Let there be light! A guide to lighting up your day.
The Axolotl, or ‘human fish’ as it’s known to friends, is a cave-dwelling creature that lives in pools and dark watery recesses deep below the ground. It is easily recognisable by its pasty, translucent complexion, blind eyes and small legs that propel it along in dank, cold places where light has never penetrated. Why is this relevant to this blog? Because you are NOT an Axolotl, you are a light-sensitive being who thrives in the correct lighting, both at night and during the day. If you don’t have enough light, your body will let you know about it!
Today we want you to take a tour round your workspace and sleep space, addressing lighting issues where necessary. Don’t become a human fish – we like you as you are. Take a look at these five reasons to make positive change:
- YOUR PHYSICAL HEALTH
Light affects us all. It can bring us energy and it can bring us down. We are not made as one template, so different types of lighting have different effects on different people,
Light (and sunlight in particular) affects our mood, behaviours, and even our hormonal balance. Dim lighting can leave us suffering from strained eyes, headaches, tiredness or a general lack of focus – making us prone to errors and a lack of motivation. Without energy, our body stops activating core muscles, especially small ones around the spine. Hello to poor posture.
Harsh artificial lighting such as the florescent variety isn’t much better. It can lead to migraine, and even affect your normal night time sleep patterns.
If you suffer posture problems or headaches, why not take a look at your work set-up. Do you get tired quickly? Do you find yourself squinting or straining forwards in your chair when you work?
- YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
You will probably already know that your mental health can be vastly improved by natural light – which we know to be the best light of all. It helps keep Serotonin levels stable and keeps tiredness and depression at bay.
All the negative physical effects we just talked about have their own knock-on effects on our mental state too, creating a potent mix. If you’re not responding to the physical signs, be prepared to welcome irritability and anxiety into your life too. All of these affect our ability to do a good job, stunting our creativity and even our ability to communicate or express enthusiasm. Nobody feels happy when they’re feeling any one of these, and the feeling rubs off on others.
Certain areas of the globe are not blessed by excessive sunlight, and, sadly, that includes us. Every year, we see more cases of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Sick Building Syndrome is an illness caused by inside lighting, whereas Seasonal Affective Disorder is a kind of depression caused by seasonal change, typically starting around Autumn and continuing through Winter. Sufferers of both of these complain of lethargy, irritability and a lack of energy – which can be a step towards depression. Don’t let it get to that point. For more info on SAD, check out their website.
If you find yourself feeling depressed around this time, why not talk to your manager or HR department. You may find a little help is all you need.
- YOUR PRODUCTIVITY
There’s a reason why so many people are drawn to houses that have big windows and maximise natural light. Research studies show us that well lit buildings promote happier occupants – and in the workplace this means fewer days taken off for illness and absenteeism, more job satisfaction and the ability to get good work done. That’s right – good lighting can affect just how much you achieve in your working day.
If productivity means hotdesking yourself into a frenzy, take a short exercise in examining your fave workspots – and addressing the light where necessary. This doesn’t just have to be at the office either – coffee shops, hotels and bars and restaurants are increasingly tempting mobile workers into their spaces and will often respond positively to constructive criticism if it means pulling in more potential paying customers!
- YOUR PERSONAL CHOICE
If we want to get idealistic about it, the ideal lighting solution at work is a positive, motivating light atmosphere that allows productive work and minimises glare. It should maximise natural light, and improve the ambience of the room without dominating it.
But as with any kind of design, one person’s lighting choices are not the same as another’s. For that reason, workspaces are increasingly giving employees individual controls that they can control at their desks.
What’s your preference? Don’t feel obliged to live and work by someone else’s!
- YOUR NIGHT TIME SLEEP
We are creatures of routine when it comes to light and dark! Exposure to bright sunlight during the day resets your ‘circadian clock’ to precisely 24 hours each day. Artificial or poor lighting at work can throw this off the rails and mess with your physiology and behaviours as a result.
The problem is that many of us are the victims of light pollution in and around the city, whether this means general night glow or even having a streetlamp directly outside your bedroom window. There are plenty of innovations out there to help improve your sleeping patterns, but a simple blackout blind can be a good start.
Try going back to what our Paleolithic ancestors experienced during night and day. Avoid exposure to blue light (TVs, computers) during the night and encourage blue light in the morning. You can find some good advice on the subject at www.paleoleap.com.
Not everyone has the luxury of natural light in their workplace, but today more than ever, there are countless ways to mimic natural light or provide healthy alternatives. As if anyone needed more incentive, a full ‘light renovation’ can actually save energy bills as well as boosting revenue through worker productivity! As with many workplace improvements – we all benefit.