A Brighter Home, a Brighter Mind: How Natural Light Keeps Us Happy and Well – Guest Post

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Dan here. Today, we have a special treat: a guest post from Eliza Cochrane of Carlen Glass, located in lovely Dublin, Ireland. She has a post on the benefits of natural light. If you’re a regular on With the Barretts, you know that lots of natural light in living spaces is important to us. We appreciate Eliza sharing and hope you enjoy her post.

room with natural light

I recall a few weeks ago, a brief spell of troubled sleeping. I would go to bed early every night and, after about four hours, would “waken” into a light semi-conscious drift. I’m not sure what caused the spell — though it probably had something to do with the increasing temperature of the summer nights — but there was one morning in particular that struck me as peculiar. On what was perhaps the hottest night of the year, I decided to sleep with the windows open and curtains drawn, to let a draught in should it come. I woke naturally — again, after a few hours of what should have been groggy sleep, only this time to the in-pouring of brilliant sunshine.

And not only did I feel fine, I felt great.

Experience Backed by Research

The experience was so strange to me that I decided to do a little research on natural light and the human body for an explanation: I quickly found out more about the natural sleep-wake cycle, and the regulatory hormones of this cycle. For example, the brain releases melatonin after sun set, a hormone that makes you tired; then as the sun rises, melatonin concentrations start to drop. Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist and bestselling author of “Why We Sleep”, has also said that melatonin can re-set the body clock, along with sunlight in the morning.

So there we have it: a healthy dose of rich sunlight “re-set” my sleeping pattern. Fascinating, wouldn’t you say?

Most of us are probably already familiar to the benefits of natural light to some degree; I think almost everyone would agree that getting up in the morning is much easier when the sun is shining. The scientific explanation for this is, quite simply, that sunlight boosts another hormone in our brains —serotonin. This hormone is linked with greater feelings of satisfaction and calmness, and lower levels of depression and anxiety.

Natural Light in the Workplace & Home
psychology today graphic
psychology today

Naturally, my research led me to the effects of natural light in the workplace and at home. Unsurprisingly, people aren’t at their happiest stuck in a windowless room under fluorescent lights —but I was surprised to learn that working conditions such as these led to reduced sleep quality, happiness, and productivity. It was fascinating to read about how science is working to combat this problem, for example this article on the development of LEDs to mimic blue skies.

It got me thinking: natural light is an easy remedy to ward off occasionally avoidable problems to do with low mood and sleep quality. Sometimes poor lighting in the workplace cannot be helped, but what about at home? How different would the world be, if everyone enjoyed natural light like they’re supposed to?

It doesn’t have to be sunny for the serotonin-boosting effects of natural light to work, but if your living room is particularly starved of natural light you could be at risk to the adverse effects. A friend of mine once lived in a home with a slightly depressed living room: the windows, already quite low, where mostly snuffed out by the hedges bordering the country road — so he decided to get creative: he re-painted with lighter colours, moved the furniture around, and even hung a large mirror on the adjacent wall.

Now, thinking back to that morning when I woke to the rich sunshine, I looked about and my bedroom seemed transformed. If getting natural light into the home isn’t a problem — and I don’t think many of us are at that disadvantage — then our priority should be to make best use of that sunlight.

Natural Light in Your Space

So if there is a prominent window in an unfrequented room, use it. If there is a way to increase the amount of light into your home, I’d recommend thinking hard about it.

Glass, for example, is a great adornment that will allow natural light to pour into the home, even something as simple as a glass splashback in the kitchen, or a glass balustrade.

glass balustrade

Think creatively and inventively how you can welcome natural light into your home. It could be a seamless open door, to a better quality of life.

Well, there you have it! Many thanks to Eliza Cochrane for sharing her thoughts With the Barretts.

And go check out the site at Carlen Glass – they have some pretty cool stuff!

Until the next adventure, remember that walking through this crazy world is always better with company. Stay safe. Be kind to your fellow travelers. And thanks for spending a little time With the Barretts.

Best –

Dan

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