In modern society, most of us spend the majority of our time indoors. Bathed in a mixture of artificial and natural light. From days spent at the workplace (for most of us, indoors). To nights relaxing at home, we have developed a heavy reliance on artificial lighting to help us lead our everyday lives.
However, while many of us think of lighting in purely generic terms. Actually the type, colour, strength and positioning of lights can have a sizeable impact on our moods. Indeed, lighting can even transform the ambience of the space around us, inciting different emotions or feelings without us even realising.
Humans and our innate circadian rhythm
As humans, we have developed over thousands of years to react to the natural world around us. Including becoming highly receptive to the regular pattern of sunlight during the day followed by darkness at night. This in-built responsiveness to the cycles of light is known as the circadian rhythm or cycle and it affects the body in the most remarkable ways.
The circadian rhythm contributes to many of our body’s innate patterns and routines. Including stimulating feelings of drowsiness, affecting the quality of our sleep, dictating our digestive cycle, influencing mood and emotion, controlling temperature moderation, encouraging wakefulness and even motivating cell regeneration and renewal.
Our bodies are hard-wired to react to light and research has even found that insufficient lighting can lead to feelings of lethargy, inactivity and, in more profound cases, depression. Meanwhile, adequate light exposure has been proven to improve mood, raise attention levels and even increase energy. Showing just how much we can be influenced by the light around us.
How different types and colours of light can affect can our emotions
The circadian rhythm is primarily affected by the amount of light the body receives but there are also other contributing factors including the temperature of light (normally described as a Kelvin value) as well as light colour which can likewise dramatically change our mood, drive and vitality levels. The amount and type of light we are exposed to during the day (and night) can affect us in many ways, including:
Bright lights can heighten emotions and sensitivity:
A study found people reacted in very different ways when exposed to different lighting environments. Under a controlled experiment in bright and low-light conditions. Researchers found the reaction of volunteers to positive and negative words was stronger under bright lights than those in the lower light setting.
Natural light can improve feelings of happiness and alertness:
Researchers have found that natural light can increase our sense of happiness and contentment. It was also proven that people who had more exposure to natural light during the day slept longer at night, exercised more and had increased feelings of well-being. It is believed that natural light encourages the body to follow its natural circadian pattern. Helping us regulate when we should have feelings of alertness and increased energy compared to when we should feel tired.
Roughly translated this means that in a work environment, the amount of natural light we receive could mean the difference between a productive day and experiencing feelings of lethargy or tiredness. Achieving a good balance between natural light (typically through windows) and subtle LED lighting solutions like those offered by 299 Lighting can significantly improve productivity in the workplace. It’s unlikely many workplaces could be 100% lit by natural light. However, using the right temperature and colour of artificial lighting can achieve a similar effect. Complementing and enhancing the natural light source.
Blue light increases energy levels:
It has been found that short wavelength, high-energy blue increases levels of awareness and alertness. Indeed, in a recent study, participants exposed to blue light were found to perform better and more accurately in cognitive tasks. Moreover, the effects were found to last a full half-hour after exposure. Which goes a long way to explaining why blue light can have an adverse effect on sleep patterns.
Unfortunately, our most popular devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc) all emit significant levels of blue light. This should be avoided in the hours running up to bedtime to avoid experiencing problems. Blue light inhibits our body’s ability to produce the sleep. Inducing hormone melatonin, making it far harder to drift off to sleep.
While many people don’t realise it, light can have a dramatic influence on our energy levels, moods and emotions. To achieve the best equilibrium, it’s essential to get a healthy mix of natural and artificial light through the day. Both at home and in the workplace. As a rule, aim to spend at least 15 minutes outdoors per day (experts suggest 30 minutes is better). Use subtle artificial lighting at home and at work and avoid blue light-emitting screens before bedtime.