increase our Vitamin D level, and I’m certain our campus would be a little more relaxed.

Think about it. During this time of year, tempers are shorter, coffee lines at CTB and Libe Café are so much longer and students don’t hold doors for one another anymore. We cannot blame this solely on academic stress. We have homework due all year, and exams are scattered regularly. It can’t just be the cold weather — Ithaca can hit us with a snowstorm in May. What really kills us in the winter is the lack of sunlight.

A simple Google search for the health benefits of sunshine yields more than 13 million hits, with websites ranging from Buzzfeed to The New York Times. Better even, a Cornell Library search will yield several thousand research papers, books and articles with evidence supporting the health benefits of responsible exposure to sunlight. Getting more sunlight will help you sleep better, positively impact your mental health and might even make you just a tad bit nicer to everyone around you.

However, I am a Hotelie, and therefore my research skills are mediocre at best. Instead, let me provide you with a couple of my own personal tips for how to easily get more natural lighting in your life.

1. First and foremost, you need to face the light. Get a jacket on, maybe a scarf, go outside, close your eyes and stare directly into the sun. (Disclaimer: Please don’t open your eyes, you might actually go blind). Doctors recommend doing this for about 20 minutes at a time, but considering we barely have time to wait in line for a cup of coffee, try just two minutes. For those of you who meditate or enjoy doing yoga, sun-staring and relaxation are not mutually exclusive. Put your eyes to the sky when you’re in upward dog.

2. Whenever it’s nice out, walk to where you are trying to go. Avoid cars and busses. This is the quickest and easiest way to get some sunlight in your life. The added stress of mechanical transportation is not worth the gain in time, and you’ll be able to exercise while also catching some rays.

3. Go to libraries with large windows, lots of natural light and window seats. Unconsciously, probably half of the reason why people fight to the death for seats with a view of the Arts Quad at Uris Library is because of the high amount of natural light. There are plenty of studies out there that suggest natural light positively affects the quality of your work and your productivity. However, I think that the natural light also makes us happier and more comfortable with the sometimes-oppressive environment that a library can provide.

4. Try your best to wake up a little earlier and maximize daylight hours. The sun rises around 7 a.m. and sets around 4 p.m. these days. Simply being awake during daylight hours makes a big difference on your Vitamin D intake. Manage your days so that you can shift your schedule forward a couple hours. If animals hibernate, maybe that’s a sign that we should be sleeping more when there’s less sunlight.

5. In case you are virtually unable to spend more time in the sun or anywhere near it, consider investing in a luminotherapy lamp or alarm-clock combo lamp. These devices simulate sunlight and gradually get brighter around the time you set your alarm. It sort of feels like waking up with the sunrise and, having personally tried it for a semester, it actually works quite well.

Finally, remember that other places are much worse off than us. Imagine living in Stockholm, Sweden, during the month of January. Over there, the sun rises at 9 a.m. and sets around 2:45 p.m. Happy winter!

Felix Tabary is a senior in the College of Hotel Administration. He may be reached at fmt9@cornell.edu. Guest Room runs periodically this semester.