Take a sec, close your eyes, and think of a color. Any color will do. While keeping your eyes closed, notice how you feel when you’re visualizing that color. What do you associate with it?
Chromotherapy, or color therapy, has been around for thousands of years, dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece, India, and China. Based on the premise that different colors produce a variety of effects on people, examples of the intentional uses of colors can be found in restaurant and hospital décor as well as the color tie a political figure might wear to a debate.
Colors can impact your mood, your energy levels, your appetite, and even influence the decisions you make. Some colors are stimulating, some more calming. They can have a positive impact on academic performance, emotional behavior, blood pressure, insomnia, and ADHD. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of how colors affect us.
Before we go into how colors can be beneficially used, let’s explore some of the most common colors and discover their interesting properties…
A solid powerhouse, red represents leadership qualities, confidence, power, and strength. Its masculine energy is energizing, it stimulates your appetite and passions (like sexuality, revenge, and anger), and inspires us to take action. Red also alerts you to danger (think: stop sign and stop light). If you’re exposed to a lot of red, you might become agitated, irritated, or even downright angry. While we might think of red as a color or romance (like red roses or Valentine’s hearts), being around an excessive amount might fire you up in an assertive way rather than a hubba-hubba sort of way. Best to stick with red accents in your bedroom rather than all four walls painted red with red accents.
Loyal, trustworthy, reliable, and honest are all qualities that are associated with blue. It promotes mental and physical relaxation and reduces stress – as evidenced by how peaceful you probably feel when gazing at the sky or the ocean. A conservative color, blue is safe and non-threatening and enhances our communication abilities. It also slows the metabolism, so choosing blue as your main kitchen color may not be an ideal choice.
Green is all about growth, unconditional love (towards ourselves and others), renewal, and compassion. It restores depleted energy levels and relates to endurance, stability, persistence, and prosperity. Too much green in your life can bring on possessiveness and envy, hence the phrase. But being out in a forest with lots of grass and trees for a day? That’s where the renewal comes in.
Orange gives us the freedom to be ourselves and promotes respect towards ourselves and others. A cheerful color, it represents our gut instincts, emotional strength, and is perfect to use in times of financial difficulties. Because it’s uplifting and confidence-boosting, it can help us feel adventurous, sociable, and warm-hearted. Too much orange, though, might make you feel competitive and bring on self-indulgence. And as orange also stimulates your appetite, beware of painting your kitchen this vibrant color.
Bring on the sunshine! Like the sun, yellow is uplifting and fills us with hope. It inspires original thoughts, stimulates our brains, and helps us make decisions quicker. And while yellow can make us feel cheerful, too much of it might bring on anxiety and make us impatient, judgmental, and pessimistic. Go outside and (safely) bask in the sun’s rays and notice how that big yellow ball makes you feel shiny on the inside.
From the sunshine to the cave, black represents the mysterious, the secretive, the things we hide. It hides us from the world around us, hides our vulnerabilities and insecurities. Black is another color that represents power and control, making us appear intimidating and unapproachable – yet it can also give the impression of confidence, sophistication, and sexiness (think: little black dress). In some cultures, black represents death and is worn in a time of mourning. Too much black in your life can cause depression, but wearing a bit might bring out your serious or conservative side.
Purity and innocence, equality and cleanliness – white offers the proverbial blank slate to begin something new. It represents protection, comfort, peace, and hope. White also indicates the completion of a cycle of life, which is why in some cultures it, too, represents death and mourning. Using white intentionally might make you feel more independent, reflective, and efficient. But too much might make you feel empty, cold, sterile, and even boring, so intentionally add an accent color to liven things up.
A color associated with nobility and spirituality, purple can enhance your imagination as well as expand your awareness and psychic abilities. It is also surprisingly grounding, which is good because purple can send you into fantasy and dream land. Causing us to feel more compassionate and sensitive, it gives the impression of luxury, wealth, and power. Purple in excess can aggravate depression, but used in moderation it brings forth unconditional love.
Pink is another unconditional love-inspiring color. It’s romantic, tender, feminine, hopeful, and innocent, calming to our nerves and making us feel sweet and seem non-threatening. Too much pink might indicate that we need to feel accepted and loved, that we lack willpower and self-worth. When wearing pink, try pairing it with grey, dark blue, black, or dark green to add strength and sophistication to your look.
Now that you know how colors can make an impact on how you feel and how others perceive you, think about the places where color might be intentionally applied.
What colors are often used at fast-food joints? How many of them use red, yellow, white, orange, and blue? Looking at the list above, you can see how intentional those colors are – to get you to make a quick decision about what you’ll order, to stimulate your digestive juices and make you want to order more, to make you feel like the place is clean and calm. Pretty interesting when you break it down like this, huh?
What about a hospital? Bet you’ll find calming colors like light blue and pale green and the good ol’ sterile white — and not so much red, because, well, blood.
The next time you watch a political debate, check out what color the men’s suits and ties are, what color the dresses or suits the women are wearing. You’ll look at the whole thing through a new lens.
That reminds me of when I was first introduced to color therapy, while I was going through the worst part of my divorce. In one of the meetings between my now ex and our lawyers, I wore a deep red shirt and black pants to subconsciously convey my power. Nowadays I notice how I feel more feminine while wearing pink, more witchy when wearing black, and more grounded in green and brown.
So how can you apply these principles to your life? What colors could you paint your walls or add as accent pieces like throw pillows, blankets, or towels? What will you wear to that next important thing?
Something else to ponder is phrases like rose-colored glasses, a sunny disposition, feeling blue, green with envy, seeing red, and being true blue. Knowing what you know now, you can see how it all makes so much more sense.