By Dr. Mercola
Every four years, a little-understood but interesting phenomenon takes place: we get an extra day. It’s called Leap Year, and it falls on February 29.
It’s a reprieve, of sorts. Because every year grants us about 365 plus one-quarter days, you could think of it as a six-hour surplus each year for four years. On the fourth year when those hours total 24, it essentially adds an extra day.
Although it may be more accurately referred to as Leap Day, Leap Year has to do with the time it takes the Earth to orbit around the sun, which we now know takes 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds.
There’s a bit of slip time, so scientists figured out that some changes would have to be made to the calendar to make up the slack.
How Leap Year Came to Be
It’s an interesting factoid that 260 years ago, Britain and its American colonies opted to wipe 11 days off their calendar between Sept. 2 and Sept. 14 to catch up with the calendars used by the rest of Western Europe.
Since 46 B.C., the known world had been flipping calendars implemented since Julius Caesar, called the Julian calendar. But its solar year was literally off kilter by 11 minutes (kudos to whoever figured that out).
Because Pope Gregory XIII’s biggest concern was that Easter was shifting ever so slightly away from the spring equinox each year, he introduced his own calendar, which we still use today. According to History.com:
“The Julian calendar included an extra day in February every four years. But Aloysius Lilius, the Italian scientist who developed the system Pope Gregory would unveil in 1582, realized that the addition of so many days made the calendar slightly too long.
He devised a variation that adds leap days in years divisible by four, unless the year is also divisible by 100. If the year is also divisible by 400, a leap day is added regardless. While this formula may sound confusing, it did resolve the lag created by Caesar’s earlier scheme — almost.”1
That keeps everything on an even keel, so to speak, even though there’s still a slight discrepancy of 26 seconds.
Make Your ‘Leap Day’ Count
At any rate, we have an extra day, but here’s the beauty of it: For all the days you didn’t do all the healthy things for yourself that you know you should do — and really want to do — Leap Year gives you that chance.
Although you likely won’t be able to do anything you’d like, you might think of it as your golden opportunity to spend at least part of Feb. 29 living intentionally and positively, for yourself and the people in your life. Here are some fun ways to do that, inspired by the number 29.
Try doing just one or two, and this will be a day not wasted!
- On the 28th, go to bed 29 minutes early.
- On the 29th, get up 29 minutes early.
- Drink 29 ounces of water.
- Take 29 slow breaths through your nose.
- Spread your feet, stretch upward slowly and touch your toes. Do this 29 times.
- Send a funny email to 29 people you know would appreciate it as much as you.
- Meditate, daydream or pray for 29 minutes.
- Exercise for 29 minutes.
- Make a list of 29 people who’ve helped, inspired or encouraged you. Resolve to tell them. Soon.
- Ride your bike for 29 minutes.
- Check your kitchen and pitch 29 unhealthy items.
- Spend 29 minutes more with the people you love than you normally do.
- Smile 29 minutes every hour of the day — or for at least 29 minutes
- Call a friend and talk about them as much as they want to for 29 minutes.
- If the weather is nice, spend 29 minutes outside.
- Drink another 29 ounces of water.
- Make a list of 29 to-die-for vacation spots. (You don’t have to actually go.)
- List 29 things you’re grateful for.
- Go through your closets and pick out 29 items to donate or give away.
- Pop 29 grapes into the freezer and share them later.
- Take a 29-minute nap or just spend that time relaxing with your eyes closed.
- Create a playlist of 29 of your favorite songs.
- Leave work 29 minutes early so you can “smell the roses” on the way home.
- List 29 positive things you’ve learned throughout your life.
- Take 29 calm, controlled breaths through your nose — again.
- Straighten or put away 29 items to neaten your space.
- Spend 29 minutes in a warm, sudsy bath, complete with candles and soft music.
- Go to bed 29 minutes earlier than usual — again.
- In your head, list 29 positive things about your day.