Light creates more than just visual effects (image, shape, intensity, perception, contrast, etc.); it also has biological and psychological effects that can impact the health and wellbeing of humans. Lighting is a primary player in the way we experience spaces and moods. The right light can make us more alert and happier, while the wrong light can impact our sleep, productivity, and ability to concentrate. We have to understand how lighting affects us before we can use it to our advantage.
Brightness, Saturation, and Hue
The two types of light are reflected light and transmitted light. Reflected light includes sunlight, moonlight, and fluorescent lights. These sources are reflected off of an object’s surface and our eyes perceive the light to be coming from that reflection. Transmitted light is the type of light emitted by a black body, including the sun, a flame, the filament in an electric light bulb, or a tungsten heater. The brightness of a light source is given in lumens and lux.
It has been found that brighter light can intensify emotions, while low light doesn’t remove emotions, but keeps them steady. This can lead to people having the ability to make more rational decisions in low light and find it easier to agree with others in negotiation. Saturation is the intensity of a color. The more saturated a hue, the more intense the color. More saturated hues can have amplifying effects on emotions, while muted colors can dampen emotions. In art, saturation is defined on a scale from pure color. In lighting, a similar scale can apply.
Hue refers to the name of a specific color or shade. There have been studies that indicate natural light can improve one’s mood, but lights created artificially for architectural purposes are able to elicit specific emotions as well as physical responses.
Blue and white light can affect the circadian rhythm. Light blue has a cool feel, while white light tends to give a warm tone, so lighting plays an important role in psychology.
The red light is the least likely color of light to impact our internal clocks. Red light in the evening improves mental health, in part because it leads to better sleep at night. Better sleep at night leads to improved cognition and overall mental wellbeing.
Circadian rhythm is our internal clock. It influences melatonin secretion, cortisol activity and alertness. As a result, blue light suppresses levels of melatonin, helping us stay awake and alert, while red light increases levels of melatonin, helping our bodies get ready for bed.
When the body is lacking in melatonin, sleeplessness can result in this hormone. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), levels of “the sleep hormone” drop as the day progresses, and most adults cannot go to sleep until levels of melatonin rise. So, thats why it is important to stay away from blue hue light such as phone screens before going to bed.
Circadian rhythms, or a person’s internal 24-hour clock, can also affect the limbic system. This biological system regulates a person’s feelings of happiness, sadness, anger, and other emotions. A disrupted rhythm can negatively affect these emotions and more.
Light Can Even Affect Your Appetite!
Studies have found evidence that light in the place where we eat affects our consumption of food by influencing us to consume less food. We also consume less food in restaurants that have softer, dimmer lighting. However, researchers have found that we may also be more likely to order unhealthy food in darker restaurants. It’s been shown that people are less likely to make healthy choices in dimly lit environments. Feeling less alert and more relaxed may be the reason for this.
Lighting, in addition to affecting our mood and emotions, also affects how we perceive taste. Studies have shown that lighting can affect a consumer’s liking of certain colors and brands of food or wine.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Sad is not a disease, it’s the shortened form of Seasonal Affective Disorder that has multiple symptoms. It can manifest differently in every individual, so it’s best to consult with a Psychiatrist before making any diagnosis.
Symptoms of SAD include:
- Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Having low energy
- Having problems with sleeping
- Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
- Feeling sluggish or agitated
- Having difficulty concentrating
Light therapy is a common treatment method for seasonal affective disorder. Because this type of disorder is so similar to depression, light therapy has shown to work in the same way antidepressants do. There are many types of lightboxes that can be utilized, but essentially, you are exposed to bright light within the first hour of waking up every day. This attempts to mimic natural light outside and studies have shown that it can cause a change in the brain’s chemicals, thus impacting mood.
Medical practitioners have determined that light therapy is a very effective treatment. If you fail to respond to light therapy, you can consider other treatment options.
Direction of Light
Lighting can be used to create a mood and atmosphere. By placing spotlights above eye level, the effect is to create a more restrained formal atmosphere. By using spotlights below eye level, the feeling is of openness and freedom, and the person feels encouraged to explore the space. This generally creates a more informal atmosphere.’
Layering your lighting
When designing spaces such as kitchens and other multifunctional rooms choose one main source of lighting, to create the right mood for the various different functions you plan to include, as well as using layering techniques to enhance certain features of your home.
There are 3 main types of lighting:
- Ambient Lighting is a light source that is spread evenly throughout a room, casting a soft glow.
- Task lighting is designed by the purpose of the light rather than its location. A desk lamp is a type of task lighting. This light is meant to help you see each detail of whatever you are working on. It might also be referred to as a reading light, desk lamp, or table lamp
- Lighting adds an emotional element that can transform a space and is used to highlight features in a room, as well as to create a particular mood (this would include recess lights, uplights, or wall sconces).
You can choose the lighting that most suits the mood you want to create and the tasks you wish to accomplish.
Have plenty of light where you need it
A well-lit kitchen ticks all the boxes when it comes to functionality. It’s crucial to have a functional balance between task and ambient lighting in any kitchen setting. Finding that balance can be tricky, but the right amount of light can make an amazing difference when it comes to everything from preparing meals to general food safety and hygiene.
The lounge is a multipurpose room, which might be used for a whole range of tasks from reading, doing homework, or watching TV, to eating a light meal or entertaining friends. In this room, you want plenty of good ambient light during the day.
To maximize ambient light in a space and make full use of natural light from windows and patio doors, try placing mirrors alongside the windows to reflect and amplify the light. A good alternative is pendant lights or chandeliers. The choice of interior lighting can help define the mood and atmosphere of a room, but the cost, wattage of the bulb, and its duration aren’t usually primary concerns for homeowners, business owners, or designers.