Mood lighting: Light intensity affects our emotions

Dr. Angela Seabright
Mike Miller

| 2 min read

It’s no secret that lighting, whether natural or artificial, has an effect on our mental state. We’ve all heard of and experienced “mood lighting:” candlelit dinners, moonlit walks, the sunrise and sunset. These are all things we generally recognize as mood enhancers.
Now, the intensity of lighting is being explored in relation to the intensity of our feelings. New research published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology indicates that the intensity of a given light source can actually increase positive and negative feelings and associations.
Previous research had shown that a sunny day tended to increase positive feelings while a gloomy day would make people more down; a concept that seemed quite natural. The new research indicates that an intensely sunny day could make a depression-prone individual even more depressed. The intensity amplifies any emotion, positive or negative.
In these tests, researchers created a variety of scenarios and varied the lighting intensities. In some cases, participants were asked their feelings on certain subjects: how attractive they found someone, or how spicy they liked their food. In each scenario, the subject’s responses under the more intense lighting conditions were to greater degrees. In another test, participants would indicate that they felt the temperature of the room was greater if the intensity of the light source was greater, when in fact the temperature was the same.
That’s not to say that bright lighting is necessarily bad. Bright, outdoor light helps regulate our body’s master clock. This keeps us alert during the day and helps us sleep at night. We should be getting 30-60 minutes daily. Be cautious to not spend too much time in the sun either, and wear your sunscreen!
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we need to be avoiding bright, intense lighting during the evening, especially avoiding “blue” light emitted from our electronics. This kind of light disrupts our master clock. Turning of the laptop and dimming the lights at night is definitely a good idea.
It may seem that lighting is yet another thing we have to monitor for the sake of our overall well being, but it’s better to think of it as something that we’re in control of when it comes to our health.
Photo credit: obaxterlovo

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