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Natural Light, Good Light

The song writers were correct: "Let the sunshine in."

sharat kumar/Shutterstock
Source: sharat kumar/Shutterstock

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you’ve been experiencing more natural light each day as we’ve moved into the summer months.

Research consistently shows that spending more time in natural light while indoors does all sorts of great things for what goes on in our minds and bodies, as long as we keep stress-inducing glare in check.

Scientists have found, for example, that with more time in naturally lit spaces:

  • Moods improve, and we’re better at getting along with other people.
  • Cognitive performance and creative thinking get a boost, as does our ability to learn new material.
  • We have better self-control.
  • Stress levels can fall as circadian rhythms align with a person’s place on the planet – which is good for our body as well as our mind.
  • We can keep track of time-of-day, weather, etc., which contributes to keeping tension in check.
  • Our physical health is better, and we sleep for longer periods each night. Being in natural light has been tied directly to all sorts of desirable physical conditions, such as lower blood pressure levels and production of mood enhancing neurotransmitters; sleeping for longer periods makes it more likely that we’ll have the energy we need to make the most of our day, which is good for both our mental and physical wellbeing.

Without sacrificing appropriate levels of privacy, make it easy for sunlight to find its way into your home. That may mean modifying window treatments so they don’t block the flow of natural light, moving furniture so that it doesn’t obstruct the movement of sunlight, cleaning skylights, or something else for your home specifically. To maximize your psychological and physical well-being, make sure that you let as many of those sunbeams as possible flow into your home. Matte surfaces instead of shiny ones can help eliminate glare. Don't take window treatments down altogether; we also need to experience darkness at night to optimize nature’s effects on us.

A bonus to having natural light in a space: you may be able to grow green leafy plants there. Seeing a few green leafy plants has been linked to feeling calmer and thinking more creatively, just for starters. Try to add green leafy ones when you can include something green—cactuses can be interesting additions to a space, but the research on the benefits of plants hasn’t shown that they contribute in the same way to our wellbeing that green leafy plants do.

Sunbeams are friendly sorts who can make your life better.

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