Are you suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) even though the seasons are well into summer? Experts say getting outdoors and connecting to nature can be a big boon to your mental and physical health. But for people who are stuck indoors for job- or health-related reasons, that isn't always an option.
You can't read magazine, newspaper or website content without coming across reports that the number of Americans suffering stress, depression, seasonal affective disorder and other mental and physical ailments is on a fast rise.
However, for those who can't connect to nature, bringing nature indoors may be the only viable option. A few companies -- including USA Skypanels, Inc, a California-based nonprofit -- has come up with a beautiful solution: ceiling panels depicting stratus clouds, cirrus clouds, palm trees and other signifiers of nature's beauty.
How lack of nature and seasonal changes contribute to physical and mental distress is under increasing study, but much of the research has focused on the changing levels of melatonin and serotonin from exposure or too little exposure to light. It is well documented that SAD sufferers do better when they are able to go outdoors, and special ultraviolet lighting that mimics the sun is a recommended treatment.
Skypanels has created custom designed replacement diffusers that cover fluorescent lighting fixtures with nature scenes. Ali Salomi, managing director of the company, says "The benefits are endless. When we first released this product we thought [it would give people a break from dull light], but we started receiving testimonials from doctors, therapists, and many others that these panels were reducing headaches, increase alertness, putting a smile on people's faces, and many other great results."
Chad Tyner, founder of Skypanels, decided after spending many days by the hospital bed of his nephew who was battling leukemia, that he could help make his nephew's stay more comfortable. Tyner's nephew complained about the bright fluorescent lights, so they would turn the lights off.
Tyner decided he could create his own decorative fluorescent ceiling lighting for hospitals. Salomi says, "Hospitals try their best to make a child feel comfortable – they paint the walls, have stuffed animals, and games, anything to distract the children from where they are. However, it is hard to get away from the bright lights without replacing them with recessed lighting."
Tyner, realizing the expense of such a project, started taking nature pictures and working with printing companies and plastic companies to come out with an affordable and convenient product that could be placed over the fluorescent lights.
Salomi adds, "There have been extensive studies on how bad fluorescent lights are on the eyes and why people should use a diffuser. There are also many studies about the effect of simply looking at the sky, seeing blue, feeling more positive. We have found a way to combine the two."
Many health care professionals have embraced this kind of ceiling panel replacement as a way to reduce stress for their staff and to relax clients. Dr Ryan Baker, a chiropractor in Grants Pass, Oregon, says, "The receptionist at the front office would get migrane headaches from the bright lights, but since installing the Skypanels she has said they are not as intense. And the Skypanels bring a sense of relaxation to the office visit [for clients]."
Nature-themed photo panels are also being widely used in school settings for students requiring special education. "The lights appear to increase focus and decrease distraction," says Kelly Kratzer, MA, IMFT, certified behavior analyst. "They generate conversation for children with high-functioning autism and create a pleasant and creative play and work environment for the children."
Cindy Everett, ASD teacher for the Special Education Department at Virginia's Butts Road Intermediate School, says "My students love them, and have asked me to get them for all of the lights! The panels are absolutely one of the nicest things I have ever seen in a classroom…and I have definitely seen behaviors shift through their use."
If your job or other factors restrict your time outdoors, decorative celing panels are an affordable and easy way to bring nature inside! Visit USASkypanels.com to see the beautiful array of nature scenes that can brighten up your living or work space. Want more variety? Two other companies offering a similar product include SkyScapes -- see their Bougainvillea panel above right -- and CoolScenics.
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