There’s a reason why we describe certain emotions in a specific way — seeing red, feeling blue, being green with envy — color and mood are directly connected. Color is a powerful communication tool and can be used to signal action, influence mood and drive physiological reactions. So, how exactly does color work? How is color believed to impact mood and our surroundings? Read on to find out how you can incorporate the proper colors into your life, in order to create a sense of balance and harmony.
Remember that scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy wakes up after the tornado and everything around her is vibrant, energetic and exciting (especially after spending time in gray, dreary Kansas)? Or in “Pleasantville” when the town’s citizens begin to experience life for the first time with color seeping in? Black and white films are still coined as romantic, mysterious and classic, but there’s a reason the film industry eventually moved to technicolor — color is immensely powerful, and it has the ability to evoke a strong emotional response, even if you don’t know it’s happening!
Humans of all ages and cultures around the world have unique color preferences. The question is, why do those preferences exist, how did they get there and how do they impact our lives? There are several reasons why colors are able to influence how we feel and perceive our surroundings. We react on different levels in terms of associating colors with certain emotions — there are social or cultural levels, as well as personal relationships with particular colors that vary from one person to the next. We’re also able to have innate reactions to colors — not exactly hard-wired into our DNA, but there in some form based on how humans, over time, have altered color inclinations based on certain events. For instance, when you look at red, does it have your heart racing? It is a stimulating color, after all, and it might date back to the caveman days of signaling fire, danger and alarm. On the flip side, it may also increase your heart rate in a positive way when associated with love.
Colors, like features, follow the changes of emotions – Pablo Picasso
Much of the evidence in the area of chromotherapy is anecdotal, but researchers and experts have made a few influential discoveries and observations about the psychology of color and the direct effect it can have on moods, feelings and behaviors.
Whether you’re painting the walls of your home, deciding on what to wear each day or simply interested in the subject of chromotherapy, you, too, can use the power of color to your advantage. Let’s dive into each color a little bit to find out how it can impact us and our lives.
Red is often described as warm, vibrant and intense. Usually seen as an exciting and even aggressive color, it can also evoke feelings of love and comfort. Red often gets an association with blood and fire, but when you think about it, blood is an actual life force. It makes sense as to why this color is oftentimes use in our language metaphorically: feeling red-hot, caught red-handed, paint the town red, seeing red, etc. So while red is an intense hue, when used smartly, it can go a long way in stimulating you, offering a boost of courage and igniting you with a sense of confidence and passion. It’s no wonder many women feel bold and confident with a swipe of red lipstick or a vibrant red dress.
Orange is an energetic color — it elicits excitement and enthusiasm, making it a popular choice to draw attention, such as in traffic signs and advertising. It’s also the color of bright sunsets and fruits, like oranges, tangerines and melons, so many people may associate the color with the beauty of a setting sun or the refreshing taste of citrus. While not the best choice for a living room or bedroom, orange is a great color for an exercise room, as it can bring out all the emotions needed to be released during your fitness routine. In ancient cultures, orange was believed to heal the lungs and increase energy levels, so perhaps giving it a shot in an area in your life that needs a boost may be beneficial!
Yellow is quite bright and intense, which is perhaps why it can invoke such strong feelings. Seen as an attention-grabbing, sunny and happy color, studies have shown that prolonged exposure to the color can provoke tempers, anxiety, discomfort and fatigue. Yellow is the most fatiguing color to the eyes due to the high amount of light that is reflected — using it as a background on paper or computer screens can lead to severe strain in the eyes, so it’s important to be mindful of not overusing the color. It’s a lovely choice for kitchens and bathrooms, where it will emit a sense of energy and joy.
Green is considered to be the most restful color for the eyes. It can have a calming effect when used as a main color for decorating — it’s believed to relieve stress by helping people relax, perhaps due to its direct association with nature. To me, green is a symbol of growth, tranquility and peace. I imagine a fresh green plant beginning new life emerging from the soil, so it’s the perfect color to help me get motivated or tackle a goal. Combining the refreshing aura of blue with the cheerfulness of yellow, green works in almost any room in the home. In the kitchen, green helps cool things down; in a family room, it can encourage unwinding but has enough warmth to evoke comfort. My favorite way of incorporating green into my life is through plants — I’m always looking to add more to my home!
