Light is tied to physical and mental health more than you might think. Studies on light have proven that the brain’s chemical makeup is strongly linked to how much and what type of light you’re getting throughout the day. Your mood, sleep, and work can all be easily impacted by a lack of (or too much) light, or even the wrong kinds of light.
Read on to find out how your lighting is impacting you every day, and learn how to make sure your lighting is contributing to a productive and healthy lifestyle.
Your mood can be closely tied to how much and what kind of light you’re exposed to in a day. Different types and levels of light have been shown to cause specific chemical reactions in the brain. There’s a reason that happiness is often represented by a bright sunny day; natural light from the sun is proven to boost your serotonin levels, which makes you feel calm and happy. Serotonin levels drop on dark and overcast days, which can lead to moodiness and depression.
So, what can you do about it? When you’re feeling down, spend at least a few minutes outdoors. Or, if the weather is unbearable, you can bring the sun indoors with you by grabbing a UV light therapy box. People with SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – often use light therapy boxes when they begin to feel depressed in the fall months, and throughout the winter. These boxes mimic the sun’s light, and cause the same chemical reaction in the brain, so you can stay happy even in endless Albertan winters!
While overall mood is easily affected by light, more fleeting emotional responses can also be triggered by different lighting situations. Studies have found that bright, glaring lights tend to be associated with more emotional responses. This is why you’ll see bright lights in stores, which can in turn affect your decision-making while purchasing. It’s also the culprit for that TV trope of the interrogation room lit by harsh bulbs. Darker settings trigger less emotion, but when you stay in the dark too long, your overall mood can plummet.
Our experiences are nearly always shaped in some way by light. The trick is to find that “just-right” amount of light to balance your emotions and mood. Double check your office and home make sure that you aren’t using harsh fluorescents, or sitting in the dark for too long. And if you can move your workspace to somewhere with better light, go ahead and do it!
If your work or productivity suffers regularly in a certain setting, it could be the lighting that’s having a negative impact. It can be difficult to connect the cause and effect of bad lighting, but multiple studies have proven that concentration is determined in some ways by lighting.
You need light to work by, but you don’t want harsh or glaring beams, or so little light that you have to squint. Eye strains and headaches will easily cut into your productivity, and make it impossible to maintain focus.
Make sure you’re getting the right amount of light throughout the day and evening. If you have lots of windows in your workspace, that’s great! But check to make sure that you also have good lighting or adjustable lamps handy for after the sun goes down.
While the amount of light you’re getting is important, the type of light in your workspace is just as important. Try to set up your workspace so you’ll have sufficient warm lighting, without the heavy glare of fluorescents. LED bulbs can give you a more natural lighting effect, and also have the benefit of being dimmable, so you can adjust throughout the day to make sure you’re getting just enough.
It’s no secret that our sleep patterns are governed largely by light. Our circadian rhythms create chemical reactions that guide our bodies to different functions at different times, including sleep. In many cases, circadian rhythms are affected by light. Blue wavelengths of light are particularly disruptive to sleep, particularly when viewed just before bed. This is why many sleep experts advise not to use TVs, laptops, phones, and other screens before bedtime.
Of course, it can be difficult to follow this advice every night. Luckily, newer smart phones and devices usually have a night mode that will automatically dim your screen and adjust the colours to prevent the blue wavelengths from affecting your sleep patterns. If you have an older phone or device, there are apps (try “Flux”) that can schedule your device to slowly adjust its colours and luminosity throughout the day.
If you have questions about how your lighting might be affecting you, please call us for a consultation! We want you to be as productive as possible throughout your day, so you can get more done and feel better.
By Danielle Mohr: Fine Point Writing & Editing (finepointwriting.ca)