Bathing in Some Blue Light After a Stressful Social Encounter Can Help You Relax Faster

Man in shadows
Máté Kiss Photography / Getty Images

We’ve known for a while that the lighting in our environment—both the intensity and the color—can affect our emotions and psychological well-being.

Think about how the harsh fluorescent radiance in your typical workplace makes you feel (not good, if you’re like most humans). Alternatively, think about how your favorite neighborhood bar likes to rock a warm and inviting glow. It helps you feel welcome, right?

So the next time you’re battling stressful situations in social settings or within personal relationships, try gazing at some light in the blue spectrum, says new research.

The small study, which was published in the journal PLoS One, focused on short-term stress that stems from social or interpersonal relationships—like disagreeing with a partner or having to give a presentation at a meeting.

In the study, researchers stressed out 12 volunteers with a method called the Montreal Imaging Stress Task, and divided them into two groups. One group lied down in a chromotherapy room with a blue light, while another rested in a room lit with white light; both groups were monitored for bio-signals like heart rate and brain activity. The researchers found that the blue bathers were able to relax in about 1 minute. The white-light group, however, needed 3.5 minutes to fully unwind. After about 5 minutes, the groups were about even.

The study authors concluded that “the information reported here could influence in emerging technologies such as neuromarketing (e.g., the use of a blue lighting for a short while just before starting a negotiation) and in daily-life context (e.g., during stressful periods of work or at home). Stress has an important role in people’s lives, and this preliminary work might be used as a source to investigate stress-color relationship through an accurate methodology based on bio-signals.”

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