Have you ever thought about how light can affect your mood?
You’re probably aware that you feel better when the sun is shining or that you’re more creative when the light is more subdued, but different lights can impact our emotional health and wellbeing too, by affecting everything from your mood to your appetite.
Sunshine Equals Happiness?
While we can’t guarantee that being in the sun will make you feel happier, it does make a big difference to your wellbeing. Researchers have found that people who are exposed to natural sunlight during the day exercise more, sleep for longer and feel much better than people who get little exposure.
Getting your daily dose of daylight will help your body to stick to its natural circadian rhythm and help it to know when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to sleep.
Natural Light May Help Reduce Symptoms of Depression
Getting outside during daylight hours may also help to reduce the symptoms of depression. A 2013 study reported that volunteers with both depression and a Vitamin D deficiency found that their symptoms were reduced by increased exposure to sunlight.
The good news is that this effect can be replicated with the use of a lamp that’s designed to mimic natural outdoor light, which can prove particularly helpful during short, dark winter days.
Bright Light Heightens Emotions
Researchers have suggested that being under bright light can heighten both our positive and negative emotions.
Following a study in 2014, in which participants were given a number of tasks in either a brightly or dimly lit room, it was found that their senses and emotions were more intense when in a bright environment.
We Feel More Energetic Under Blue Light
Being exposed to blue light can give us more energy, make us feel more alert and help us to become more productive. Volunteers in a recent study were found to complete reasoning tasks more quickly and accurately when they were exposed to blue light in comparison to the control group.
Interestingly, this heightened state of alertness continued for at least thirty minutes afterwards.
But Blue Light Will Keep Us Awake at Night
As you would expect, if blue light gives us more energy, it’s not the best light to be exposed to if we want to sleep. Smartphones, laptops and other screens emit blue light that is known to suppress melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. So, it’s no wonder that you’re finding it hard to sleep if you take your screen to bed with you!
Light Can Affect Your Appetite
How fast we eat, how much we eat, our perception of flavour and our choice of food can all be affected by the kind of light we’re exposed to.
In general, we tend to eat more slowly and consume less food when we’re in a dimly lit environment, although we may be tempted to order more unhealthy options. This may be because we feel more relaxed and less alert when the lighting is more subdued.
However, light can affect our taste buds too! In a 2009 study, researchers looked at how different levels of light affected the participants’ preference for a particular wine. Although, they did conclude that the results could have been influenced by the way in which the wine changed colour in the light.
Light Up Your Life!
So, as you can see, we need good levels of light to ensure that we feel at our best, and it’s no surprise that we often feel down in the dumps in winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recognised problem that’s caused by the lack of bright light.
Fortunately, it’s easily treatable with light therapy using specially designed light boxes – but even if you don’t suffer from SAD, it’s a good idea to bring as much light into your life as possible!