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Sun Gazing - Health Benefits & Potential Dangers

Do you spend enough time outdoors? As you may be aware, there are many health benefits to spending time in nature. In fact, there are certain rituals that you can do while outdoors to promote healing.

Some of these rituals include but are not limited to Sungazing, grounding (also known as earthing), forest bathing, and chi gong.

What are the benefits to spending time outdoors:

There have been numerous studies suggesting the health benefits of spending time outdoors in nature. Some of these benefits include:

  • Reduced stress levels
  • A reduction in blood pressure
  • High level of creativity and concentration
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased vitamin D levels and bone health
  • Improved immune system function
  • Increase in energy levels
  • Improved mental health
  • Circadian rhythm regulation
  • Decreased risk for certain types of cancers
  • Hormone regulation
little boy playing on the beach in the sun stacking a cairn

While simply spending time in nature has proven health benefits, you can further enhance these benefits by including some of these rituals into your daily routine. While some of these practices may seem simple, they have been utilized by many ancient civilizations for hundreds of years.

What is sungazing?

Sungazing is a form of meditation where you stare directly into the sun. Other terms for sun gazing may be solar healing or sun staring. There have been many noted health benefits of sungazing.

Sungazing was practiced by many ancient cultures including the Aztecs, Native American tribes and is common in some QiGong traditions.

What are the benefits of sun gazing?

  • Boosts energy
  • Stress reduction
  • Improve spiritual health
  • Improve Vitamin D levels
  • Helps immune function
  • Increased blood flow
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Improved brain function
  • May improve body weight by improving metabolic function
  • Increased serotonin
  • Might help stimulate the pineal gland (which will help increase melatonin levels). In fact, the pineal gland is actually known as the third eye chakra as it may be related to concentration, intuition and spiritual connection. The pineal gland regulates our body's circadian rhythm, sending us daily signals like when wake up and go to sleep. By regulating our circadian rhythm, we can create healthy cues so we can go to sleep and wake up at appropriate times. Regulating your circadian rhythm and therefore obtaining adequate sleep can help with weight loss and maintenance, blood sugar regulation and appetite control.
  • May improve eyesight
  • Decreases appetite
  • Connection with nature
  • Improves fatigue
  • Can help with seasonal affective disorder

How do you sun gaze?

First and foremost, you want to make sure you do this during a safe hour when the sun is not as strong. This is typically done the best one-half hour after or one-half hour before sunset when UV rays are at a minimum.

If you're just starting to sun gaze, it is suggested to start for a short period of time (10-30 seconds) and slowly work your way up to a few minutes per day. This should help ensure that you don't damage your eyes when staring directly into the sun.

It is recommended that you don't wear sunglasses, contacts or any type of glasses when sun gazing. If you are able, it is best to do this while you are outdoors, while contacting your bare feet to the ground. This process is called grounding (or earthing).

This can help you better connect to the earth and can further enhance stress relief, improve blood flow, sleep and reduce inflammation. It should be warned, however, that many medical experts advise against staring directly into the sun at any time of day, so proceed with caution.

Is sun gazing safe?

If done correctly, sun gazing may be safe and provide several health benefits. This comes with caution though, as staring directly into the sun can put you at risk for permanent eye damage.

Some Doctors say that no matter the time of day, staring into the sun can be dangerous and may cause permanent retinal damage. In fact, some experts recommend protecting your eyes when exposed to the sun to assure you don't experience any potential loss of vision or damage to your eyes.

While generally, the agreement amongst medical professionals is that sungazing is not safe, others have utilized this practice for centuries and found great health benefits.

Other medical experts stated that if sun gazing is practiced during sunrise or sunset when the UV index is low, sun-gazing should generally be safe.

So in conclusion. It is important to be aware of the potential dangers of sun gazing and proceed with caution. Sun exposure has many benefits but like anything else. Too much of a good thing isn't always good.

For this reason, if you do decide to try sun gazing, it's important to do it for an appropriate amount of time and during the advised time of day. If this is a practice you would like to engage in, you should follow up with your ophthalmologist to assure no damage is being done to your eyes.

If you begin to notice any vision changes or eye pain, it is advised to check in with your physician immediately.

Optic Nerve and Sunlight:

a green eye to illustrate optics that can get damaged from sungazing

The optic nerve is the second cranial nerve (CNII) that is responsible for sending visual cues from your eyes to your brain. This nerve is actually a bundle that contains over a million nerve fibers. The optic nerve has several main functions including:

  • Light and accommodation reflexes
  • Allows for perception of brightness & color
  • Sends sensory information for vision

When light enters our eyes, it is refracted and focused to a specific point located on the retina, specifically, the macula. The macula is located at the back of the eye and responsible for our central vision which we use when driving or reading for example. 

It has been thought that the light from the sun connects to our optic nerve, which connects our eyes to our brain. This connection is thought to promote health benefits. It should be warned, however, that damage to the optic nerve can cause vision loss.

Some tests that your eye doctor may perform to assess your optic nerve function include visual acuity, color perception, visual field test, visual reflexes, and fundoscopy exam.

What are the potential dangers of sun gazing?:

While it is clear that light is necessary for vision, there are certain types of light that can be damaging to the eye. Ultraviolet light, specifically, has been shown to have the potential to cause a significant amount of damage to the eye. Some of these dangers may include:

  • Macular Degeneration (Blurred or reduced central vision that is due to thinning of the macula).
  • Cataracts (Clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataracts is the leading cause of blindness).
  • Solar Retinopathy (Damage to the retina of the eye that is caused by exposure to solar radiation)
  • Photokeratitis (Temporary painful eye condition that is causes by overexposed to ultraviolet light)
  • Pterygium (A noncancerous, triangular-shaped, raised growth on the conjunctiva that extends to the cornea)
  • Pinguecula (A yellowish, noncancerous growth located on the conjunctiva of the eye)

Now that I know the benefits and potential dangers of sungazing. What do I do?

Awareness and education are essential. We have provided you with the information you need to make an educated decision for yourself.

Generally, getting outside and exposing yourself to sunlight is beneficial. Wearing the proper protection (ie sunscreen, sunglasses, or a hat) if you are outdoors for a long period of time can help prevent sunburns and cancer risk, however, getting sun exposure during safe times (less UV index) can provide many spiritual, emotional and physical health benefits.

If you have any questions, always speak to your physician before.

This information should not be taken as medical advice but merely an assessment of the research that exists on sun gazing.

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