Newark: Shedding light on ways to get through darker days
AUTUMN is here, mornings are becoming colder and there is a noticeable reduction in daylight. By the end of the month it will be dark before 7pm, writes Duncan Ellison, director of Active Listening Therapies in Newark.
For some, a reduction in daylight can bring on negative thoughts. For many, this forces a change in habit — a reliance on artificial lighting.
As we spend the majority of our working day exposed to artificial lighting sources, you may not be aware of the harm it can do to the mind and body.
Don’t be fooled in to thinking artificial lighting just accounts for overhead illumination. LED televisions, computer screens, tablets and phones all emit artificial lighting that may be causing your body stress.
Just take a moment to count the hours you spend looking directly at such a screen. Chances are you are concentrating on a device at work. Then, at home, you may be spending your free time gaming, watching, and scrolling through online information.
Poor lighting can have a massive effect on your mental health.
We often take lighting for granted, however, getting it wrong in your work, family and social areas could exacerbate many internal issues including a persistent low mood, lack of interest in regular activities, irritability, feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness, a mindset to remain in bed all day and constant sleepiness, and carb cravings.
When I work with clients who are stressed, particularly in the darker months of the year, we break down the total number of hours they are exposed to device lighting in a week. These are often big numbers — more than 100 hours for adults and upwards of 45 hours for young people.
Imagine what that does to your eyes and your capacity to think?
Technology has skewed our bedtime routine too, so much so that many people pick up a device after getting in to bed.
Worse still, more often than not in total darkness, putting a huge strain on the eyes.
It has been proven that blue light — specifically the kind of lighting produced by mobile devices — slows down the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. This impacts your sleep cycle, reducing the amount of quality sleep, so much so that you are likely to feel exhausted and washed out when you wake up.
We can embrace artificial lighting and use it to our advantage.
Swapping old lighting fixtures, particularly florescent strip lighting — which is renowned for causing headaches — with devices that emulate daylight will significantly reduce stress through the eyes, while making your work and family areas more comfortable in the darker months.
This is the same technology used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is very prevalent as the nights draw in.
The concept is simple — exposure to bright white lighting with a LUX level of 3,000 reduces the negative feelings associated with autumn and winter.
There are positive ways to alleviate these seasonal negative thinking patterns.
You might be surprised to hear that just 15 to 20 minutes’ exposure to natural to light each day is enough to release endorphins — the good hormones that will help you through the day.
Going to bed earlier — particularly if you are a slave to a device — will allow you to get longer sleep. You will be amazed at how much difference a 15-minute move forward of the time you go to bed — over a six week period — will help.
Finally, checking emails or worrying about what someone has put on Facebook only adds to the weight on your mind.
Ask yourself, can it wait until tomorrow?