Since we’ve changed to Standard Time here in NY and are moving closer to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year for us, everyone seems to be complaining about how early it gets dark now. A neighbor told me yesterday she wanted to continue to spend time in her garden after she got home from work, but couldn’t do that any longer without the daylight. I wondered why she couldn’t bring a strong flash-light outside with her, or set up some temporary outdoor lighting, rather than giving up on one of her favorite pastimes until Spring.
Yes, I’m noticing the decreased amount of natural light this time of year myself. Whenever I go outside now and it’s sunny, I raise my arms toward the sun and drink in the energy fully, appreciating the warmth and bright light. The sun is less than half-way overhead even at noon, so is often glaring in my eyes when I’m driving or walking, but I don’t get upset about this. Would I rather it be dark out? No! I am grateful for the sun, wherever it is. Without it there wouldn’t be life on this planet!
A friend mentioned “Night Myopia” recently, and I experience this myself. I see less clearly when the light is lower. Like any vision limitation, straining will only make this worse. So I focus on relaxing and opening my eyes fully, gently allowing in all the light I possibly can, not squinting.
When I studied with Peter Grunwald, the developer of the Eyebody Method of vision improvement a few years ago, he emphasized how spending time outside after dark helps one’s eyesight adapt to changes in illumination. He told us how he used to walk his rural property in New Zealand at night regularly, just finding his way by the light of the moon and stars. After the workshop I was determined to reduce my own strong fear of not being able to see after dark, and was also determined to help myself see better in all levels of light. Using Peter as an example, I went for a walk after dark every night for a few months.
Walking around my development at night, at first I took hesitant steps because the dim street-lights seemed to be no help at all. I had Night Myopia! Yet I quickly adapted and became more confident moving through the gloom. One of my favorite incidents from this time was a man walking his dog coming toward me, who nearly bumped into me! He apologized, obviously embarrassed, saying he didn’t have his glasses on. I knew the problem was that he just wasn’t looking, maybe not expecting to be able to see since it was dark. If you don’t look, you won’t see!
Something else which helps vision after dark is, paradoxically, spending time in bright sunlight. Many people with office jobs spend all their waking hours under artificial light, which is not as nourishing for the eyes as natural full-spectrum sunlight. The pupil of the healthy eye automatically constricts in full sunlight, then opens wide after dark to let in as much light as possible. If your pupils aren’t widening fully at night, the view will appear dim and you won’t see very well.
If you’re not used to bright sunlight, or reach for your sunglasses as soon as you go outdoors no matter how bright it is, you may need to re-train yourself to accept a bit more light into your eyes. Then you will see better in faint light too. Here’s a post I wrote a while ago about overcoming light sensitivity with some suggestions.
In this yearly time of lowest light, I’m fully appreciating what light there is, getting outside as much as I can, focusing on how well I can still see in late afternoon, or when it’s cloudy. If I pay attention to and am grateful for what I can see instead of bemoaning what I can’t, it’s less stress-making, and it seems to help me see better. At least it helps my attitude!