Oscar Wilde once said, “Mere color can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.” And he may have not known how right he was. Have you ever felt green with envy? Sang the blues? Been given the red carpet treatment? The psychology of color has a language all its own. It touches our moods, affects our lives and offers a glimpse into who we are. Is your world filled with color, or could you use a tad more?
We have Sir Isaac Newton to thank for our understanding of the color spectrum. In the 17th century, he realized that when pure white light passes through a prism, it separates into seven visible colors — the colors we see in the rainbow.
Since this discovery, numerous studies have been conducted into the psychology of color and its effect on moods, behavior and feelings. Research has also been conducted into the meanings and feelings associated with different colors, coming to the conclusion they are highly individual and largely rooted in our own experiences and cultures.
However, some colors do seem to have universal meaning. Reds, oranges and yellows fall into the red area of the color spectrum and are known as warm colors. These tones tend to evoke emotions– ranging from comfort to feelings of anger.
On the other side of the spectrum, you’ll find the cool colors, which includes blues, purples and greens. These colors tend to evoke feelings of calm, but can also trigger sadness and indifference.
Color does play a starring role in many people’s lives, from the clothes they wear and the cars they drive to how they decorate their homes or work environments. For individuals who use color to invoke certain moods or feelings, these decisions are important to their sense of well-being.
The first is an arousal reaction. Warm colors (on the red side of the spectrum) ignite the arousal state in individuals, characterized by an increase in adrenaline, blood pressure and heart rate. You tend to feel more energetic and active.
The second is the evaluative reaction. Do I like this color? Kolenda posits that people tend to prefer colors that have shorter wavelengths. Cool colors (on the blue side) fall in this category.
The “why” of which colors a person prefers and their reactions to them are, again, based largely on culture and personal connections to different colors. Kolenda also cites studies that have shown the effect of colors on your brain activity isn’t solely based on visual interaction. Simply thinking about a certain color can elicit a physiological response.
Isabel Castro knows a bit about the relationship of color to an individual’s moods and feelings. An Ayurvedic health practitioner and educator, yoga instructor, herbalist and Reiki practitioner, she is uniquely tuned to the influence of our lifestyle and personal choices on our well-being, and she works with individuals to create an environment that supports their mental, physical and emotional health.
I reached out to Castro and asked her to share her experience with how color can affect our lives.
“Our body and mind are constantly taking in impressions throughout the day. All of these leave their footprint in our awareness. If I’m noticing I’m feeling emotionally down, I can create an environment to uplift me through color,” she shared. “While I may wear bright, uplifting colors, I may also have them in my environment, creating a sense of sunshine in my day.”
She has incorporated the use of color in working with individuals who are searching for increased calm and peace in their lives. These individuals have benefited from incorporating more soothing blues (think ocean and sky) into their lives.
“Some people have a natural affinity for certain colors and an aversion to others,” Castro continued. “You can start to notice which colors you’re drawn to and why. Feeling blue? Drawn to dark, heavy colors? While they are probably not causing your somber mood, they might not be helping it.”
The power of colors
Do some colors possess special “powers”? According to Psychology Today, they just might. For example, research has shown that the color green is linked to more creativity — ideal for workplaces where art and creativity are paramount. Yellow turns out to be a less popular color and homeowners are discouraged from using it when looking to sell their home.
It is not difficult to find any number of charts that will give seemingly firm meanings for each color. However, most experts agree, color preference is still highly subjective and personal.
What most do agree on, however, is that the psychology of color is a powerful thing unique to each individual. Color does have an impact on moods, emotions and feelings. And, on the flip side, a lack of color in your life, whether in clothing or decor, is understimulating and, frankly, boring. Okay, the boring part is just my opinion.
What’s most important is your personal reaction to colors and how they can positively impact your life. When you open your closet, are you facing a variety of choices or does one color dominate? Consider adding some new, bright pieces to your wardrobe and see if it impacts your day.
When you look around your home, are you surrounded by drab-colored walls and decor that lacks color or pizzazz? Grab some paint samples from your local home improvement store, tape them to your wall and see which speak to you. Add a glass vase with brightly-colored flowers or plants to your dining room table. Toss a vibrant blanket over the back of your couch and see if it makes you smile.
So, while you don’t have to completely overhaul your wardrobe, office or home interior, you can certainly be the artist in your own life by mindfully harnessing the psychology of color.
Grab your metaphorical paintbrush and palette and add a dash of color here and there in your world. It might just be what your soul is searching for.
Looking for an easy way to add a splash of color to your everyday? Learn how to make comic book shoes below.