The Sunrise & Sunset Experiment

It’s almost impossible to watch a sunset and not dream.”

Bernard Williams

Spending time in nature is shown to increase well-being, pro-social behaviors like genuine concern for others, and gratitude. What about the more specific activity of watching a sunrise or sunset? There is research supporting benefits of that as well. A team at Northwestern University looked at the connection between our sleep and early morning light. Another team at the same University identified a connection between morning light and reduced body mass index. As these and other studies indicate, enjoying nature at sunset and/or sunrise appears to have a favorable impact upon the circadian rhythms that regulate our sleeping patters.

Get outside. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. How does that make you feel? Does it make you feel big or tiny? Because there’s something good about feeling both.

Amy Grant

Could it be that an activity as simple as enjoying a daily sunset or sunrise could improve your personal sense of well-being, improve your emotional state, help you sleep better, and maybe even help shed a few pounds? Why not try this life experiment and see for yourself?

  1. Find the sunset and sunrise times for the 5-10 days.
  2. Choose five days to watch sunrises and 5 days to watch sunsets, and schedule them in your calendar.
  3. Most sunrises and sunsets take 3-6 minutes, but block off 10-15 minutes to enjoy it, but then include a little time for quiet and reflection.
  4. Consider setting an alarm 5-10 minutes beforehand, or however long it will take you to get ready and in position.
  5. Choose your spot in advance, get there on time, just sit (or stand), and enjoy. We advise against staring directly at the sun. Enjoy the moment, the broader environment, and what sometimes seems like a magical time of day.
  6. Consider bringing a journal to record any thoughts or reflections during or afterward.
  7. At the end of the experiment, once you’ve enjoyed 5 sunrises and 5 sunsets, consider setting aside 20-30 minutes to reflect. Record your thoughts and observations. How were sunsets and sunrises different? Did you notice any changes for yourself during the experiment? How did this impact your sleep, your sense of well-being, or other parts of your life?

Tips:

  • Is it safe to watch a sunrise and sunset? In general, experts seem to agree that staring at the sun is not safe, and that is not what we are suggesting here. There are health concerns about what is called “sun gazing” at sunrise, sunset, or at any point during the day. While you might find mixed views about the safety of looking directly at the sun during sunset and sunrise, there is no need to stare directly at the sun to enjoy this time and the benefits. Consider exploring the colors in the clouds, the surrounding sky, and the rest of the environment during these special times of day.
  • Depending upon where you live or where you are for your sunrise/sunset experiments, there might obviously be a few clouds in the way. No worries. Check the weather in advance, and if weather is a problem, schedule a make up day.
  • You might want to experiment with doing this alone or with with one or more people.
  • If you have the time, consider experimenting with different locations, obviously planning your travel time so that you don’t miss the big event.
  • Did you experience some positive benefits? Consider scheduling a little time for sunrises and sunsets in the future, maybe even inviting others to join you on occasion.
  • Beware of just turning each sunrise/sunset into a photo opportunity. If you want to capture and share the moment, take your picture, but then set the camera/phone aside to be fully present and enjoy the moment.

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