There is something about a lovely summer’s day that kindles the human spirit; that makes a person feel alive. Indeed, my mother used to say that “God gave us winter so we could appreciate the summer.”
The innate pleasure we derive from sunlight has been intuitively understood since the dawn of time. Yet, it wasn’t until the twentieth century, after centuries of post-Enlightenment scientific exploration, that we finally learned why. Now it is understood that sunlight — and natural light in general —encourages the secretion of a hormone known as serotonin: higher concentrations of serotonin have been linked to a higher esteem, mood, and reduced anxiety and depression. (In fact, serotonin stimulation is the primary function of most antidepressants.)
Now it is emerging that sunlight (in moderation, of course) has other incredible health benefits other than effecting mood: from healing wounds to boosting fertility, preventing cavities, to increasing energy levels, even preventing the development of certain autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis.
Waking in the morning to a (naturally) bright room also instructs the brain to flush away melatonin, a hormone secreted at night to induce sleep. Essentially, waking up in the morning is the best alarm clock you can have as it “re-sets” the body clock.
With all this in mind, wouldn’t it be great to have more sunlight in your home?
A house well-flooded with natural light is not only a benefit to mind and body; it is also an energy-efficient one. Currently, lighting accounts for 26 percent of residential electricity consumption in the UK alone. Think how much a single skylight — tactically placed — could illuminate a bedroom or living room on those long summer days and short summer nights. Think of the ideal substitute of natural light for artificial light, and think about how this could save money on electricity bills in the process.
While on the subject, skylights, for example, make good “passive air conditioners” on summer nights, as they allow for the circulation of draughts and the expulsion of warm air. In winter, the opposite is exact, as most modern skylights are equipped with technologies that are designed to prevent heat from escaping (obviously, when the skylight is closed). Without getting too science-ey, most modern skylights have a thin metallic oxide layer designed to keep heat in the house.
It is essential to bear in mind the power that natural light has over the body. To borrow and slightly twist the expression “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” natural light indeed seems to have no shortage of benefits: from more fabulous health perks to reduced electricity consumption.
Think hard about how to welcome more light into your home. It could be the simplest of changes —taking down the curtains, perhaps, or painting the hallway a brighter color. The payoff could be immense: higher quality of life and increased happiness.