Have you ever used colour to let someone know how you feel? Our conversations are littered with everyday expressions that do just that. If someone says to you ‘I’m in a black mood’, don’t you know instantly what they mean? Why do we use colour as shorthand for expressing our emotions? Is there really a relationship between colour and the way we feel? And what’s so important about emotions anyway?
We all like to feel good, right? And have you ever woken up feeling really good and positive, and just sailed through the day because everything’s a breeze? On those days, you feel as though you can cope with anything life throws at you – and you usually can. Yet, another day you might wake up feeling not so confident and a bit unhappy, and it seems like everything goes wrong. It’s because emotions influence behaviour.
Emotions Influence Behaviour Scientific research proves that our emotions fundamentally influence the way we make decisions, how we perceive the world, how well we learn things and even how rational we are. Commercial organisations are beginning to take our emotions very seriously, because if they can make us feel a particular way, they can influence us to use their products. And who’s leading the way in the research? E-commerce institutions are. Because they are finding that the way their information looks on screen can make us feel a particular way – it can make us trust them, for instance – and this can make or break a sale, or an investment decision. And what’s one of the main ways of changing the look of their information? You got it. colour has a big influence.
The Importance of Colour We associate colours with emotions all the time, using those expressions like ‘I’m feeling blue’, or ‘I’m seeing red’. Advertising has exploited this for years, using colours to make us feel a particular way about their products. They use pink, for instance, to make us think their baby and bath products are ‘soft and gentle’. If they want us to think that their vitamins and health drinks are potent, powerful and energy giving, they’ll use orange.
When I was doing research for my Master’s degree, I found that even six year olds think of pink as a happy, peaceful colour and blue as a peaceful but serious one. They’ll use black to represent sadness and anger. So, using colour to describe our emotions seems to come naturally. And, because of the way our brains work, we really can use this association of colour with mood to deliberately make ourselves and others feel a particular way.
When you think about it, there is nothing magical about using colour to produce particular responses. Nature does it all the time. Animals and insects instinctively know that some colours mean ‘don’t eat me, I’m poisonous!’ and that other colours say ‘Come and get me!’ And in humans, too, it isn’t just the power of association. colour really does affect us physiologically as well. The parts of our brain that processes colour perception sends signals to the hypothalamus, which, among other things, regulates our emotions. So, when we look at a colour – take red, for example – two things are going on. Firstly, our brain immediately gathers together all the facts we have learned about red – that it’s a warning, it’s hot, it’s an alert, it means danger, for instance – and our subconscious instantly communicates this information to us and tells us how we should feel about red. Secondly, we are being physically affected by the colour as it stimulates signals from the cortex to our mood centre.
There is nothing mystical about the principles of colour therapy. We really can use colours to influence how we feel. And our mood, in turn, affects how our bodies behave. So next time you hear someone say ‘ I’m feeling blue’, you’ll know that it’s not merely an expression; what they’re really saying, even if they don’t consciously know it, is that blue makes them feel the way they feel right now. You might remind them that they could be using colour as therapy to make themselves feel better!
The problem is, not many people understand how to do it.
Exactly HOW can you use colour and feel FABULOUS?
Which colours should you choose? Which combinations of colours will produce a particular effect? Which combinations should you personally avoid? How can you use colour to feel better in mind, body and spirit? It’s all up to you 🙂