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Circadian rhythms by The Colourist Helen Trevisiol Duff

October 10, 2021

The Colourist blogging logo of Helen Trevisiol Duff

Are you a morning person or an evening person?

I asked my friend and fellow artist Stella Tooth whether she is a lark or a night owl?  Stella replied, It depends on the stage of life and seasonal weather!  I can no longer sleep in till 11am or beyond as I did in my teens.  I’m now a lark -provided the sun’s rays have warmed the earth and rays of light have started to filter around the corners our bedroom blind… The prospect of a sunny day holds infinite possibility."

Good day sunshine mixed media on paper by British figurative artist Stella ToothGood day sunshine £195 by Stella Tooth

At Skylark Galleries many of us are 'larks', finding it easy to wake up in the morning with heaps of energy, running slightly quicker than our 24 hour clock.... Others are night owls, evening people which suggests that the body clock runs slower than 24 hours leaving those artists with more energy later in the day. Creativity is linked to this. I always prefer painting early in the morning and feel energised by the light.

Centuries ago, most people worked outside and were exposed to the natural change from day to night, which meant their circadian rhythms were kept in sync - waking up naturally early in the morning with the sunrise, feeling alert and active, then slowly winding down as the day progressed towards the evening sunset. Today, however, is totally different. Most of us who work indoors have very little exposure to natural daylight especially in autumn and winter and this can alter our body clock.

We take in light without even realising it, starting with a warm amber light at sunrise, slowly changing into a brighter, cooler light during the day, before warming back into an amber light in the evening at sunset.

Harvest Time Sunset by Helen Trevisiol artist

Harvest Time Sunset Limited edition print by Helen Trevisiol £120

What are Circadian rhythms?

Circadian rhythms are behavioural, mental and physical changes that follow a 24 hour cycle.

At this time of year when the days get shorter the impact on our bodies is enormous. Many of us experience lack of light and our bodies respond to this by feeling down and SAD. It's our internal 24 hour clock in our brain that regulates alertness and sleepiness by responding to the light in our environment.

We all respond primarily to light and dark and this affects most living things from humans to animals, plants and microbes. There's no surprise that we are awake in the day and sleep at night and our biological clocks are natural timing devices regulating the cycle of circadian rhythms. Nearly every organism has a biological clock.

Light and mood

 Acrylic on canvas Candlelight original artwork by Amanda GosseCandlelight by Amanda Gosse Acrylic on canvas SOLD

All light within the spectrum of visible light has some effect on how we feel, and the intensity and colour of natural light changes throughout the day affecting our mood.

Our eyes contain cells that react to these natural changes; a signal is sent to an area of our brains called the hypothalamus which then triggers the release of serotonin (our body’s natural antidepressant) during the day and melatonin (a hormone which affects sleep) at night. This creates our circadian rhythm and promotes our physical and mental health, energy levels and mood. No wonder that we feel happiest when it is sunny outside.

Light is one of the most inspiring themes in many artists' work. Think of Turner and his incredible landscapes.

How can we use light to help our wellbeing ?

Sunlight is a natural mood-booster, influencing body chemistry (melatonin and serotonin levels). If you're indoors, light therapy is proven to put you in a better mood, boost energy and help you to feel more alert. It can also be an effective treatment for SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Research shows bright light of 2,500 lux improves well-being. Lots of people buy these lights to boost wellbeing.

We can spend as much time outside in the sunshine or light as possible, during our lunch breaks, a quick walk around the block.

Outside, on a sunny day, you can take advantage of 100,000 lux but in winter there may be only a few hours of very weak light and, indoors, the brightest office provides only about 500 lux.

Can we transform our interiors to boost how we feel ?

Transforming interiors for wellbeing includes making sure you have enough light. Natural light is best but in winter this is limited. There are special lights on the market to wake you up feeling more energised.

Colour and lighting in the home can really enhance wellbeing as can introducing artworks which affect mood. A beautiful image of a sunset or light on the ocean can be mood enhancing...

City of light hand embellished print by Sara Sherwood cityscape artist

City of light painted canvas with gold leaf embellish by Sara Sherwood £550

At Skylark Galleries we have some wonderful British figurative art, landscape artists, cityscape artist, limited edition prints and so much more to choose from. You can buy original artworks for sale to brighten up any gloomy winter day and leave you feeling calm, relaxed and positive.

About The Colourist blogger of Skylark Galleries Helen Trevisiol Duff




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