03 Feb Lighting affects mood
by Mike Gambino
When I am designing , installing or servicing landscape lighting on the west side of Los Angeles (which is often). I can be found around 6 AM most mornings at Starbucks coffee in Brentwood. It’s convenient, there is room to park my truck and its close and centrally located to my jobs. Since I live approximately 45 minutes north west of LA I need to hit the 101/405 freeway interchange before 5:50 AM before it becomes a parking lot. This Starbucks is where I usually go to have breakfast, read the newspaper, check my blackberry for e-mails received from the night before and mentally prepare for the day.
I have been doing this for many years. There has always been one big problem with this Starbucks, and I suspect the problem is not isolated to just this Starbucks location. It was the interior lighting in the morning in this place before daybreak. So dim, so gloomy and so very difficult to read the morning newspaper. Totally ineffective and inefficient lighting to the point of being depressing. Compact florescent curly q bulbs were the predominant light source. Any incandescent lighting that they did have was dimmed down way too low.
This Starbucks location was closed all last week and part of this one for remodeling so I was eager to see the improvements that were made. I didn’t even need to go into the store, just as I pulled up to it, right away I could see that there had been a big improvement. Light ! The normal dreary and unappealing look had been totally transformed and this was my immediate reaction before even stepping foot into the store just from the light coming out from the windows. The lighting was much brighter and the color of light much more appealing.
Once I got into the store the whole mood of the place had been transformed. Not only did the store appear more spacious and uncluttered but the food inside the display cases also looked more appetizing. Coffee cups and merchandise on display shelves to the sides of the counter were well lit with quality accent down lighting. Tables properly lit for tasks such as eating, which is always a good thing when you are in a restaurant that serves food, and more importantly plenty of light to see to read the newspaper before the sun comes up.
I have noticed over the last few years a decline in the customers coming to this location in the early morning hours. In distant years passed the line at 6:15 AM was out to the door. I haven’t seen that for a long time. Perhaps others subconsciously noticed what I have noticed consciously that the place was not a comfortable place to be before the sun came up because of the poor lighting.
Sometimes when something is out of place it is hard to put your finger on the problem. But the subconscious mind knows and influences the brain to avoid places where you feel uncomfortable because of the environment.
My bet is that this Starbucks store location will greatly benefit with an increase in sales from this significant upgrade to their lighting. If anyone questions the physiological and psychological affects of light or lack there of do a google search on Seasonal affective disorder or SAD disorder for short.
The disorder is treated with light from a light box that mimics outdoor light. This is thought to cause a chemical change in the brain that lifts your mood and eases other symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. Light therapy can also be used to help adjust daily sleep cycles which may play a role in mood.
So the next time you happen to be feeling a bit down and you don’t know why take notice of your surroundings. You may just be experiencing poor lighting.