People, Places, and Things

The psychology of design: How to create an environment in which you will thrive

Sunlight: A Magic Elixer

Being in sunlit spaces has a profound effect on our well-being.

The days are getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere and all of us living north of the Equator can expect more daylit hours as we work our way toward Spring. To maximize your psychological and physical well-being, make sure that you let as many of those sunbeams as possible flow into your home - keep the blinds and curtains open whenever possible and clean skylights. Don't take those window treatments down altogether; we also need to experience darkness at night to optimize nature's effects on us.

Rigorous research by environmental psychologists and others has linked higher levels of indoor sunlight to:

  • Keeping your circadian rhythms in sync with where you are, which reduces stress and improves the functioning of your immune system.
  • Being more helpful to others and, in general, behaving more positively when around other people.
  • Enhancing well-being and mood.
  • Improving the quality of knowledge work that we're doing while in that daylight.

The people who wrote the classic song about "let[ting] the sun shine in" had an important insight into human psychological and physical health. We shouldn't forget their message.

 

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Sally Augustin, Ph.D., is a practicing environmental psychologist who studies person-centered design and sensory science.

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