Today is the first Advent: “Behold, the first candle is burning,” the song says. There is no Advent without candles. But what is the effect of light and candles on people?
“Light also has an emotional impact. There are even special light sensors in the eyes for this purpose,” says Oliver Stefani (52), a chronobiologist and light researcher from the University of Basel and CEO at Chronolight (a lighting consultancy).
Bright daylight can instantly improve mood, especially in the dark winter months. With candlelight, there is an additional indirect effect. Stephanie: “Actually, we no longer need candles to light—except when the power goes out. They are much more symbolic. The light of a candle symbolizes security, hope, and peace, caressing our souls, so to speak. It also brings back childhood memories.”
Night with artificial light
The glowing advent in the dark season can also remind us of how people used to live – with much stronger alternations of light and dark between day and night, between winter and summer.
Stephanie: “Life and work have depended on daylight for thousands of years. Even after the invention of artificial light, very few are able to afford it in the evening. Around 1800, one had to work about six hours to earn an hour’s worth of candlelight. Only with the diffusion of light It became possible to be active at night.”
Compared to the natural starry night previously, we are now exposed to much brighter artificial light at night. During the day it’s just the opposite. Most people spend little time outside and are hardly exposed to natural light due to the long periods of time they spend indoors.
Light is our watch
“It can corrupt the entire organism. Because by its very nature, light sets the pace for our bodily processes, ”explains the chronobiologist. “By choosing a light diet, we adjust to the wrong day-night rhythm. This can lead to sleep disorders, mental disorders, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and serious illnesses.”
A well-synchronized circadian clock with daylight is a prerequisite for good health. Stephanie: “One step toward that is getting outside right before work in the morning, even if the sun isn’t shining.”