Seasonal Affective Disorder is a seasonal depression usually brought about due to a lack of sunlight. The shorter days and longer nights during winter can affect your mood, sleep, appetite, and energy levels, taking a toll on all aspects of your life from your relationships and social life to work, school, and your sense of self-worth.
Luckily enough, living near the equator means being to enjoy sufficient amount of time in the sun, and not having to work in sheer gloominess at 12 in the afternoon, nor being bundled up in five layers of clothing daily. There are tonnes of benefits to gain from being exposed to natural lighting AKA the sun’s rays. One of the best ways to gaining exposure to sunlight is in fact to incorporate it into your workplace or home interior design.
Rays of Productivity
Research has shown that office spaces that integrate natural lighting into their design demonstrated increased productivity and efficiency among their workers. Furthermore, office workers also indicated better sleep quality, longer sleep periods, increased physical and mental activity and an overall higher quality of life, compared to their counterparts who worked in environments with a lack of sunlight.
Natural light in the home on the other hand has similar effects on one’s wellbeing, as getting exposure to sunlight in the office, depending where you spend more time at. Daylight helps to maintain our circadian rhythm, this being our sleep and wake cycle, our biological clock – which allows us to operate at our optimum level throughout the day.
Heliotherapy or sunlight therapy is a method being ‘treated’ with natural sunlight. Also known as phototherapy, heliotherapy also refers to the usage of artificial sources of ultraviolet, visible or infrared light radiation for treatment. This form of therapy began in the 1800s, particularly to treat tuberculosis, due to bones lacking vitamin D. However, it was also later discovered that light therapy was also beneficial for those who had been diagnosed with lupus vulgaris. When exposed to sunlight, the UV radiation emitted from the sunlight help to kill of bacteria which causes the development of the lupus disease. However, heliotherapy can be pretty costly, and considering that we receive approximately 12 hours of sunlight daily, there’s no reason why any Malaysian should need to undergo light therapy.
Interestingly, as much as we Malaysians try our best to stay out of direct sunlight (for the fear of gaining a darker complexion and skin cancer), research has demonstrated that those who practice sunbathing have been shown to have lower blood pressure, regulated blood sugar, healthier cholesterol levels and an increased white blood cell count as well as a higher immunity.
Thus, there’s a reason why vitamin D is known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’. Vitamin D is produced in ones skin in response to sunlight and has several important functions. The most vital is in helping our bodies regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and balancing out our immune system function. Also getting a sufficient amount of the vitamin is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, as well as improved resistance against certain diseases.
When deciding on how to incorporate sunlight into your workspace, it is adequate to look for a unit or office blocks with large panelled windows. Also, assuring that the office building faces an open road or space, as opposed to having a direct view of a back alley or an adjacent office block.
Of course sometimes there is an issue of cost in terms of finding an affordable office space with sufficient natural light exposure throughout. In that case, it is possible to create a relaxing area near the windows to allow employees to utilise the area for work or leisure.
If you’re in the process of looking for new office space or considering the practicality of your current setup, you might want to consider some these questions:-
- How many windows are in your office space?
- Are there any skylights?
- Does the conference room have natural light?
- How about your lobby? How many windows are there?
- Are your hallways recipients of window light?
It’s also been recommended that workstations be positioned within 20 to 25 feet of the peripheral walls containing the windows. Besides that, having an office with a scenic view through your office windows offers the perspective on life that is more full-circle than merely being indoors, thinking and looking at only things on the inside. Regardless of what line of profession one is in, having a scenic view to look at other than the computer screen 24/7 can be beneficial one needs to take a five second breather from work.
Clients can also be persuaded and impressed by the views from your office space. Escorting them into the conference room that overlooks the busy downtown city or beautiful scenic lake can greatly influence their desire to work with your team. Creating a space where business meetings and drop-by visits from potential investors is met with awe and prestige puts the advantage in your court.
The Perfect Abode
Incorporating natural lighting in your home on the other hand, may be somewhat easier compared to finding the right office space. Considering that all houses are already equipped with windows, it’s important to understand that natural light can only penetrate so far through each window. Therefore, installing multiple points of light such as large-panelled windows, clerestories and even a sky roof are just a couple of ways to light up your home naturally.
You can also create an interior where the most-used furniture pieces are positioned in the area of your home with the most light. One added bonus of having an abundance of natural light at home is that it helps one to save electrical energy during the day! Did you know that the electricity used by lighting in your home can constitute 25 to 40% of your total energy consumption and energy bill? Now imagine being able to cut the total amount paid each month to the electric company by half or more?
Some studies have also shown that a lack of natural light in dining areas may be somewhat responsible for obesity. In one study, mice that ate under daylight gained 50% less weight than those that didn't. Makes you want to have a glass-walled dining room like this one, doesn't it?
Even having natural light in your bathroom has added benefits! Natural light allows you to conduct petty chores more accurately like shaving and makeup application, and even has the ability to cure those weekday blues and boost your self-esteem in the mornings. Who knew light could affect so much of your life?
You might want to consider some of these questions when it comes to the interior of your home, when looking for the perfect unit:-
- How many windows are there in the living area/bedroom?
- Are the windows large enough to allow light in?
- The position of your unit/home to the morning/evening sun
- Is it possible to install clerestories?
- Is there a need for tubular lighting devices?
Nonetheless, by living in the tropics, we should try our best to reap as much benefit as we can from the sun’s rays, and also perhaps learn to appreciate how being located near the equator is actually a blessing instead of a curse towards our overall workspace and home design (and wellbeing too!).
(Written by: Rekha Cheah Shankar, 29th June 2016)