Our ancestors didn’t have artificial lighting. For thousands of years, civilization revolved around daylight, and many religions worshipped the sun as the source of all life. The idea of discussing natural light’s benefits wouldn’t have occurred to anyone before the end of the nineteenth century (when electric lighting started to become standard). But our modern actuality means that as our living and working conditions change, we’ve significantly become dependant on artificial light – to the harm of our psychological and physical well being, and our overall productivity.
Natural Light in Homes
Exposure to natural light helps our bodies generate Vitamin D, improves our sleep patterns and circadian rhythms, enables us to get more done, helps us to focus, and even makes us content. Ensuring we get sufficient of this critical resource is key to our psychological and physical wellbeing. But according to studies, we now spend close to ninety percent of our lives indoors – making it challenging to experience the benefits of natural light, as we only aren’t getting enough of it.
Regardless of our new age innovations, humans are still biologically programmed to benefit from exposure to sunlight. The rapid rise of technological advancement has vastly overtaken the speed of our natural evolution. As a consequence of artificial lighting, we no longer undergo the day and night cycles our bodies are programmed to work around.
Thankfully, the natural lighting benefits are well-documented and researched, and the case is clear for ensuring we all get as much access to natural light as possible. These benefits can be best known in two specific ways – the benefits daylighting has on our health, and the benefits it has on the surroundings we spend so much time in.
The Benefits of Natural Light for our Minds and Bodies:
The human body is the result of millions of years of evolution, and it is designed to be exposed to natural light frequently. Daily, in fact, as the sun rises up, we’re supposed to wake up with it, and our circadian rhythms (which control the quality of our sleep) are programmed to adapt and respond to sunlight. But the benefits of daylight don’t just end at a good night’s rest:
Natural Light gives us Vitamin D:
It’s relatively common knowledge that daylight is our primary source of vitamin D, but what many people are not aware of is precisely what we require it for. Vitamin D is the vital ingredient in strong bone growth – our body requires it to absorb calcium, and it aids us to develop in infancy, and as we develop. Vitamin D deficiency has also been related to obesity, depression, and probably even multiple sclerosis, with a gene defect ensuing in vitamin D deficiency being associated with the condition.
When it comes to the challenge of how best to obtain this vital resource, natural light is the way to go. While supplements may give us a boost of vitamin D, and foods including milk can boost us up, they can lead to us consuming too much – causing entirely new issues by spiking our blood calcium levels.
Sunlight doesn’t give us vitamin D straightly, but it helps our body to generate its own. Natural light allows our body to nourish itself, and it can’t oversupply us; if our body has sufficient vitamin D, it just stops producing more. It is also called as natural light therapy. This means you precisely can’t have too much of a good thing when it comes to this specific benefit of natural light.
Natural light improves our focus and Productivity:
We all need to be productive. From the moment our alarm rings and we start getting ready for work, we need to be efficient and focussed (at least once we’ve had coffee), and our success in our profession and lives overall is often determined by how much we can get done with the resources and time we have. One of the key benefits of natural light is that it surprisingly makes us extra productive.
One of the most significant factors directly related to our productivity is our sleep quality – and there’s enough evidence to show that if we sleep well, we work productively. Natural light, as it happens, is also a significant factor in this:
Natural light helps our body clock keep time:
Our circadian rhythms are relatively important. They’re necessarily the rhythms that our body uses to coordinate all of its functions – from cell regeneration to digestion – and they’re close to, but not precisely, twenty-four hours in length. Or at least they should be. One research conducted by doctors at the Harvard School of Medicine stated that our circadian rhythms must be reset daily to remain in sync with external environmental time and that regular exposure to light and darkness was crucial for this(1).
This is relatively easy if you live outdoors. As the sun rises, our bodies inherently understand that it’s time to reset the clock, and as the sun sets, the rhythm is controlled, and we are prepared for rejuvenation and rest. The challenge is that in our modern lives, we’re regularly exposed to light from all types of artificial sources, without any regularity at all. Computers, Phone screens, TV, and even simple artificial lighting throw our bodies out of balance, and after the sun sets, we actually trick our biology into thinking it’s still daytime.
Natural light improves psychological well being:
The natural light’s benefits on the way we feel don’t just apply to our general wellbeing, but also our mental health and mood. A lack of natural light can make us feel anxious and depressed, and the significance of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the UK speaks volumes about how important sunlight is to our psychological well being.
No one loves waking up in the dark during the cold winter months, but getting sufficient sunlight can combat negative psychological well being. Studies have found that improved access to daylight can reduce levels of stress and agitation. The case is clear for the aspect that getting more natural light simply makes us feel better.
We may be a long way from a planet in which we all live in glass spaces like the Photon Space; but as our knowledge of the importance of natural light increases, and we learn more about the benefits of sunlight, we can begin to make conscious decisions about how to improve our lives and health. Keeping these things in mind as we evolve as a society and as individuals could be the key to a better, brighter future.