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How Does Lighting Affect Mental Health?

Living as we do in the Northern Hemisphere has its benefits. In terms of darkness in the winter months you may not feel any benefit. Those long Winter and Autumn seasons can play havoc with our mental outlook and attitude, which is why we crave light so much during those seasons to improve our mood.

This article discusses ‘mood’ and how with the right lighting or shades you can create a more vibrant atmosphere in a room or through lighting try to increase a more positive feel.

For example, these pendant shades can create a nice mood in the evening, or in a darker room with low natural light.

Tapered Black and Coloured Inner Pendant Shade

Eimer 12 inch Tapered Orange Pendant Shade

Getting enough natural light is important to our well-being.

However, natural light is hard to come by during the Winter, especially on a gloomy day, which is why we tend to be overly reliant on electricity and unnatural light in the afternoons and evenings. But getting the right light from bulbs and shades is important too.

Surprisingly ninety per cent of the world’s population lives on the North side of the equator.

There is a sweet spot between the Equator, and forty degrees north in which most people live. Despite us all constantly craving sunshine and heat, it seems humans have worked out over thousands of years that too much of a good thing is bad for us and moved away from the more sunny Equator.

Living in the Northern Hemisphere does have its benefits. Yes, there is more landmass north, but it is cooler and in the UK we’ve learned to deal with the dark Winter nights over centuries. The reality of Winter tends to kick-in when we put the clocks back end of October! Yet living in the 21st century brings new demands from the wider society, at a local and international level, to reduce waste and improve on carbon footprints. If you’re interested in reading further on this see our other recent blog post on What does low energy mean and what are the implications for lowering your carbon footprint?

Winter Nights Getting Darker 

The demand to reduce energy usage means that our Winter nights are getting darker. Pressure from government means local councils have been consistently reducing streetlamp lighting over decades. This is more obvious in new building estates and motorways. Being out at night these days is a much darker experience than it was in 1979, despite the infamous Winter of Discontent! In 2017 a plan to replace standard sodium streetlighting with new LED technology was approved by North Yorkshire County Council, in a massive energy reduction programme.

In November 2009, a Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution published a report, ‘Artificial Light in the Environment’. The report set out concerns about the relatively un-researched effects of outdoor artificial light on society and the natural environment. It made several recommendations aimed at addressing these issues through future government policy. One key recommendation included reducing or turning off lighting in quieter areas. Don’t expect our Winters to get any lighter.

Mental Health and Well-Being

How do the ever-darker nights in Winter affect you? Previous research illustrated that one in three people in the UK suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you’re feeling a bit bluer than usual this Winter, you are not alone. The research further showed that 29 per cent of adults experience symptoms of SAD between October and March, ranging from low energy levels, to low self-esteem, and anxiety.

Indeed, most of us do feel that we have much worse mood swings in the Winter season compared to the Summer–generally when the sun is shining and England are doing well in an international football competition, the nation’s mood tends to be more positive and happier. In fact, this whole issue of mental health in the Winter has an impact on NHS services too. Reports from the Health and Safety Executive from only 5 years ago said that ill health cost the British economy around £13.8 billion in 2011. Because it is widely accepted that mental health is a rising problem in the UK, that figure of £13.8 billion is perhaps much higher.

People have been preoccupied with light for centuries. Going back to pre-history, the night and darkness were both associated with danger and death.

Going back to the original hunter-gatherer tribes, a hidden cave was the safest place to hide away from dangerous carnivores.

The control of fire was probably most singularly responsible for saving humanity and allowing us to grow and survive.Streetlights using a simple coal gas first appeared in the 1730’s.

Then William Murdoch's property in Redruth was the first domestic house in the world lit by gas in 1792.


William Murdoch's gas property in Redruth from 1792

Not only does lighting have a utilitarian use, we need to see where we’re going, it also dispels our fears and improves our mood.

So it’s a nice feeling to enter a well lit home when we’ve been out to work or for a walk, on those Winter evenings when it’s pitch black outside. It’s not a great feeling but it might be a better one to enter your home and feel alive with the light provided.

Which brings us back to our original point – humans have been preoccupied with light for centuries. 

In Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey there is a famous scene in which primitive man huddle together one night, afraid of the dark until a mysterious object appears at dawn.


The scene contrasts light and dark quite starkly.

But it makes the point about our deepest fears and anxieties – darkness. 

The film also demonstrates examples of human loneliness and how we fill that loneliness and emptiness. In the film those voids are filled with light.

It's no suprise either that the very first sentence in the Old Testament mentions light and darkness, apart from food, both are the basic human preoccupations.

According to an article in 2016 from the American Institute of Architects, entitled ‘Innovations in lighting technology impact more than efficiency’, some of the benefits of LED light technology include improved concentration, and lower stress and anxiety. 

2001 - A Space Odyssey makes a point about our own fears and anxieties

It is commonly known that lighting affects mood. Certain colours produce stronger more obvious moods than others.

For example, pastel colours like green and blue are normally good for creating a calm and soothing atmosphere, whereas yellows and oranges are ideal for creating mood of warmth.

Then shades of reds of course are known for creating a romantic mood.

LED Light bulbs can create mood and help to improve well-being 

The best mood lights only use LED because they’re more energy efficient. They also don’t overheat and last a lot longer than standard bulbs. Although the initial cost of LED is a bit more expensive, you must consider the long term benefit, that it eventually leads to savings on your energy bills. Also, you'll have fewer bulb replacements too. Mood lighting is about creating a feeling of brightness and openness.

If you live in a home that doesn’t have large windows you can create brightness by changing bulbs, shades, and painting the walls in bright colours. You’ll then get a sense of space and brightness.

These floor lamps can also help to create a nice mood, whether in the evening or on a dark Winter day with supporting light:

Clipper Black and Chrome Tripod Floor Lamp with Copper Shade

Nero Floor Lamp with Blue Aspen Shade

Another option is to go for colour changing mood lights. Like LED lights too these are energy saving. They’re also wonderful products for creating mood and helping to restore calm and peace.

Trying something different like an LED light tube is a good option. These sleek tubes can run under a bed or under a sofa to create the right ambience and create calmness.

Colour Changing LED Bubble Tower with Coloured Balls

Remote Controlled Colour Changing LED Light Tube

If your home doesn't have a great deal of natural light from windows so that you suffer from low light during the daytime, it may be an option to install wall lights. This is an alternative to re-painting the walls. These products suit both living room and hallway too. However, if you're concerned about energy usage during the daytime, the whole point of new LED technology is to reduce energy use and cost. That's a personal choice - in fact many public and private buildings require LED lighting during the daytime, especially in the Winter months. While there are lots of well-being reasons for having lighting during the day, there is an inherent health and safety question too.

Wilhelm Antique Brass Style Wall Light in Blue

Plug in Satin Nickel Wall Light in Brown  Cubic Shade

If you’re not sure what type of light you’re looking for, have a browse of some of our colour changing lights and mood lighting choices in our catalogue. If you have any questions about our products, please email [email protected] or call 0161 837 6095 with any questions – we’re really happy to help you make any decisions.

You’ll find us on social too. Our handle is: @ValueLightsSuperstore.