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Research: Morning sunlight can improve your day


Theresa Barber

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 08/05/23

The latest research into brain health inspires a new (spiritual) practice that can benefit your whole family. My hack: sharing it with Our Lady.

Being a total nerd, I love reading about brain science and finding ways to integrate what I learn into my daily life.

Recently I have enjoyed following the work of neuroscientist Andrew Huberman. Dr Huberman is associate professor of neurobiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. He also hosts the Huberman Lab podcast, on which he shares science-backed tips to improve listeners’ lives.

I find his work fascinating, and apparently I’m not alone, as Huberman Lab is one of the top health podcastswith millions of listeners. 

One of his most frequent tips is to view morning sunlight almost immediately upon waking. In one episode, he said,

Getting sunlight in your eyes first thing in the morning is absolutely vital to mental and physical health. It is perhaps the most important thing that any and all of us can and should do in order to promote metabolic well-being, promote the positive function of your hormone system, get your mental health steering in the right direction.

Sunlight through window

Viewing for 10-20 minutes on sunny days and 20-30 minutes on cloudy days remains his top health tip, along with getting optimal sleep. 

Outdoor morning sunlight triggers the timed release of a healthy level of cortisol, which “acts as a wake-up signal and will promote wakefulness and the ability to focus throughout the day,” and “starts a timer for the onset of melatonin,” according to Huberman.

Many of his health tips have not made their way into my daily routine (at least yet); optimal sleep, for example, can be hard to come by with babies in the house. 

But his morning sunlight idea seemed very doable. I decided to find a way to make this habit part of my daily routine.

Morning sunlight, coffee, and prayer

One of my favorite “hacks” for building a new habit is to anchor it to an existing and well-established habit

Usually, the first thing I do every morning is make a cup of coffee and pray a Morning Offering or other brief prayer. It occurred to me to anchor the morning sunlight viewing to prayer and coffee.

For the past few weeks, I’ve made it a point to head outside with my cup of coffee after I make it every morning. Conveniently, there’s a statue of Our Lady in my backyard, so it’s the perfect spot to pray while I drink coffee outside.


After a few days, I realized that it felt like I was “having coffee with Mary” to start my day. It truly feels like I’m having a quick chat with the Blessed Mother about the day ahead. 

This little routine of morning sunlight and coffee with Our Lady brings me a great sense of peace and hope, a feeling I try to carry through all that the day brings. 

Best of all, my kids have started to imitate this little habit. I snapped this photo of my toddler, who pulled up a chair for her own “chat with Mary” like her mama.


My toddler likes to hug our Mary statue and sing her “Happy Birthday” on a daily basis. “I go Mama Mary house,” she told me one day. “Her good.” Her good, indeed.

Integrating faith and science into daily life

We all have different routines and habits, but I hope you can find some inspiration to adapt a daily habit of morning prayer and sunlight into your own morning ritual. I’ve found the practice brings calm and joy to my mornings, and I’m sleeping better at night too. 

Check out Dr. Huberman’s podcast for lots more fascinating tips to improve your mental and physical health—and perhaps, if you’re like me, your spiritual health, too. 

Catholic LifestyleParentingScience
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