Why Are We So Afraid of the Dark?


There’s a way of redecorating your home that’s healthy, green, effortless and free – though you can only do it in the evenings.

Pity the poor darkness. A few thousand years ago, it was revered as something mystical and sacred in pagan cultures (judging from prehistoric funerary monuments). We still spend the first 9 months of our lives in pitch black and perfect comfort and safety – yet somehow modern culture still associates dark with danger, sin and all the regrettable aspects of existence as in medieval times. We’re obsessed with light, so we banish the dark. In the words of Pennsylvania architect Louis Kahn, "the electric bulb fights the sun".

Would we be so badly off if we paid a bit more heed to the natural cycles of light and dark? I think the dark has very positive connotations: restoration, quiet, safety, calm. The brain is certainly attuned to the dark, regenerating cells and nourishing your organs after it’s sent you the message to go to sleep. But I’d like to argue that living in step with nature’s rhythm in your home is healthy, too. (It’s certainly eco-friendly.) Of course we aren’t going to rise with the sun to sow oats, but small steps to connect with nature can only do us good.

It’s simple, really: separate night and day in your home. When the natural light goes, we’re encouraged to exactly replace it with the artificial. Let’s forget that rubbish. Lower the wattage of your lighting, cover it up, shine it through garbage – your imagination’s the only limit. Dim it down. Think how soft yet illuminating moonlight is, once our eyes have adjusted – aim for that. Better yet, use soy candles to gently illuminate your spaces as you get closer to sleepytime. Throw some silhouette art onto the walls (remembering how much fun these were). Transform your house – and relish the difference.

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Mike Sowden

Mike Sowden is a freelance writer based in the north of England, obsessed with travel, storytelling and terrifyingly strong coffee. He has written for online & offline publications including Mashable, Matador Network and the San Francisco Chronicle, and his work has been linked to by Lonely Planet, World Hum and Lifehacker. If all the world is a stage, he keeps tripping over scenery & getting tangled in the curtain - but he's just fine with that.