It’s widely known that Lighting can affect one’s mood — hence the common term mood lighting. But the degree at which your mood is affected by lighting might surprise you.
In 2014, the Journal of Consumer Psychology published a study that found the more intense the lighting, the more affected and the more intense the participants’ emotions were — both positive and negative.
The study included six experiments that looked at the link between emotion and ambient brightness. Researchers found feelings of warmth increased when participants were exposed to bright light with a hint of a reddish tones, and the brighter the light, the more intense their emotions.
Creating the Correct Mood
So how does this relate to your next remodel? First off, when designing a space, the initial goal is to define the space and its primary use.
“In an office setting, lighting should encourage alertness and productivity,” said Rebecca Hadley, manager of Eaton’s SOURCE lighting education center. “It’s also beneficial to incorporate controls that allow for changes throughout the workday. Ideally, you’d have the ability to adjust the intensity of your lighting.”
When designing a home, homeowners have more space to work with as they can adjust lighting depending on the activity that is taking place in the home.
When entertaining friends or throwing a party, brighter light sets a positive, upbeat mood and encourages socializing and alertness. Similarly, the entrance of your home should welcome guests, creating a smooth transition from the bright daylight to your home’s interior lighting. At night, the lighting should ease the visitor from the dark outdoors into a warm interior light that will not overload their senses. During pre-bedtime activities, lighting should be lowered to promote “winding down” and be just bright enough to navigate your home safely.
Mimicking Outdoor Lighting
Vast research has been completed on the benefits of incorporating Natural light into a space. According to Architectural Lighting Magazine, natural light — or daylighting — provides the stimulation needed to regulate human circadian rhythms, or the internal body clock. For more on the health benefits of natural light, check out our article here.
In addition to circadian rhythms, natural light also affects the mood of humans, increasing occupant productivity and comfort in a workplace setting. A 2002 study by HMG titled “Daylighting Impacts on Retail Sales Performance,” found that the presence of skylights was the third-most important criteria of statistically significant factors in increasing sales volume. HMG also studied daylighting in schools and found a strong connection between schools that reported improvements in test scores — more than 10 percent — and those that reported increased natural lighting in the classroom.
Natural lighting can have a similar effect when incorporated in a home’s lighting plan. Beyond saving energy, exposure to natural light increases mood and can help make falling asleep easier. Spending your day in areas that are enhanced by natural light helps your body develop a good circadian rhythm, can increase happiness levels and can give you more energy.
Natural lighting has also been found to help reduce symptoms of depression. A 2015 study on light therapy took a group of participants and exposed them for prolonged periods of time to lamps designed to mimic natural outdoor light. This combination of light therapy and anti-depressants were significantly more effective in treating depression than anti-depressants alone. While natural light doesn’t cure depression, it can help alleviate some symptoms.
When it comes to artificial lighting, LED lighting is as close to reproducing natural light as it gets. LED lighting mimic the properties of sunlight and can also help enhance natural lighting. LED and sunlight have a lot in common as LED components allow for finer adjustments of color, brightness and intensity.
When looking to reproduce sunlight in the home, LED bulbs are your best bet. LED bulbs come in a variety of brightness levels — including a daylight variation — and multiple studies have shown natural light improves human’s moods and productivity when using high (90+) CRI LED lighting with color temperatures ranging from 5,200 Kelvin to 6,400 Kelvin. These are the closest temperatures artificial lighting can come to natural sunlight.
Hadley said industry research suggests indoor light should mimic the color of light we experience outside.
“This follows an arc from cool light in the morning, to white light at midday, to warm light in the evening,” Hadley explained.
As mentioned before, while lighting in the home is mainly tied to user preference, research shows there are a few steps everyone can take to create a calm, pleasing environment that mimics outdoor lighting.
“At night, lower light levels and warmer color temperatures – those that fall in the 2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin range – emulate the outside environment’s evening light and help us get ready for sleep by reducing our blood pressure and creating a restful feel,” Hadley said. “If you’re cooking or entertaining guests in the evening, you may find that higher light levels and color temperatures are beneficial. However, people generally tend to prefer warmer light at home.”
Flexibility is Key
Flexibility is one natural benefit of smart lighting design. New advancements in lighting controls have made lighting for mood easier than ever.
“Studies show that wall color can affect heart rate and irritability levels, but you can adjust your light more readily than the paint on your walls,” Hadley said. “For example, you can use high-intensity light to complete a craft activity at the kitchen table. An hour later, you can serve dinner to your family at that same table beneath a warmer, lower-intensity light.”
Newer LEDs with integrated controls and the ability to dim to warmer color temperatures are becoming popular in the hospitality industry because of their ability to affect the customer experience. For example, many restaurants lower their light levels between lunch and dinner as a subtle way of encouraging their patrons to linger over meals.
“Warmer light and lower light levels have been shown to slow heart rate and create a relaxing state,” Hadley explained. “As a result, customers might be inspired to enjoy appetizers and cocktails rather than rushing through to the main course.”
Conversely, some restaurants might put brighter light in an area where they want to turn tables quickly.
Hotels have also turned to lighting as a key design element in setting the mood it wants to purvey to its guests — from modern warm and calming red lighting used in lobbies to controlled in-room lighting that gives guests the ability to adjust their room’s lights accordingly.
Mood & Color
Believe it or not, color plays a direct role in lighting and mood. In a 2015 study, Ohio State University found that blue light at night can lower people’s moods and encourage depressive feelings, while white light had a less depressive affect than blue light on mood and performance. Red light faired the best with researchers suggesting this type of lighting for hospitals, hotels and workplaces that operate 24 hours.
The Most Important Design Element
With the ability to largely affect the mood of a room, lighting is the most important element to consider when designing a space.
In addition to altering the mood of the occupants in a room, lighting has the ability to help your room transform in shape and size. If you have a den that is particularly small, painting the walls a light color and having extra lighting reflecting off the walls will help the room to appear larger. Directional lighting like track lighting can also soften the color of walls and recessed lighting can add a soft glow to a room, which can also help the room appear larger.
When it comes to designing for mood, advanced controls have the most room to develop. Controls will become more personalized in environments ranging from the home to offices, hospitality settings and health care facilities. Controls that were once accessed via a wall switch are already making the jump to app-based technology.
With the ability to mimic natural lighting, many designers continue to turn to LED lighting. Advances in LED technology has led to several new fixtures, including LED skylights that imitate the look of a window and the sky. These “skylights” shed light that is the same temperature as natural light — offering an open, airy feeling and helping the room’s occupants to feel a more positive vibe.
With continued research and innovation in lighting, homeowners and designers have many options when it comes to selecting the right lighting to set the right mood for their space.
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