Feeling Blue? Green with envy? It may be no accident that we sometimes use colors to describe our moods and emotions. In fact, one study even found that depressed people associated their mood with the color gray, while happy people gravitated to the color yellow.1
Color therapy, also known as chromotherapy, is an integrative health modality that relies on color and light to influence physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental health. Color therapy has sometimes been referred to as a pseudoscience, and most psychologists view it with a healthy dose of skepticism because they believe that the effects of color have been exaggerated. Although color therapy likely has no place as a healing modality, it can be used as a simple tool to reflect and possibly improve mood.
The Impact of Color
Most of us probably do not give a lot of thought to the color of a room, but it can have an impact on our mental and emotional state in much the same way a cluttered room can. Surround yourself with piles of clutter and junk, and you are likely to feel chaotic and out of sorts. Similarly, surround yourself with dark, drab colors, and you are likely to feel, well, dark and drab.
In fact, without even realizing it, we often choose our clothing based on our mood. When we are feeling down in the dumps, we gravitate toward black and gray. When we are feeling light and joyful, we are more likely to choose vibrant, bright colors.
But what if we turned this practice on its head? What if we chose colors based on their potential mood-shifting properties? In other words—fake it until you make it. When you wake up feeling grumpy and tired, try throwing on a bright yellow top or a pair of red shoes and see if your mood shifts to match.
Interior decorators have long understood the impact of color on mood. Some colors are warm and some are cool. Some colors are energizing, whereas others are calming. Light colors are considered expansive, while darker colors can actually make a small room feel smaller and more suffocating.
The effects of color are largely based on perception. Interestingly, our mental and emotional state is also often the result of our perception. Color is no magic bullet. Wearing a bright fuchsia top will not solve your problems, but it just might help put you in better spirits for the day. And it could start a simple domino effect: a happy color may attract more smiles and positive reactions from others, which can help put a smile on your face.
So, play around with color. It will not reduce your workload, but it sure can make getting dressed a little more fun each morning.
The following are some common colors and their associated properties.
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Yellow. Yellow is considered an uplifting color that captures the joy of sunshine and communicates happiness. It is associated with optimism and laughter.
Blue. Lighter blue hues can evoke a relaxing, calm, serene feeling. Darker blue hues are often associated with sadness.
Red. Red is an intense, stimulating color that can encourage conversation and convey a sense of confidence and power.
Green. Green is a calming hue associated with peace, harmony, and nourishment.
Orange. There is nothing relaxing about orange. It is stimulating and fun and can be associated with a powerful shift in attitude and perspective.
Pink. Pink is considered the most calming color in the spectrum. It is associated with love, romance, and gentleness.
Black. Although technically a shade and not a color, black is associated with a wide range of emotions—grief, somberness, authority, power, and even evil. It is easy to overdo black, so it should be used sparingly.
White. Another shade, white is often associated with purity, cleanliness, mental clarity, and creativity.
- Carruthers HR, Morris J, Tarrier N, Whorwell P. The Manchester Color Wheel: Development of a novel way of identifying color choice and its validation in healthy, anxious and depressed individuals. BMC Medical Research Methodology. 2010;10(12). doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-10-12.