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Rise and smile: An ancient Indian practice inspiring technology enabled wellness innovation

“Early to bed, early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise”. This saying communicates an important message of health and wellness. Waking up early can be an effective productivity method and wellness habit when it suits an individual’s circadian rhythm and natural sleep pattern for their age. The early birds naturally tend to wake up early.

The time of dawn before the sunrise is a peaceful time. The ancient Indian practice calls this time as “Brahma Muhurta”. This period of time approximately 1 hour 36 minutes before sunrise is considered an auspicious time for meditation, spiritual activities and all practices of yoga. The outdoor natural environment during the time of dawn and sunrise is calm and picturesque. The beautiful nature experienced outdoors during this time can provide motivation for mental as well as physical activities.

Research has found that this early morning time can be used to address some of the challenges caused by lack of physical activity in today’s modern life. We are living in a modern world where the demands of our modern life have negatively impacted our wellness. Lack of physical activity is a global health concern. We are living more sedentary life mostly indoors at home, work and commute. Our sedentary lifestyle and overuse of sedentary technology gadgets contributes to increased risks for lifestyle related health conditions. Physical activity especially outdoor physical activity such as walking, running, cycling has proven health benefits. However, one of the common causes reported by the individuals is the lack of motivation for outdoor physical activity.

Lack of time is also another common issue reported by the individuals. Early morning can be an effective time for outdoor physical activity. However lack of motivation and irregular late night sleeping patterns makes it difficult to realise the benefits of early morning outdoor exercise.

To solve this problem of motivation and deliver benefits of early morning outdoor exercise, technology can be useful. In today’s modern life, Smartphones, smartphone cameras and content sharing via social media are very common. Smartphones are used by millions of users in Australia and India.

Dr Amol Wagholikar

A lifestyle and wellness intervention called “Rise and Smile” was developed to integrate smartphone technology with outdoor nature during the early morning for consistent physical exercise motivation. The innovative use of technology suggests sleeping early approximately 8 hours before the time of dawn and waking up early around the time of dawn or Brahma Muhurta as per individual’s requirements for a quality sleep. After wake up, go outdoors to nearby sunrise location with a smartphone and experience the sunrise. The outdoor location could be your balcony, terrace, nearby hill or a location requiring some physical walking efforts. As a symbolic gesture of the sunrise experience, take a photo of the picturesque sunrise using smartphone camera. The photo can be simply stored on the smart phone or shared on social media with family and friends. Simply repeat this daily morning routine next day to establish a wellness habit. The experience of watching a sunrise is very uplifting and meditative. The “Rise and Smile” initiative identified proven health benefits especially mental health benefits as well as productivity benefits. The research findings were presented at Health Informatics Society of Australia’s premier Health Informatics Conference in Australia and American College of Sports Medicine Conference in USA. The encouraging findings show that combination of ancient practice with modern technology can deliver wellness benefits.

Rise and Smile is an initiative for establishing a simple daily wellness habit of experiencing outdoor Sunrise. The experience of watching Sunrise is great way to practice daily mindfulness and connect with nature. It is very uplifting experience and certainly good for physical, emotional as well as mental health. This simple habit also suggests improved productivity and increased energy levels. It also improves quality of sleep as you automatically tend to sleep early at night to wake at the time of dawn. Watching morning sunrise is certainly a great way to start your day. Adopt this simple routine and make your life healthier, specially in the post- Covid-19 phase.

Dr Amol Wagholikar a.k.a. “Doctor Sunrise” is the founder of the Rise and Smile initiative and Principal Program Director, Sports and Wellness, Institute for Australia India Engagement, Brisbane