Did anyone ever give you a mood ring when you were a kid, swearing that the color it turned revealed how you were feeling at that very moment?
The mood ring fad might have been junk science, but the studies about mood lights aren’t. There’s a lot of ongoing research trying to figure out how lighting affects mood. Even though most scientists agree that more work still needs to be done before we can understand everything about how it works, the preliminary findings still show that light and mood are interconnected.
That means that the lighting in your house could be affecting how you feel in your everyday life. Do you have difficulty falling asleep, or have you noticed that your mood starts to shift when you get home? You might want to consider the lighting you use.
Read to find out more about how lighting affects your emotions.
What Are The Psychological Effects Of Light?
So how does light affect our emotions, anyway?
As humans, our bodies are programmed to be outside, not indoors. That means that our bodies take a lot of cues from our environment — most importantly, the sun and its light.
We rely on sunlight to regulate our circadian rhythms, which function as our internal clocks. When you get super jet-lagged, it’s because your circadian rhythm is thrown off — your body think’s it’s ten o’clock at night when it’s two in the afternoon in your new time zone.
Lighting can either help or disrupt those natural rhythms, which in turn can lead to changes in mood, energy level, and even what hormones your body produces.
Our bodies rely on that internal clock to help regulate their internal functions. Lighting plays a big part in how well that internal clock works.
So what are the different ways that light can affect us?
Light Makes Our Emotions More Intense
Picture an interrogation scene in a movie. It probably starts with a dark room, before the police officers or detective shine a bright light on the suspect’s face. Or maybe it starts off in a room that’s already lit with harsh lighting.
The lighting is important in both scenarios because light can make our emotions more powerful. Research shows that under intense lighting, both positive and negative emotions feel heightened. The study found that people chose spicier food, rated people as more attractive, and thought certain words were more positive when they were under brighter light.
On a sunny day, you might feel more hopeful about a project you’ve been working on, while on a cloudy day you could have a more pessimistic opinion about the same project.
Maybe that’s why people suddenly get stage fright when the lights come up?
Mood Lights Can Increase Productivity
It’s not just our emotions that lighting can affect. It can even change the way that we work.
If you’ve ever tried to read without sufficient light, you probably already know how much of a pain it is — literally. Trying to focus on something in a dim light can lead to strained eyes, headaches, and other problems.
When that occurs in the workplace, there’s understandably a dip in productivity. Dim lighting can also make you feel sleepy and less focused.
On the other hand, lighting that’s too harsh can induce stress. People who work under harsh lighting are more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs.
Lighting Can Help Or Harm Our Sleep
Since we mentioned circadian rhythms earlier, you’ve probably already guessed that lighting has a big effect on the quality and quantity of sleep you get.
Blue lighting, like the light from your phone or laptop, can make us feel more energetic. If the first thing you do when you wake up is check your phone, this might be helping you to shake off the drowsiness and actually get up to start your day.
On the other hand, that same lighting can cause problems when you wind down to go to sleep. The light that gives us energy in the day still sends signals to your body that it should be awake and alert. If you’re having issues falling asleep after looking at your phone, this might be why.
Light Can Affect Your Appetite
Think about the lighting in a fast food restaurant versus an upscale restaurant.
Chances are that when you thought of the lighting in a fast food place, it was very brightly lit. For the upscale restaurant, the lights were probably dimmer, creating a more intimate and relaxed atmosphere.
The lighting doesn’t just signal to us what kind of place we’re in, it also has an effect on how much and what we eat. In the upscale restaurant with dimmer lighting, you’d be more likely to eat slower. However, you’d probably also order unhealthier food, because you’re more relaxed and not paying as much attention to calories.
In the fast food restaurant, you’ll eat more food in a shorter period of time, since the lighting and colors make you want to speed up.
Light Can Alleviate Symptoms Of Depression
Finally, the type of light you surround yourself in can have a serious effect on not just your short-term mood, but your mental health.
Research has shown that going outside and being in natural light can help to alleviate depressive symptoms. Although sunlight alone can’t singlehandedly cure people of depression, it can help to mitigate the effects a bit.
Exposure to sunlight can also improve your sense of well-being, no matter who you are. It goes back to those circadian rhythms — the more we can stick to those, the better our bodies function.
What’s The Best Mood Lighting For Your Home?
As great as natural light is, it’s not as though people can just magically make more windows appear in their homes. So what’s the best lighting to use in your home?
Try to avoid fluorescent lighting as much as possible, since the lights are harsh and can have a negative effect on your moods. It’s also advisable to install dimmers in areas like your living room and bedroom. That way, you can adjust the mood lights according to your needs.