Studies tell us that the quality and intensity of light in a room can be a big factor in determining the mood we’re in, and it would seem that we’re all psychologically predisposed to the influence of different levels of illumination.
Studies Provide Illumination
In fact, a study undertaken at the University of Toronto in Scarborough, Canada shows that human emotion, whether it be positive or negative, is felt much more intensely under bright light. Alison Jing Xu, assistant professor of management at the University, conducted a series of reports which examined the unusual phenomenon of lighting and human emotion.
“Other evidence shows that on sunny days people are more optimistic about the stock market, report higher wellbeing and are more helpful while extended exposure to dark, gloomy days can result in seasonal affective disorder,” explained Xu. “Contrary to these results, we found that on sunny days depression-prone people actually become more depressed,” she stated, referring to spikes in suicide rates during late spring and summer when sunshine is abundant.
Various other criteria were also tested under different lighting conditions, including people’s perception of the spiciness of chicken wing sauce, their feelings about the aggressiveness of a fictional character, how attractive someone was and their feelings about specific words to name but a few.
The results showed conclusively that, under bright lights emotions are felt more intensely. In the brighter room participants wanted spicier chicken wing sauce, thought the fictional character was more aggressive, found people more attractive and felt better about positive words and worse about negative words.
Xu believes that the effect bright light has on our emotional responses may be the result of it being perceived as heat, and the perception of heat can trigger our emotions. These responses are governed in the brain by the Limbic System, and Xu went on to say, “Bright light intensifies the initial emotional reaction we have to different kinds of stimulus including products and people.”
The majority of everyday decisions are also made under bright light, therefore reducing its intensity may enable you to make more rational decisions or even settle negotiations more easily.
“Marketers may also adjust the lightening levels in the retail environment, according to the nature of the products on sale,” she continued. “If you are selling emotionally expressive products such as flowers or engagement rings, it would make sense to make the store as bright as possible.”
Lighten The Mood
This is all very interesting, you might think, but how can I implement changes that will make me feel better?
Ensure that the lighting you have in your home or in your workplace is sufficiently bright. Whilst this sounds like common sense, you’d be surprised how many people labour under inadequate illumination. It can cause eye-strain and poor lighting is a contributory factor in the phenomenon known as SBS or ‘Sick Building Syndrome.’
If you’re in any doubt as to the efficacy of your lighting, just check out this table to find the levels you’ll need for each type of activity:
Illumination in Lumens/m2
Public areas with dark surroundings
20 - 50
Simple orientation for short visits
50 - 100
Working areas where visual tasks are occasionally performed
100 - 150
Warehouses, Homes, Theatres and Archives
Easy office work and Classes
Normal office work, PC work, Library study, Groceries, Showrooms and Laboratories
Normal drawing work, Detailed mechanical workshops, Operation theatres
Detailed drawing work and Very detailed mechanical work
1500 - 2000
Performance of visual tasks of low contrast and very small size for prolonged periods of time
2000 – 5000
Performance of very prolonged and exacting visual tasks
5000 – 10,000
Performance of very special visual tasks of extremely low contrast and small size
10,000 – 20,000
As you’ll see, the intensity of the lighting is measured here in Lumens as opposed to watts. Lumens are a measure of brightness, whilst watts represent the power required to run the light. The very best way to achieve an excellent Lumen to Watt ratio is to use LED lighting.
For use in office settings, LED panel lights are absolutely perfect. Both energy- efficient and brightly-shining, there’s a huge range available, including the 600 Lumen LED Panel Light which requires a tiny 6 Watts of electricity to power it. And there’s the awesome lighting power of the 72 Watt LED Panel Light which will provide 5500 lumens, the equivalent of a 250 watt fluorescent light.
Warm Or Cool?
LEDs are also ideal because as well as providing more than enough brilliance, you’ll also be able to define the mood and ambience of your space because, with them, you have a choice of colour temperatures.
The aforementioned LED panel lights are available in either cool white (6000K) or warm white (3000K). Many people decide to use the bright, penetrative light of the cool white for their functional rooms and areas like the office, kitchen or bathroom, as it’s better suited to close, task-related activities where attention to detail is important.
The warm white variety of LED light is most often used to augment and already convivial environment, as you might have in your living room or bedroom. It has a very mellow quality that people say helps relax them and put them at ease.
If the university studies are to be believed, you may wish to ensure that any light you choose to install is dimmable, just in case you ever need to bring the intensity down a notch or two!