As the year draws to a close and the days get shorter, we spend less time outside and more time snuggled up under artificial light and this can have a marked effect on people’s mood and emotional wellbeing.
With the increased focus on all things wellbeing related however, there are a number of ways in which we can light our homes and offices to increase our overall sense of wellbeing and happiness in the darker Autumn and Winter days.
Wellbeing and light
These days we’re all more conscious of our mental health and wellbeing, and it’s becoming OK to both recognise and talk about our feelings and problems.
Organisations like Suicide or Survive and the Samaritans and apps like Headspace and Calm have not only made it OK, but have actually made it cool to recognise that mental health is important, whether it’s loneliness, depression or just day to day worries and anxieties.
However, our environment plays a significant role in how we feel, and this is especially true of the type of light we’re exposed to.
Light and sleep.
The first thing to remember about light is that our body is designed to regulate itself based on the level, colour and type of light it’s exposed to.
Our Circadian rhythms ( our bodies alarm clock) regulates itself based on the light it receives, as it assumes that if we’re under bright lights then its day time and as it goes dark it’s time for bed.
So don’t be surprised if you doze off in a badly lit office!
But it’s not just our sleep that’s affected. Blue light has been shown to make you more alert and improve mental performance, whereas natural light has been shown to reduce stress and headaches. Glare and bad lighting can also be linked to shortsightedness, especially in children.
6 steps to improve your mood with lighting
Design for use
As light affects how you act, whether in helping you concentrate or relax, it makes sense to plan your lighting based on the purpose of the space. Work and study areas need to be brighter and with a greater mix of blue light, whereas bedrooms and sitting rooms want to have a warmer mix with less intensity, to help you relax.
If you need to mix-use, for example, if the kids are working in their bedrooms, consider having a secondary light source, like a blue light desk lamp for working, That can be switched off before they go to bed letting them relax in warmer ambient light.
Reduce glare as much as possible.
Spotlights and recessed lighting can look great, but they are small point sources, which means they need to be strong in order to provide sufficient light, but this can increase the level of glare off shiny surfaces, which can lead to eye strain as the eye tries to cope with dark and bright objects in the same field of view.
Decorate for light.
The ideal solution is to maximise exposure to sunlight and spend as much time as possible outside, but when this is impossible, you should seek to increase the level of sunlight in your home.
Make sure curtains and blinds don’t block out sunlight when they are fully open and use bright satin finishes for opposing walls and ceilings to increase the brightness of daytime rooms like kitchens and sitting rooms.
Mirrors also allow light to reach into more of your home if strategically located.
Embrace the ambient
Ambient lighting will make a room feel as close as possible to daylight as it bathes a room in light more than single sources, letting light bounce around the room.
Picking up-lighters, recessed lighting or wide ceiling lights, coupled with warm coloured bulbs will make your room feel like you’re outside, so are ideal for rooms you use during the day, like kitchens and sitting rooms.
Mixing these with standard lamps for the evening will let you enjoy the best of both worlds if you want to bring the light down in the evening.
Colour is important.
Most bulbs will now show the wattage ( how much light it produces) and the colour temperature ( how much blue vs red light it produces). Cool blue light is closer to daylight and improves concentration and alertness, whereas warmer red light will promote calmness and produce more ambient coverage.
Picking the right colour can be as simple as having blue light for morning rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens and warmer lights for evening rooms like sitting rooms and bedrooms.
Don’t forget you can create a mixed-use environment with table lamps and spotlights of different temperatures.
Don’t forget lighting can be fun!
Lighting doesn’t just have to be functional and adding a sense of fun to your design can really brighten up a room, in more ways than one! This can be as simple as just draping fairy lights around a statement picture or mirror to creating a feature out of lights as the centrepiece of your room, your lighting choices can really highlight your personality.
And it doesn’t have to end at the door either! There’s nothing to stop you taking the light out to the garden, either by draping exterior fairly lights around Gazebos or sheds or using spots to highlight feature trees or plants!