How indoor lighting affects our emotions
It might surprise you to know that eating a spicy sauce in a room with bright lights will make it feel spicier. This is how powerful lighting is on human perceptions. Many studies have been done, and they are all clear on the connection between lighting and emotions.
A university of Toronto study showed that negative emotions become more negative under gloomy lighting. Positive emotions became more positive in bright lights. It showed that Wall Street bankers became more positive when days were brighter, while dark and gloomier days brought on a seasonal affective disorder.
The study also showed that bright light brings on the feeling of warmth without any increase in room temperature. Potential mates looked more attractive and sounded more positive. Extended dim and gloomy lighting triggers the release of stress hormone cortisol which can lead to negative thoughts and depression.
Bright lighting induces release of dopamine which is a feel good hormone making things look brighter and more positive. The phrase ‘dreams of brighter days’ may come from the association of hope and bright lights.
Sleep or lack thereof directly affects emotions. Extended bright lighting disrupts the sleep cycle leading to mental fatigue, irritation and negative emotions. Dim lighting on the other hand induces drowsiness and sleep by triggering the release of the hormone serotonin which calms the brain.
Exposure to harsh lighting can be an interrogation tool. This is due to the disorientation effect brought on by the disruption in sleep cycle.
Exposure to artificial bright lights for a long time tires the eyes from squinting in the glare. Exposure to computer monitors, mobile phones, TVs and other artificial lighting can strain the eyes. Eye fatigue can make one irritable and anxious.
Jewelry stores are brightly lit to for the simple reason that seeing the jewelry under bright lights will make it look more dazzling and prettier. Emotional decisions done in bright lighting can be distorted by feelings of over optimism and exaggeration of positive aspects.
Nightclubs and casinos have colored dim lighting with the occasional bright light to make the customers calmer and relaxed, and lose track of time. Revelers and gamblers have been seen to spend more in this colored lighting as they let their guard down and become less watchful with their money.
Decision making is best done in as near natural lighting as possible. Boardrooms, medical examination rooms, and other rooms in which sober minds must prevail use well balanced lighting to strike a balance.