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5 ways light affects you

April 1, 2016

Being a photographer lighting plays an enormous role in my work, as well as on my subjects. Should I use a softbox, strobes, flashes, or just a reflector with natural light?

Regardless of your profession there’s no denying that light affects our lives in many ways. That’s why people hire lighting experts and designers to generate exactly the right atmosphere in homes, restaurants, and theaters; even in groceries stores.

Here are 5 ways light can affect you:

1. Our moods.
Lighting greatly impacts our moods throughout the day. Natural lighting through windows has a very calming and peaceful effect on our moods and emotions; however lack of light and even poor artificial lighting can trigger depression. Our soothing brain chemical serotonin plummets on dark days, causing changes negative in mood and emotions, whereas daylight is proven to cause a spike in serotonin and induce happiness. Simply put on sunny days we tend to be more optimistic and even more helpful.

In a slump? Go outside for 15 minutes and feel your mood brighten!

2. Our productivity and concentration.
Places where our brains need to be stimulated the most such as schools and office buildings are always brightly lit. The most prevalent source of light in these locations is often fluorescent, due to cost and energy efficiency. However spending excessive time solely in harsh artificial light can cause you to start to feel nervous and uneasy. Occasionally libraries tend to use “warmer” bulbs to try to build a more comfortable reading environment.

To optimize a creative space, try dimming your lights a little, then adjust your lights to make them brighter when you need to focus!

3. Our sleep cycles.
In humans like most other animals our circadian rhythm, the built-in biological process that oscillates every 24 hours, is driven by exposure to daylight. Our sleep cycle is greatly dependent on our actions throughout the day. Studies show that exposure to brighter light in the late evenings cause a delay to this cycle and lead us to prefer a later and later sleep time. When our sleep patterns are disrupted we’re more susceptible to many health ailments.

Keep your light dim in bedrooms because it has a drowsy affect and will prepare you for sleep. Be especially cautious of how late you’re on your bright electronic devices. Dim the device, or switch on night reading mode, which reverses the lighting effect (white text on black page, rather than black text on white page).

4. Our eyes.
This fact, though seemingly obvious, is ignored by most. Light, both natural and artificial, can cause a great strain and even permanent damage on our eyes. We’ve all been told at least once not to stare at the sun, which is great advice considering permanent retinal damage can occur after just a few minutes! Bright artificial lighting can also cause damage, often resulting in a headache and tiredness after a long day in an unpleasantly lit space.

Be aware of when your eyes start to strain indoors and adjust your lights. Don’t forget to use sunglasses when you’re outside of course!

5. Our decision making.
Studies suggest that emotions are experienced more intensely under bright lights. So, fictional detectives interrogating suspects under bright, harsh lighting, to get to the truth, may have really been on to something. So if you are buying emotional products, such as flowers or an engagement ring, check to see if the store has their light as bright as possible… Contrary wise, dimming the lights reduce emotionality in everyday decisions.

So when you are to “sleep on it”, or “everything will look different in the harsh light of day” they may be on to something!

It’s perhaps worrying that there are so many factors that can affect your health due to everyday lighting situations, yet it’s exciting that we are starting to understand that there are ways to manipulate your lighting for the better.

Read on about how light affects us:


Lexii is a marketing creative with 6 years in Event, Product, and Social media marketing. She has assisted with coordinating and managing marketing campaigns for Procter & Gamble, and assisted with growth of smaller CPG brands on a national level.

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