Photo credit: Mathias Miranda
You probably don't put much thought into how lighting affects your life. But if you prefer sunny days to rainy ones, feel more artistic in dimmer light, or love a dark room on a lazy Sunday morning, lighting is having a bigger impact on your life than you probably think. The amount of light, or lack of light, in your home, at the office, and everywhere you travel throughout the day is changing the way you act and feel, and the following are fives ways it's happening (probably without you knowing).
Blue Light Is Giving You Energy
You've heard someone say that scrolling through Facebook on your smartphone before bed is affecting your sleeping habits, and they're right. But the blue light of your smartphone, computer screen, LED and fluorescent bulbs can be energizing too. Exposure to high-energy, short wavelength blue light during the daytime hours has been linked to higher energy levels, alertness, and productivity. A recent study published in Medical Daily showed that blue light didn't just increase alertness during exposure, the alertness continued for a full 30 minutes after the light was removed. While this isn't ideal for bedtime (try more relaxing reddish lighting instead), it could be what's getting you through a long Tuesday afternoon at the office.
Natural Light Is Making You Happier
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The reason you're ecstatic on a two-week-long escape to Aruba after a long, dreary London winter may not be entirely because you're enjoying fruity cocktails by the pool. Natural light has been proven to improve mood and overall wellbeing. A 2014 study by Northwestern Medicine at Northwestern University determined that workers with windows in their offices slept more, exercised more, and enjoyed a greater sense of overall well being than workers with windowless offices.
"There is increasing evidence that exposure to light, during the day -- particularly in the morning -- is beneficial to your health via its effects on mood, alertness and metabolism," said Northwestern Medicine neurologist and sleep specialist Phyllis Zee, M.D.
It's Affecting Your Decision Making
The gleaming, fluorescent lights in shops are there for a reason. A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology showed that more intense lighting causes more intense emotions, and dimmer lighting reduces the emotionality in those decisions. Find yourself in a jewelry store making a very large and important purchase, and you'll likely find bright lighting too. But this doesn't mean lighting will always cause you to make irrational decisions. "Sleeping on it," will give you a chance to think in lower light conditions, and ultimately, reduce the emotionality in your decision-making process.
And It's Changing the Way You Eat
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By now, you've probably realized that lighting is affecting nearly every aspect of your life, and it's changing the way you eat too. Several studies, including one published by the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, have proven that lighting affects food consumption and the overall dining experience. Customers who eat in more relaxing atmosphere with softer light tend to eat slower, consume less food, and enjoy the experience more.
You won't find dim lighting or soft music in McDonald's, because they may want you to consume your food more quickly and irrationally than establishments more concerned with the enjoyment of the dining experience. While restaurateurs are using lighting to their advantage, you can use it to your advantage at home too. Turn down the lights, eat slowly, and you'll be less distracted by your surroundings, ultimately, becoming more aware of how full you feel.
It's Helping You Prepare for the Next Day
Use natural and artificial lighting to your advantage, and you could enjoy a better night's sleep. While blue light, often known as "cool light," is keeping you alert and awake throughout the day, reddish or warmer light can help your body relax and encourage you to fall asleep faster. Warmer light has a lesser effect on our hormones and has proven to create a subconscious feeling of warmth and safety. Replace the bluish light in your nighttime reading lamp with a warmer white one (2,700 Kelvin or less), and you'll probably find yourself dozing off more quickly.
While studies show that lighting can keep you awake at night, cause you to make irrational decisions, and even encourage you to eat more, it's not always working against you. Natural and blue light can help you kick off the day with higher energy levels and more productivity, while softer light can encourage you to relax and enjoy a delicious meal. Keeping light on your side plays an important role in improving your mood and your overall well-being.