Seeing the Light

When I was growing up, my family had an addition added onto the west end of our house. I was too young to really appreciate the process at the time; I mostly remember us not being able to live in the back half of our house and the plastic barriers that separated our temporary living areas from the disastrous construction zone that lie on the other side. I have no idea how long the constructed lasted, but it certainly felt like an eternity. When the work was finally completed, it was fascinating to see all the new things my parents had selected and how each space had transformed to fit the needs of our family. It’s safe to say that each member of my family had something they were excited about most. For my mom, it was the spacious kitchen and laundry room; my dad, the new master bathroom; my sister, the new fireplace that turned on with the flip of a switch; our dog, the big windows in the family room that faced the yard; and me, well, it was all about the lighting!

If I had to put my finger on it, I would say that this is the point in my life when I realized the impact lighting has on a space. The number of light switches we now had made for endless overhead lighting combinations. That, on top of the dimming options, decorative lamps, and big windows… let’s just say, I finally saw the light! Simply through experimenting, I learned that I could make the same space not only look, but feel different, simply by adjusting the lighting. Even more interesting, in making the space feel different, I could also make myself feel different. See lighting, whether there is a lack of it or an overabundance, can influence your headspace in any given environment.

The Right Temperature

So, is there lighting that can help you feel more productive and alert, versus inviting and calm? You bet there is, and it all comes down to determining the right temperature. When it comes to lighting, temperature and color play an essential role in how our exposure really impacts our emotions. Lighting temperature is measured in degrees of Kelvin (K) and it is this degree that you will see listed on the boxes when you go to buy new light bulbs. It can be a little confusing to keep straight, but here is what you need to know:

  • Temperatures ranging 4,600K and Above: Appear blue-white (commonly referred to as cool or daylight colors).
  • Temperatures ranging 3,100K to 4,500K: Appear cool white.
  • Temperatures ranging 2,000K to 3,000K: Appear in tones that range from reddish to yellow-white (commonly referred to as warm colors).

Cooler lighting is associated with improving mood and giving people more energy, while warmer lighting suggests a more intimate and relaxing setting. So, if your office is filled with those old yellow-white incandescent colored bulbs, and you don’t have a lot of windows giving you access to natural day light, you may want to consider swapping those out for bulbs that are more on the cooler side. I’m sure if you tell your boss it will help boost office productivity, he or she will be happy to make the switch!

Lighting & Circadian Rhythms

The reason our bodies respond differently to different lighting temperature is closely related to our natural circadian rhythms. Lighting plays a key role in helping us keep our circadian rhythms in sync, something that is vital to our health. Disruption of your circadian rhythm has the potential to impact not only your mood, but further disrupt your memory and even metabolic function, making it worth your while to pay a little extra attention when it comes to the type of light bulbs you grab at the store. The concept is one that goes hand in hand with Seasonal Affective Disorder, also known as Seasonal Depression (which is most common in winter months when people have less exposure to natural sunlight).

My Suggestion: Experiment and Go LED!

The only way to know the best lighting temperatures to use around your own home is to experiment and see whats out there. Where you live, the time of year and your personality will all play a role in determining the lighting temperatures that fit you and your lifestyle best. If you can, I highly recommend investing in LED. It used to be that LED light bulbs didn’t offer a lot of variety when it came to temperatures; that, on top of the high prices turned a lot of consumers away for some time, but luckily this is no longer the case! Today, LED bulbs range from cool daylight to warm candlelight, so those of you looking to test out how these different light temperatures can impact your overall mood, you can do so without sacrificing living a green and energy efficient lifestyle! Yes the LED bulbs may still fall on the pricier side, but given how long they last, I think they’re worth the investment!

xx Linnie

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