How Light Impacts Mood and Behavior

Posted by Jack Zhang on

As far back as ancient times, the Greek physician Hippocrates believed that the absence of light, especially during the winter months, brought illness. The notion that light has an impact on our health is therefore nothing new. While the absence of light doesn’t “cause disease” the way Hippocrates thought, it does have a severe impact on human well-being.

Mood and Productivity

Researchers from Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom conducted a study on the impact of The Impact of Light and Colour on Psychological Mood In The Workplace. They examined nearly 1,000 individuals and their working environments. All working environments were indoors, and results were measured across various seasons and in countries with different latitudes.

What they found was a “Goldilocks” effect of sorts. When workers experienced light that was too dark, their mood suffered. As they experienced light they deemed “just right,” mood peaked to its highest levels. As the light levels increased from what they considered “just right,” mood levels went back down. There is a point where too much light is counterproductive.

Also from the study, linked above:

“The results also indicate that the use of good colour design might contribute to a more positive mood.”

We’ve explained how you can use your ELA system to promote a productive working environment. However, you can also use your design center to experiment with colour design to take things even further.

ELA Smart Lighting Mood and Productivity

A 2014 study also noted the effects of light on perception and experience. Participants were asked, among other things, to assess the aggressiveness of a fictional person, the appeal of different spicy chicken wing sauces, and report their general reaction to a series of positive, negative, and neutral words.

Remarkably, whether the candidates were placed in a dimly or brightly lit room had an impact on the answers.

“Overall, volunteers seated in a brightly lit room judged the character as more aggressive, expressed a preference for spicier chicken wing sauces, and felt more strongly about positive and negative words. When it came to both negative and positive emotions, the reactions of volunteers were more intense under brighter lights.”


The Impact of Colour

Believe it or not, colour has a profound impact on mood state. In The Influence of Light on Mood and Emotion, researchers noted that blue light promoted creativity and innovation. Not only that, it increased responses to stimuli in areas of the brain responsible for memory function as well as emotional stimulation.

Other colours have similar impacts on mood function. Purple light, for example, helps to relief stress and promote relaxation. Keep this in mind the next time you visit a spa. Often, you’ll see purple and lavender hues prominently featured in the design.

ELA Smart Lighting Colors Mood

Yellow is a color that is often associated with being warm and inviting. Yellow light (as well as blue in some cases) is also used in light therapy sessions for individuals with seasonal affective disorder. Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression which comes on with the change of seasons. Researchers have long believed that the change in light cycles during these times may have something to do with the condition. Hey, perhaps Hippocrates was on to something after all?

Studies have shown that a combination of light therapy and antidepressants have been significantly more effective in treating depression than antidepressant therapy alone. No, light isn’t a cure-all for depression, but it can certainly help.

Sleep Cycle

When humans are exposed to light, it impacts the hypothalamus, which is what controls our Circadian rhythm. The Circadian rhythm is essentially our biological clock which helps regulate our sleep cycle.

A disrupted sleep cycle can lead to a host of behavioral changes such as mood swings, anxiety, anger, or depression. Therefore, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is important. In nature, the rising and falling of the sun throughout the day helps regulate this process naturally. However, when we spend so much of our time indoors, our clocks can get a little off track.

ELA Smart Lighting sleeping

With your ELA app, you can use the bio-clock feature to match your lights’ intensity to the rising and falling of the natural light cycle. Set this feature and your indoor lights will gradually intensify throughout the day as the sun rises. Then, they’ll slowly drop back down as evening approaches and night falls.

The Impact of Light

It should come as no surprise that as visual creatures, humans rely heavily on light for the way we experience the world around us. Light can boost us up as well as bring us down, impact the way we experience a range of emotions, and even tell us when it’s time to get off the computer and go to sleep.

ELA Smart Lighting Impact of Lights

Given the power that light has over us, the next time someone tells you that you light up their life, take it as a sincere and heartfelt compliment!

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