Do you find yourself overeating in a restaurant with red decor? Are you more likely to say “yes” to someone wearing yellow? The way we each react to color is often personal and cultural. In the U.S., white is associated with weddings, black with death. However, in parts of Asia, white is linked with death, and vivid reds are more likely to be seen at weddings. Our language is full of colorful associations: green with envy, red-hot passion, and blue moods.
In medicine, blue light is used to treat neonatal jaundice. Ultraviolet light is used in some psoriasis treatments. Studies suggest that green light may help wounds heal. Light waves vibrating at different wave lengths from objects activate the color receptors in the back of the eye, and transmit signals to the brain, resulting in the release of brain chemicals. Precisely how color can change our mood remains a mystery. Even if we do not understand the mechanics, it is fun and easy to experiment with the effects of color. Unlike the colors that may be flattering for wearing, therapeutic use of color is based on psychological color theory:
- Pink. Based on research that pink may suppress anger and anxiety, bubble-gum pink has been used in prison holding cells to calm violent tendencies. Some sports team paint their opposing team’s locker room pink in an attempt to make them less aggressive.
- Red. This color screams confidence and power. It can rev up excitement and alertness – or cause tension in excess. Many restaurants use red to stimulate appetites. People may be more likely to take a risk under red lighting.
- Yellow. It’s no surprise that the classic smiley face symbol is yellow. Sunny colors are attention-grabbing, optimistic and empowering. However, studies suggest that too much yellow may shorten tempers in adults and bring babies to tears.
- Green. Midway between the warm and cool colors is green. Nature’s own hue, it’s nurturing and balancing. In the U.S., green is associated with money. Backstage, performing artists wait in a soothing green room before performances.
- Blue. Effects vary based on whether it is sky blue or dark navy. Bright turquoise can be engaging, while deep navy may connote loyalty but may feel official or restrictive. Sky blues can get people thinking about the big picture. While soft blues can be calming, the expression, “I’ve got the blues” connotes sadness. Blue can suppress the appetite.
- Purple. This color is often linked to royalty, unconventionality, and mystical power. Spirituality is associated with indigo and purple.
- Earth tones and neutrals. Dark browns, blacks, and grays can be protective and supportive – or oppressive and gloomy. The warmer versions of browns are associated with reliability and comfort. White reflects all colors; it can be perceived as simple and clean, but may be perceived as sterile or cold.
Consider adorning your space with colorful artwork, accessories, or wall colors to relax and uplift yourself. Share your experience of color with us!
- Dr. Anne