Here in the UK we’re moving towards Autumn. If you’re an early riser like me you’ll feel a little nip in the air, see condensation on cars and notice it’s not quite as light. If you’re especially sensitive you would have been able to smell the seasons change a few weeks ago.
I’ve always loved Autumn visually. The reds, russets and golds put on a fantastic display before leaves fall and we get ready for the colder months. However, for the last few years I’ve noticed that I don’t like moving towards Winter. Darkness and cold do nothing for me. I’m not sure that I could be diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but I know my energies lift when Spring makes a welcome return.
SAD’s symptoms are depressive and bought on by lack of natural daylight. People affected often find that light boxes help their symptoms. These light boxes provide full spectrum lighting which mimics natural daylight. For those not affected, or don’t believe they are affected, it may be hard to understand what all the fuss is about. After all, light is light isn’t it?
Actually it isn’t.
Light is in fact a nutrient and as vital to us as air, water and food. Just as the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat will affect our health and well-being, so too will the quality of light that we are exposed to.
Our natural light comes from the sun and reaches us through a spectrum of waves. The length of these light waves will determine whether we can visually see them or not and what colour they are: The visible spectrum is seen as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. The invisible are infra red and ultra violet. When we receive full spectrum lighting with all these waves present it is a little like drinking pure water, breathing clean air or eating organic wholesome vegetables. In other words, it’s good for us.
However, when we created artificial light, firstly in the form of incandescent light bulbs and then fluorescent tubes, we created a very poor second to what is naturally available to us. For neither produces light that is full spectrum so, although we can see what we’re doing, we are not getting the full nutritional value of light as we would if we were outdoors.
If you work in any sort of office building you will probably be reliable on fluorescent tubes to provide your lighting. If so, and you are carrying out any sort of creative work then the lighting will probably hamper your efforts because we are unable to see colours correctly unless we are seeing them in full spectrum light. You may have experienced buying an item of clothing or cosmetics that looked the right colour in store but was very different when you got it home. And, if you’ve ever been in a store changing room you’ll probably have noticed that your skin is either very pale or sallow. These effects are all to do with the choice of lighting.
You may also find difficulties reading things printed on white paper because artificial light is not absorbed by white paper but bounces right back at you.
Of course, these problems are just minor compared to the health problems of spending a lot of time under artificial light. I’ve already mentioned SAD but there’s a lot of research being carried out into the effects of full spectrum light deprivation:
- In 1980 Dr Fritz Hollwich studied the effects on the endocrine system. Whilst working under artificial (part spectrum) lighting levels of ACTH and cortisol (hormones produced when we are under stress) were secreted. For people working under full spectrum lighting these were absent.
- A ten year study at John Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore showed a positive effect of full spectrum light on the reduction of breast, rectal and colon cancer.
- In Russia, full spectrum lighting was used in a factory to address high incidences of colds and sore throats. After installation the bacterial contamination of the air was reduced by up to 70%. Furthermore, workers who did not receive full spectrum lighting were absent for twice as many days as those who did.
- Recent classroom tests have shown that students working in full spectrum light have a marked reduction in hyperactivity, absenteeism and an increase in academic achievement.
So, what do you do?
- Use daylight wherever possible. If you’re in an office and you have a window turn the lighting off. Not only will it help your health but it will also save energy.
- Full spectrum lighting is available but it is more expensive than normal fluorescents or bulbs so choose with care where you use it. For example, if you’re a business you don’t need full spectrum lighting for cupboards and corridors and other transit areas. Prioritise the areas where people spend most of their time (ie, at their desk).
- Have one full spectrum bulb at home, the area that you spend most of your time in when you come home from the office. This way you can get some decent artificial light in the dark evenings of the winter months.
- If you have a home office use a full spectrum bulb in there too. It will allow you to work more effectively by reducing stress, minimising glare and seeing colours naturally.
- Take a break in the day. A twenty minute walk at lunch time will bring enormous benefits. It’s not just the fact that you are getting away from your desk that is helpful, but the daylight will energise you. If it’s not too cold try and expose some skin such as your forearms. This will mean that you can take in a little more of the sun’s nutrients.
- Get out and about as much as you can on your days off. If it’s cold then wrap up well but go out and bathe in daylight.
- If you find that you have symptoms that appear to be linked to the seasons then contact a health professional who is familiar with SAD and consider use of a light box.
Just being aware of the difference between artificial and natural daylight will help you enormously because you’ll be able to choose full spectrum light when you can. And light, real light, will lead to a happier and healthier life.
Jackie Notman is a business and feng shui consultant. This article is from her blog ‘Life – and everything else’ where you’ll find an eclectic mix of articles and information.
Business Energetics is based on classic Feng Shui principles and brings together your environment and your people into one harmonised and focussed profit machine.
If you would like to find out more about how your business could benefit from living in harmony with your environment, and using energy to your advantage, contact Jackie Notman on 07920 461574 or through her website http://www.fs168.co.uk/businessenergetics
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