Letting the light in: Can a brighter home make you happier?

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‘Heliophilia’ — that’s the technical word for someone or something that is attracted to sunlight or “has a desire to stay in the sun”.

A quick stroll down one of Cebu’s beach resorts will unveil a whole grouping of heliophiles basking on sun loungers or beach towels; it seems fair to say that we are all, to some degree, heliophiles — but ask yourself: what really, is going on here? Why do we love the sun so much?

Most of us are probably already familiar with the benefits natural light can give us. It’s much easier, for example, to wake up in the morning when the sun is shining. The scientific explanation for this is, quite simply, that sunlight triggers an increased production of serotonin in our brains. Serotonin is a hormone that is linked with greater feelings of satisfaction and calmness, and lower levels of depression and anxiety.

Unsurprisingly, people aren’t at their happiest stuck in a windowless room under poor, artificial light. But what is surprising, how detrimental a lack of natural light can be on the human psyche. One study has shown that workers can be cheerful and alert for up to eight hours in bright, natural light — yet this cheerfulness and alertness declines rapidly after barely two hours under dim, fluorescent light bulbs. Poorly lit working conditions also take their toll on sleep quality, happiness, and creativity.

This begs the question: how different would the world be if everyone enjoyed natural light like they are supposed to? Natural light, it seems, is an easy remedy to ward off problems that are often avoidable, such as the occasional low mood swing, or a bad night’s sleep. Obviously in some instances, such as being in the workplace, poor lighting is unavoidable, but what about in the home?

It doesn’t have to be sunny in particular for the serotonin-boosting effects of natural light to work wonders on your productivity, esteem, and mood. It just has to be prominent. For example, say you live in a house with an unusually depressed living room – the windows are already quite low, and most of the light is snuffed out by the shrubbery and trees outside. It is a room likely to be deprived of natural light, but there are ways to make it brighter, including:

  • Re-painting with lighter colours
  • Moving the furniture around to accommodate the inpouring of light
  • Hanging a large mirror (or mirrors) to reflect the natural light around the room
images by pexels.com

Another great adornment is glass. If getting natural light into the home is a problem, then our priority should be to encourage and make the best use of it. A creative application of glass will encourage an almost free-flow of natural light. Consider the two following examples: satinised (obscure) glass would be ideal for a bathroom door, maximizing the flow of light while still retaining privacy; while a glass balustrade would allow light coming in from the upstairs windows to filter down into the — often dark — stairway between floors.

It is amazing what a healthy dose of natural light can do. Studies have shown just about every benefit under the sun (excuse the pun) — from boosting fertility, increasing energy levels, even the prevention of autoimmune conditions. With this in mind, there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t all be aspiring to get as much light into our lives as possible.

Naturally we are all heliophiles, and for good reason. It is time to embrace our love of the sun and natural light. So think carefully about how the light enters your home, and creatively about welcoming more of it in. It could be the simplest and easiest step you will ever take, for a better quality of life.

 

Disclaimer: This is a Guest blog post by Eliza Cochrane.

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