How Lighting Can Impact Our Mood and Behaviour

Light helps us get a better view on the world. It also helps shape our perception of it. By properly understanding how light impacts our moods and behaviour, we can create spaces enabling us to be more creative, energetic, and productive. If you notice your mood start to shift upon entering your home or office, you may want to rethink its lighting.

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How Lighting Can Impact Our Mood and Behaviour
Credit to Banno Lighting /

Most people don’t put much thought into how lighting impacts their mood and mental health. For instance, we tend to feel drowsy and less motivated on rainy, cloudy days and more energetic and upbeat on sunny days. We are responding to the psychological effects of lighting which is what changes our mood. However, how we feel and respond to light extends beyond the natural sunlight we receive. The lights and lighting fixtures in our home and work environment can have a deep impact on our mood, alertness, energy, productivity, and creativity. What are the best types of lighting then? Here are the different ways in which our mood, behaviour, and overall mental health are influenced by the lighting around us. Read this post to discover what the best options are for your overall well-being.

Ways in Which Lighting Can Affect You

The Psychological Effects of Light

Our bodies take cues from our environment, light and sun. We need sunlight to regulate our circadian rhythm, which acts as our body’s internal clock. For instance, when a person is jet-lagged, it is mainly because their circadian rhythm is thrown off. The body may think it’s eleven 11 pm when it is actually 3 pm. Lighting can disrupt our body’s natural patterns, leading to changes in our energy levels, mood, and even the hormones we produce. We rely on that internal clock to regulate inner functions, and our lighting plays a huge role in this. Here are the different ways in which lighting can affect our mood and behaviour.

1. Heighten Emotions

Think of an interrogation scene in a film. It generally starts in a dark room, right before the detective or police officer shines a bright light in the suspect’s face. Or maybe it starts off in a harshly lit room. In both scenarios, lighting plays a role in heightening our emotions. Research has shown that under strong lights both negative and positive emotions get heightened. The same study found that the people rated others as more attractive, chose spicier foods, and thought some words were more positive than others when exposed to bright light. You may have also noticed changes brought on by changes in the weather. For instance, you will have a pessimistic opinion on a project on a gloomy day but feel optimistic about it on a sunny day.

2. Affect Our Appetite

Think of lighting in an upscale restaurant versus that in a fast food joint. You probably think that the dimly lit interior of an upscale place creates a more relaxed and intimate setting than the bright lights of a fast food restaurant. Interestingly, light affects our appetite. It has an influence on what we consume and how much. Upscale restaurants with dim lighting can make you eat slower. At the same time, bright lights are more likely to make you eat unhealthier foods because they make you happier, so you don’t pay as much attention to the calories you’re consuming. Also, brightly lit interiors will make you eat faster as opposed to dim lighting relaxing you.

Lighting doesn’t just have an impact on what and how we eat, it also affects how we taste things. A   study conducted in 2009 found that a group of volunteers liked a particular brand of wine better due to the way different lighting affected its colour.

3. Uplift the Mood

Lighting isn’t just confined to the light fixtures installed in our homes. Catching sunlight during the day can have a huge impact on how we feel throughout the day. A 2014 study found that individuals with windows in their offices got more sleep and exercised more than coworkers who did not. The researchers concluded that exposure to natural light helps the body stick to its natural circadian rhythm, permitting us to feel more energetic and alert.

4. Alleviate Symptoms of Depression

The type of lighting we surround ourselves with effects not just our short-term but also our long-term mental health. It has been found that people suffering from depression and vitamin D deficiency benefit from natural sunlight. Sunlight can’t singlehandedly cure depression, but it can mitigate its effects by impacting our circadian rhythm and improving our sense of well-being.

5. Result in Migraines and Headaches

Harsh office lighting is one of the main causes of headaches and migraines. That unnecessary discomfort can negatively impact motivation and productivity.  If the employee’s condition worsens to the point of needing medical attention, it can further hamper their overall productivity which is indirectly a loss to the company.

6. Cause Drowsiness and Fatigue

Tired employees often turn to distractions like games, social media, music, or YouTube to break out of their monotony and liven themselves up a bit. However, alternative lighting can increase motivation. Allowing in natural light not only helps an individual’s eyesight but also boosts their mood and energy levels. It helps keep them happy and encourages them to deal with the task at hand.

Lighting Options for Homeowners

For homeowners who can’t decide whether they should get a designer floor lamp for their bedroom or a pendant light for their living room, you need to first understand how lighting affects us emotionally. It can help make a space intimate, exciting, spacious, or relaxed, and can also help draw attention to its focal point. But you need to ask yourself what you want your visitors to notice first when they enter the room. This requires you to create a visual hierarchy. The next thing you should focus on is how you want the space to make them feel. Typically, the answer is relaxed and safe, since a home is supposed to provide comfort and protection above all. That is why it is necessary to have a layered lighting plan.

There are three subtle elements that should be present: general, accent, and recessed lighting. Each is controlled separately and offers a wide range of feelings to associate with the space. For instance, you could install cove lighting in your living room, which can make the space feel grander and attract attention to its architecture. However, by dimming these lights and using accent and task lighting, you can turn it into a more relaxed space with enough light to perform tasks.

Light effects our mood, behaviour, and overall well-being. However, its wavelength and amount have different functions and effects upon the brain, including the regulation of feelings and thoughts. This means that simple adjustments in your home or office lighting can make a world of a difference to how a person feels and thinks.

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