Natural light helps regulate our sleep cycles and is thought to help us feel happier and more optimistic in our daily lives. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to spend lots of time around natural light, especially during the winter months.
With shorter days, we are increasingly reliant on artificial light like LED lighting to complete everyday tasks. As such an integral part of our existence, it’s important to understand how lighting can affect us in order to plan our interior schemes responsively.
So, how exactly does lighting affect our mood? And how can the lighting choices we make help us to create spaces that are conducive to our wellbeing?
Bright lighting can intensify emotions – for better or worse
Much like sunshine can make us feel optimistic, studies have shown that bright, artificial light can make us feel emotions more strongly and even impact our decision-making.
A study by the University of Toronto found bright light ‘intensifies the initial emotional reaction we have to stimulus including products and people,’ and the effects of this can be either positive or negative. For instance, bright light could help you feel more decisive, but it could also heighten negative feelings of anger or anxiousness.
Essentially, while brightly lit spaces can engage us, excessive exposure to brightness may have a negative impact on our emotional wellbeing. Maintaining a healthy balance helps make people feel less stressed and better able to make more rational decisions.
Cool, blue light is better for productivity
Since the invention of the lightbulb in 1879, artificial light has been used to aid production away from natural light sources. But research now suggests that certain temperatures of light can actually encourage productivity, as well as enabling it.
Artificial light in blue-white tones and cooler temperatures of around 5000-7000k make us feel more alert, more concentrated and can increase productivity levels. It is also thought that blue light lowers levels of the hormone melatonin that makes us feel sleepy, meaning you feel more awake.
As well as being found in daylight and the light given out by screens, artificial blue light can be used effectively in work and learning environments, helping to keep people focused and supporting mental vitality.
Yellow tones help us feel relaxed and content
Where cool light makes us more alert, warm artificial lighting has the opposite affect and can actually help us to relax.
The glow from an open fire or candle is around 2000k and replicating this lighting temperature can encourage calmness. This makes red, amber or yellow lighting at a temperature of around 3000k or less ideal for recreational and residential settings.
The benefits of warm lighting can also provide a healthy counterbalance to our daily blue light exposure. Despite its benefits, a study reported by Harvard Medical School found excessive blue light exposure led to increased risk of depression, diabetes and even cardiovascular problems.
While this may be the more serious end of the spectrum, studies like this are a reminder that designers need to think carefully when it comes to lighting schemes – particularly in places like homes or hotels where people spend their downtime.
Selecting fittings that are completely adaptable means lighting designers can match the temperature and tone of their schemes with the primary function of buildings. And it is this careful consideration that helps to support the wellbeing of the people who will use the space day in, day out.
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