Rising early, especially when travelling, helps boost one's overall well-being


Gokotta is a Swedish ritual of rising at dawn to enjoy nature. — AFP

In the northern hemisphere, the number of hours of daylight are finally increasing, but in many zones the lack of light combined with winter temperatures can make it difficult to face the daily grind with panache.

You’ve probably already heard that getting up late every day is a bad habit that can have harmful effects on both mental and physical health. Stress, irritability, increased risk of illness – the list goes on. The Swedish Gokotta ritual, which could be translated as “getting up early to hear birdsong”, involves rising at dawn to enjoy a quiet, peaceful moment in nature.

Gokotta is traditionally practised on the first day of Ascension (in May) through midsummer, but there’s no reason why it can’t inspire us for mornings during other seasons. Travellers, too, can benefit from this practice.

The concept is simple. Ideally, you get up with the birds at the crack of dawn, between 4am and 6am. Gokotta can be practised in a variety of ways, depending on individual tastes. For example, a 10-minute walk in a park, or a jog along a forest path, or meditation at sunrise, or sitting in your garden with a cup of coffee in hand.

There are several good ways to connect with nature, in a calm environment, in order to absorb its benefits before a day’s work.

So what are these benefits? In an interview with Passion Santé, Johan Verbraecken, sleep specialist at Antwerp Hospital, Belgium, explains: “Being active early in the morning has many benefits as the day progresses. Your blood pressure rises and your fat burning begins. What’s more, your cortisol levels peak in the morning and you have more energy for the rest of the day.”

Gokotta has many scientifically proven benefits. Outdoor sounds and natural light are known to stimulate well-being and promote a positive mood. For example, researchers have shown that morning light helps us to concentrate better in the morning and sleep better at night.

Furthermore, natural light is a vector for the production of serotonin, an important mood-regulating hormone. Plus, visiting green spaces – an essential part of gokotta – also helps improve cognitive abilities.

If you’re a night owl, you can still incorporate some form of gokotta into your daily routine. For example, you can spend some time meditating in nature. No birdsong in your environment? You can always fall back on the sounds of nature via apps on your smartphone. You can also practice the Swedish ritual at work by taking advantage of breaks to go for a walk in a nearby park.

Today, more and more places are dedicated to the sounds of nature, such as quiet parks in cities, or initiatives in tourist areas like the Alpine resort of Courmayeur in Italy. – AFP Relaxnews

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