How Lighting Affects Mood

circadian rhythm

Can light impact your mood? Many experts think so. In fact, you probably experience the phenomenon yourself. Think how much happier you feel on sunny days than you do on gloomy, overcast ones. All those bright, golden rays are working wonders for your disposition.

It Begins With Our Nearest Star

When sunlight reaches us, it immediately stimulates our circadian rhythms. These regulate many biological processes, such as the secretion of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. When circadian rhythms are disrupted by improper illumination, melatonin production decreases. Consequently, so do the hours of restful sleep. Grouchiness and moodiness follow. And we’re not very fun to be around.

On the other side of the coin, sunlight also increases the production of serotonin, the hormone that elevates mood and enhances alertness. Under its influence, we’re the life of the party.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an extreme form of light deprivation. The primary symptom of the disorder is heightened feelings of depression during the winter months — when daylight hours shrink. Ample research reveals a definite correlation between light deprivation and SAD.

Recently, the correlation was strengthened by Brenda McMahon and her research team from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Presenting their findings to the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress in Berlin, Germany, the team revealed darker, winter months were linked to diminishing active serotonin levels. Comparisons were made with subjects exposed to both winter and summer light levels.

Not Just an Outdoor Phenomenon

Ample evidence suggests that indoor lighting has a similar impact on our moods. An article published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology reported on six experiments that examined the connection between emotion and ambient brightness. One of the experiments demonstrated that feelings of warmth intensified in response to bright light. Room temperature remained constant throughout.

The Influence of Color

Research reveals that even light color can affect our emotions and circadian rhythms. According to light therapy studies, the least intrusive color is red, which has the lowest impact on brain activity. White and blue light, on the other hand, have a significant influence on the cerebral responses that regulate sleep patterns and mood.

How Do You Ensure Proper Lighting?

Since weather control is beyond normal human capabilities, you must hope for the best when outdoors. Inside your home or office, however, you’ve got some clout. Based on the available evidence, you’ll want to simulate optimum sunlight-nighttime conditions. This puts illumination in sync with circadian rhythms, as well as serotonin and melatonin production. All of which helps set your emotional thermostat at a smooth, gratifying level.

For this purpose, biologically-correct LED light bulbs definitely are a good way to go. Keeping daytime and nighttime light waves in balance, the bulbs generate the kind of illumination that syncs with your own natural processes. Melatonin, serotonin, and circadian rhythms do what they should.

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