The science of sunshine

The last few days have been really quite beautiful here in Blighty. The sun has been shining, the birds have been tweeting and the blossom is venturing out into the spring.

Everyone in our household is happier. We’re pretty content to begin with, most of the time, but in recent days it has gone up a level. We have more energy, we have more patience, we are more hopeful and I can only attribute all of these overnight changes to the weather.

It’s not a secret that sunshine improves your mood but the level to which it has done so this year has made me ponder.

It’s also not a secret that we Brits like to talk about the weather but on this occasion it’s a little deeper than that. I’m curious to know why this increase in natural daylight and warmth can have such a tangible effect on us. In the same vein, I’d like to understand why drinking water makes me feel better, why sugar makes me feel worse and why exercise is so difficult to start but so rewarding when done.

I know the basic principles of brain neurons and hormones but I’d like to understand it a little better in order truly to move towards a healthier lifestyle designed to treat my body the way it was created to be taken care of.

The problem is, I’m not quite sure where to start. I read a fantastic book recently, which I’ve blogged about before, called The Brain. It was informative but very accessible and what I learned helped life make a bit more sense. I’m looking for something similar, but that takes it to the next stage, looking at the science of sunshine and exploring what lifestyle choices we can make to give our bodies and minds the opportunity to thrive.

If anyone knows of such a book – could you link it my way…?

In the meantime, I’m going to soak up some Vitamin D, revel in this deeper-rooted calm that has taken up residence inside me and see if I can coax it to stick around.

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Understanding fashion

For a fashion luddite like myself, the title of this blog in itself seems quite far-fetched. However, when you start at a place of zero understanding and not even a basic appreciation, the only way to go is up.

It occurred to me this week – for the first time can you believe – that when designers create clothing, they have a look or treatment in mind. They don’t design in isolation but they have an image and a style that they produce pieces to be a part of; their art is created in context.

When I treat my clothes as individual items, I miss out on so much of what they can offer. I will never achieve the looks or master the style that I see in my mind’s eye if don’t give more consideration to how they work with the rest of an outfit. Yes there is a level of personal creativity to mix and match within my wardrobe, but beyond that, a little forethought is required.

When I complained for the umpteenth time on a shopping trip with my sister this week, that all the tops in shops are really short right now, she pointed out to me that that was because most trousers are high waisted right now – that’s what’s in fashion – and so these tops are the perfect compliment.

I hadn’t even realised that my own style had changed. I thought I was basically wearing the same types and colours of clothes that I wore from the moment I was allowed to choose for myself. Again, my far trendier sister pointed out that my fashion has indeed changed over time and some clothes that I would consider buying now, I would have described as a rug or a shapeless sack just a few years ago. I even bought something with an animal print on it; whether it will fit or suit me or not is beside the point – I bought it!

I’m not claiming to have any understanding of the fashion industry, or much more of an opinion beyond the fact that trends seem to be cyclical and often fleeting, seasons return and what was ‘in’ at a certain point in time will likely come back around in a couple of decades.

But I do now have the beginnings of an appreciation of the possibilities for the clothing I choose to put on my body, the thought, skill and vision behind their creation and the hint of motivation to pull together some outfits that bring me genuine joy. Who knows, I may even be able to achieve that elusive Autumnal style I have been pursuing for so long…

Binge watching and soul food

I have written before about the addictiveness of box sets. They steal time and deprive us of beauty. They have their place but in an age where you rarely have to wait until the following week for the next episode, they fuel our instant culture and draw us away from creativity.

When I’m watching something on television, I almost always allow my brain to switch off and whatever is happening on screen to take over. Movies provide an escape but they also open my eyes to new ideas and help me appreciate narrative, light and language. After all, some of the best quotes have come from movies and they are ‘the best quotes’ because they stir something within us.

Box sets on the other hand are usually too short to offer profound soundbites, nor are they intended to make us think or question. They have no fixed ending (unless you’re nearing the end of the final series…) and so can eat away at our time with no marked completion.

Alternative methods of relaxation, such as reading and writing, are far more refreshing to me. They don’t overly tax my brain (unless the reading material is particularly academic) but turns of phrase and clever descriptions help me to figure out life and motivate me to pursue beauty and creativity wherever I look. They remind me that we were born to be creative so whether that’s a book, a painting or a movie, when they’re done well, they’re a significantly more satisfying way of letting time wash over me.

So in an attempt to rediscover beauty and creativity and to inspire those neurons in my brain to spark and dance, I’m giving up binge watching for Lent. That doesn’t mean I can’t watch one (two max) episodes of a box set, but it means that one hour is the limit at any one time and that I won’t allow myself to watch the seconds of an evening tick by until bedtime comes around and my heart is as heavy as my eyes. Instead, I’ll search for a balance between switching off and feeding my soul. We’ll see where that leads me in 40 days…