There’s no denying that our surroundings affect our mood in various different ways and has a huge influence over our health and well-being. The effects of colour on human beings has been studied for centuries yet often avoided by science, yet in recent times, it has resurfaced and colour psychology has been widely recognised in science as having a direct impact on emotions and behaviour.
However, through extensive research and studies, it has been noted that as well as colour having an effect on mood, colours can also affect people in various ways dependent upon the mood they’re already in. This has been demonstrated through studies conducted by Birren (1980) which indicated that emotionally inhibited participants avoided use of the colour, whilst those who were more open to colour were more emotionally well-adjusted.
Mahnke (1993) also suggested that introverts tended to be more sensitive to colour stimulation, and shy away from warm colours, whereas the outgoing extroverts are under-stimulated by the cooler colours and opt for the warmer reds and oranges. This colour to mood / mood to colour vicious circle makes it very difficult for scientists to generalise a colour-mood match, so surely there’s a middle ground? What we need is a good balance of emotion-triggering colours! After all, balance is what we strive for, right?
How can we go about this?Changing your wardrobe is not a viable option for most people, and we certainly can’t control the colours in the work place. However, we do have the power to transform our homes into a colour balanced environment to achieve psychological well-being, and all it takes is a lick of paint!
Here’s some science. Sort of.
As you can see, each colour has different wavelengths. It became apparent during accidental colour deprivation in a psychiatric ward that colours with longer wavelengths such as red, are more stimulating to the nervous system, whilst greens and blues with shorter wavelengths decreased stimulation – after being deprived the colour red, and then given a piece of red string, the inmates become more active. On the other hand, it was noted that those in red wards were more violent than those in green or blue wards. These ideas back up the idea that balance is essential – red may stimulate, but you wouldn’t want to live in a house with every room painted red, would you? No! It’s would drive you crazy! Each room in the house has its purpose; relaxation, study, sleep or appetite stimulation, so we need to decorate accordingly!
Decorating your humble abode…So now we know that reds, oranges and even yellows can are stimulating warm colours, and the cooler colours; greens, blues and violets, encourage relaxation. What next? Assign a colour to a room!
Assigning a colour to different rooms is quite personal – some may hold social events in a dining room or kitchen, some may hold them in the lounge. I cannot therefore state which colour you should have in each room, but merely guide you to choose a colour which may create a ambience tailored to your needs.
Yellow– Yellow is a stimulating colour, most likely due to the fact it represents the colour of the sun which increases serotonin levels in your brain. It is a great colour to use in the kitchen as it encourages creativity, confidence and emotional strength.
Blue– Blue is a very intellectual colour, hence why it is often used for office and school chairs. Painting or decorating your office blue could have calming affects on your emotions, allowing you to concentrate on writing that awesome blog post!
Red– One of the strongest colours, red enhances conversation, stimulation, strength and courage. It has a physiological effect on our bodies by increasing heart rate and activating our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. This mechanism is a survival mechanism by raising cortisol (our main stress hormone) levels in the body – too much cortisol causes us to become overly stressed, possibly leading to anxiety or depression. So not too much red, okay? Add red to social environments such as the dining room or maybe a splash around your living room to increase appetite and enhance conversation.|
Green– Green is the perfect bedroom colour. It represents harmony, love, relaxation and peace. It’s a very balancing colour – not surprising as it lies in the centre colour of the colour spectrum! Taking a walk in a field is a much more relaxing exercise than walking around a busy city, right?
Orange– A great colour for a living room. Orange is the colour of fun, and encourages comfort, security, passion and warmth. Similar to red and yellow, the nervous system is still stiumulated, so calm oranges work best – you still need to relax.
White– White is a colour that reflects simplicity, purity and sophistication. A good colour for hallways or landings as it creates an illusion of extended space. Too much is unfriendly and very hospital-like, so avoid over doing it!
If you don’t want to decorate, then don’t worry! By adding these specific colours to the assigned rooms in the form of photo frames, posters, cushions or throws; the colour will still work it’s magic in making you a happier and healthier inividual!
Source: Journal of Humanistic Counselling, Education and Development, 2004. Vol 43
Guest post by Content Editor at www.prezzybox.com
Undergraduate student – BSc in Psychology at The Open University