Lighting isn’t just about helping you see in the dark, or illuminating a space. The truth is that lighting has a much greater impact on ourselves as individuals and our everyday wellbeing than we think. There has been a large amount of time dedicated to studying and researching just how much of an impact lighting plays in our lives from our health and wellbeing to our productivity levels in both the home and office. For exactly how to light up your life – read on.
Ever heard of the phrase ‘mood lighting’? It exists because it is possible to enhance certain moods and energy levels via lighting levels. For a long time scientists have known that bright, sunny days can elevate ones mood, while gloomy days can be associated with feelings of depression. This is due to the fact that higher light levels, natural light in particular, increase the brains production of a hormone called serotonin – a hormone responsible for elevating a person’s mood. In 2013, a study revealed a correlation between depression and low levels of vitamin D and proved that increased exposure to sunlight helped to reduce those depressive feelings(1).
In rooms that are the basis of high activity such as the kitchen, brighter, white lights will result in higher activity levels. For rooms in which you aim to relax, i.e. the bedroom or lounge room, dimming those lights is crucial to reducing energy and inducing relaxation.
Tip: Ensuring that your space receives a lot of natural light for as long as possible will keep your serotonin levels hight, as well as your spirits.
Our Productivity and Concentration.
Lighting also affects a person’s unconscious desire to work harder and focus for lengthier periods of time. Think about how your office, or home environment make you feel. Are you motivated to fulfil your duties or do you lack the ability to be able to concentrate? Is there a large amount of natural light in your environment or are you constantly working under flickering, artificial globes? Your productivity levels may be a result of how your environment is lit.
Studies have also gone as far as suggesting that it is even a certain colour of light emitted that can increase productivity more than others. It has been found that exposure to blue light (short wavelength, high energy) prior to beginning a task has been effective in performance productivity (3). Those who participated in the study were able to complete intellectual tasks more quickly and effectively without minimising accuracy, than those who weren’t exposed to the blue light.
But while it seems as though the brighter the light in a space, the more productive the individual, this isn’t always the case. A 2013 study has revealed that dim light can bring out a more creative and explorative style in workers than harsh, bright lights(6). The study proved that darker surroundings provoked a feeling of being free from restraints and therefore allowed for a much more creative thought process.
Tip: Make sure to light your surroundings based on the outcome you desire. If you aim for high productivity, high accuracy and intense concentration, make sure to turn those lights up! If it’s creativity and playfulness that you’re after, then dim the lights and let your imagination run wild!
Our Sleep Cycles.
Nothing highlights our connection to the Earth more than how light controls our sleep pattern. The rise and fall of the sun and its natural light controls our circadian rhythm and ultimately tells us when to wake and when to sleep. When the light hits the retina in your eye, it is transmitted to the hypothalamus and endocrine gland controlling your serotonin and melatonin levels. The more light that your eye can see, the more serotonin your body produces and the more awake you feel. Oppositely, having the ability to dim the lights before bed and keep a room dark at night will essentially allow your body to naturally fall into a sleep pattern.
Tip: Making sure natural light coming through your window in your bedroom will ensure that you wake at the same time each morning, and keep your body clock running at its maximum efficiency. However, when the sun falls at night and you still need to continue your routine before bed, it is important to keep the lights dimly lit. Any harsh or bright lights will keep your serotonin levels high, and ensure that you are awake long after you go to bed. So making sure that your rooms are dimly lit before sleep helps you become more relaxed and ensures that you fall asleep quickly.
This is one that many people don’t realise, but light also has an affect on our appetite. Studies have shown that light can affect how much we eat, how fast we eat, what type of food we crave and even how enjoyable the food is(4). Recent studies have revealed that dimming the lights encourages people to eat at a slower pace, effectively consuming less calories over time. Dimly lit rooms during meal times also improve your perception of the taste of the food, with participants in a certain study finding theirs more enjoyable(5).
Tip: A dimmer in the kitchen or dining area may make for a much more pleasurable dining experience. Having control over the lights intensity allows you to see what you are cooking during preparation, but you can dim them during dinner time. For dinner parties, dimming the lights may make your guests feel more at ease and comfortable and they will be more likely to enjoy their meal, taking the time to eat it slowly.
Our Decision Making.
Studies have suggested that our emotions, both positive and negative, are heightened under brighter lights(2), and therefore our logical decision making may be thrown out of the window. It was proven that bright light ‘intensifies our initial emotional reaction’ that we may have to things such as products, people, taste, etc. To put it simply – if you like something, you will LOVE it under brighter lights!
Tip: Turn down the lights next time you have to make an important decision and see if your logic plays a larger role than your emotions. Alternatively, if you run a retail store, turn up the lighting to subconsciously encourage buyers to create a much more emotional connection to your products. See if this forces more sales!
- I, October 2016, Vitamin D deficiency associated with heightened depression, study finds, The Independent, <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/depression-vitamin-d-deficiency-lack-study-severity-mental-health-effects-a7369781.html>
- Jin Xu. A, April 2014, Incandescent Affect: Turning on the hot emotional system with bright light, Journal of Consumer Psychology, Vol 24, Issue 2, 207-216, <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1057740813001174>
- Author unknown, 2016, Individuals Exposed to Blue Wavelength Lights Experienced Faster Reaction Times, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, <http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=6317>.
- Author unknown, October 2016, 6 Ways Light Can Affect Your Emotions, Mental Floss, < http://mentalfloss.com/article/88046/6-ways-light-can-affect-your-emotions>
- B, van Ittersum. K, 2012, Fast Food Restaurant Lighting and Music Can Reduce Calorie Intake and Increase Satisfaction, Pyschological Reports: Human Resources & Marketing, < http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/discoveries/music-and-light>
- A, 2013, Freedom from constraints: Darkness and dim illumination promote creativity, Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol 35, 67-80.