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How to get the most out of longer days and more sunlight

Warmer spring days provide an opportunity to refresh your usual tired routine.

How to get the most out of longer days and more sunlight
[Source photos: Anthony DELANOIX/Unsplash; Ocean Ng/Unsplash]

Along with the warmer temps of spring, thanks to daylight saving time the days—and evenings—are longer. Where I live in Michigan, the shortest day of the year has only 9 hours and 4 minutes of sunlight, compared to the longest day’s 15 hours and 14 minutes. This means, from my geographic position, there are literally more than six hours of sun in the spring than in the winter.

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This lengthening of days is an amazing opportunity to get a fresh start. As a time-management coach and warm-weather lover, here are my top tips for maximizing your extended daytime hours.

Rethink your work schedule

With the lengthening days come earlier sunrises. Where I live, the sun rises two hours earlier on the longest days than it does on the shortest days. This makes getting out of bed so much easier than when it’s cold and dark. You can use this as an opportunity to shift your wake-up schedule earlier, which opens the door to start work earlier and get off earlier.

Perhaps you keep a schedule of working 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the colder months. You could get up an hour earlier, start work at 8, and end at 5. If you take a shorter lunch, you could even wrap up at 4:30 p.m. This gives you hours of time after work to enjoy other activities. Or you could start work earlier, end work at the same time, but then take off a half day or full day on Fridays in the summer.

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Use the earlier sunrise as a motivation to really have time for yourself, your family, and your friends after work.

Get in shape

Quite a few people took on the “COVID 15” (or 20) pounds over the last year. If you’re feeling sluggish, out of shape, and achy from all those hours on Zoom calls, the brighter days provide a perfect opportunity to get back into shape.

If you decide to get up earlier, you could take a walk or run before work without feeling demotivated or uncomfortable from chilly weather. If you start your work day early, you could wrap up in time to exercise before dinner. That could look like some physical activity outside, going to a gym or exercise class, playing sports, or hitting a trail for a hike. If you prefer to dine before getting some physical activity, you could do as they do in Spain and take a paseo (or walk) after dinner. With the longer days, that’s still possible to do safely before it’s too dark.

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Calm your spirit

The past year has been incredibly intense for almost everyone. One of the best ways to calm your spirit is to be outside in nature. In a 2019 study conducted by a team led by Mathew White of the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter, time spent in nature was found to improve health dramatically; specifically, spending two hours a week in green spaces led to participants having a much higher chance of reporting good health and psychological well-being.

To gain the most benefit from nature, do whatever you can to maximize your time outside. This could include traditional outdoor activities like gardening or hiking, but it could also mean incorporating nature into your day-to-day schedule. Eat dinner on a park bench instead of at your dining table. Read on your front porch instead of in the living room. Journal at the outdoor café instead of at your home desk. The time outside can be incredibly healing. You just have to try it.

Reconnect at your comfort level

These days, people have varying degrees of comfort about getting together with others. Some people are already in the process of meeting safely in small groups, while others are not so comfortable. Outside of risk tolerance, the asset of in-person communication builds trust and connection in a way that virtual communication can never fully replicate.

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If you’re longing to reconnect, the longer days offer more options to do so: playgrounds with minimal crowding, expanded outdoor dining, outdoor fitness classes adhering to health precautions, and outdoor concerts or bandshell-covered shows. Luckily, the longer, warmer days can provide wonderful opportunities to satisfy our human need to connect.

The beginning of spring and the switch of the clock with daylight saving time are not just a matter of dates and times. These shifts open up a world of opportunity for you to have a fresh, healthy, and happy start to a new season.

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