With the variety of lights and lighting technologies at our disposal, we can control not only the atmosphere around us but also our moods and feelings. Ultimately, light is not just about accessibility, but also about creating a feeling of peace and belonging. Lights can even evoke a sense of home if placed in a way that highlights the best features of the environment.
For me, in addition to its practical uses, light has always been a form of self-expression—a way to convey how I am feeling without having to say anything. So, I want to weigh in on the popular TikTok debate known as “big lights versus ambient lights.”
If you have not heard about it before, here is all you need to know. An online discourse was sparked, centering on which kind of lighting was better. Some argued that the so-called “big lights,” like the ones we have on the ceiling, or “task lights,” like study lamps, are better overall as they serve a purpose and are more useful in assisting with most tasks. However, a majority of people contended that, although the big lights are useful in some cases, they are not something you want on in your home all the time. They stated that big lights should be reserved for tasks, while ambient lights are the ones you use for living a good life. Ambient lights often come from small lamps, string lights, and candles, and are considered better for creating an atmosphere you will want to return to.
Recently, some research was done surrounding this debate, and the results provide us with the following insights. One result that will not come as a surprise to anyone is that lighting has a tremendous impact on our mood. For example, research by the National Library of Medicine suggests that, for the majority of people, a cozy (warm-toned) ambiance and an activating (cool-toned) ambiance can help achieve a feeling of pleasure and calmness depending on whether the person was previously feeling sad or anxious.
Besides, lighting can help us regulate our body temperature better. For example, a light perceived as too bright for the eyes will make us feel hot and uncomfortable, making us want to escape the place or situation. This problem often results from task lights. Therefore, substituting them for ambient lights might be the solution needed, as they are less saturated.
Although the TikTok trend portrays ambient lighting as the solution to all your problems, there is a negative side to the trend as well—namely, the cost involved in setting up your space to have ambient lighting. Often, it is not just about the colour or brightness of light, but rather, what place it takes in the space overall.
To create ambiance, light becomes a form of art, and with everything available on the market, it could take any form—a cloud, a flower, string lights, or steampunk-style lights—shape, and colour you can think of, as well as any price tag. This can prevent it from being accessible to young people and other financially underprivileged groups.
Ultimately, the choice between “big lights” and “ambient lights” is about your needs and what makes you feel most comfortable and at peace. Although big lights are more in your face and boring, they last longer and are more cost-efficient.
If I were to pitch in my two cents on the matter, go for the ambient lights. There is nothing better than the little lights twinkling everywhere, creating a magical atmosphere for your space. There could be no Christmas—or fun, for that matter—without lights illuminating the darkness.