Blue is often found in nature, like the pale blue of a daytime sky or the dark blue of a deep pool of water. It’s because of this that perhaps people often describe the color as calm and serene. This color can also be a sign of stability and reliability, which is why you might see businesses utilizing it in their advertising and marketing efforts (hello, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr). On the flip side, as a cool color, blue can also create feelings of sadness — consider how a painting that heavily features blue, such as those crafted by Picasso during his “blue period,” can seem quite lonely or melancholy. If you’d like to incorporate the color blue into your home, whether as the main color or decorative accents, opt for warmer hues, such as periwinkle or cerulean.
Purple is often described as mysterious, spiritual and imaginative. Purple tends to occur rarely in nature, so it’s viewed as rare and intriguing. In ancient times, creating dyes to color fabric often required a great deal of effort and expense — since purple is less common in nature, the resources needed to create the dye were much harder to come by and much more costly, hence its association with wealth and royalty. Consider some of the symbolic uses of the color purple: in the U.S., the Purple Heart is one of the highest honors for bravery in military service; in writing, the phrase “purple pose” is sometimes used to describe writing that’s very imaginative or even prone to exaggeration. Lighter versions of purple, such as lavender or lilac, bring the same restful quality to rooms as blue, but without the risk of feeling cold or distant.
Pink is often associated with all things feminine and girly, and it may also bring to mind romance and holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Some hues of pale pink are described as relaxing, while brighter, more vibrant hues like magenta are thought to be magnetic and stimulating. Pink may also help you get in touch with your true feelings, aka self-love, care and understanding — what I love encouraging on my blog! I love adding splashes of pastel pinks to my clothing or home office desk, as they display a youthful energy and positive flair.
Brown, much like the earth, is often seen as solid and associated with resilience, dependability, security, safety and strength. Brown brings to mind feelings of comfort and warmth, which is why someone might be coined as “down-to-earth.” In feng shui, brown represents either wood if it’s dark, or earth if it’s light — in large quantities, brown can seem vast, stark and empty, like an endless desert devoid of life. So, although it has an energetic, nurturing quality, brown should be used mindfully in your decorating, by balancing it with other colors to avoid a lack of passion. Blue is a great color to combine with brown because of the earth-water harmony, as well as green, due to its natural quality. I personally love varying shades of brown furniture, and highlighting them with whites and greens for a well-balanced, natural feel.
Black, as described by German scientist Hermann von Helmholz, “is real sensation, even if it is produced by entire absence of light.” This color is often used as a symbol of menace or evil, but it’s also a common indicator of power — you can see it representing characters like Dracula and the Evil Queen, a state of death or practicing witchcraft, but it’s also frequently used in marketing as a portrayal of authority or strength. Consider how the color black is used in language: blackout, blacklist, black market, black tie, black belt, etc. In feng shui, black is correlated with the water element and evokes a state of calmness, power and mystery. When used sparingly, it can have a grounding effect on your environment. Black is best used in small doses as an accent, and some experts suggest that every room ned a touch of black to ground the overall color scheme and give it depth.
White is a color without a hue, sometimes thought to be a combination of every color. Many people find white to be serene and pure, while others may view it as stark and cold. In Western cultures, the color white is often associated with weddings, religious ceremonies and hospitals, and is used to convey a sense of cleanliness, purity and peacefulness. However, in many Eastern cultures, white is symbolically connected to death and sadness, and is used in funerals and other mourning rituals. I see the color white as the perfect blank state — symbolizing a new beginning or fresh start, it’s the ideal canvas to create your own masterpiece, whether in clothing, interior decor or any other area in your life. White is great for kitchens, living rooms, bathroom and bedrooms, and it’s hard to go wrong when incorporating it into your lifestyle.
How does color affect your life? Do you find yourself gravitating toward certain colors while being driven away from others? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below!