Using Color Therapy to Support your Mental Wellness

Recently I have been focused on how the full spectrum of colors can influence mood.  As someone who struggles with Seasonal Affective Disorder, the changing of the seasons means a change in light, which can trigger a whole host of mental wellness issues.  While light therapy is a great way to start boosting your energy and mood by increasing your Vitamin D3, changing the colors you see around you can also have a dramatic impact on your mood.  I have found that having bright, vibrant colors around me during the darker winter months can really help prevent many of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder - and they also help my significant other!

Bringing color into your life can be as simple as changing the color of your comforter in your bedroom, or adding a few pieces of artwork in the tone you are looking for. It can also be as complicated as painting a whole room or buying new furniture!  Regardless of how you choose to add color, picking the right colors for the right rooms and places in your life can have a big effect on your mental state in those rooms.

For every person the meaning for each color might change due to your cultural upbringing, gender, and personal preferences - so your own choices for colors might be different than the guidelines below.  Pay attention to how you feel whenever you’re surrounded by a particular color - does it make you feel happy, sad, sleepy or energetic?  If you’re still unsure, visit a store that offers a wide range of colorful decor - grab a few items and see how they make you feel as you are shopping.  You might surprise yourself with how easy it is to influence your mood based just on what colors are in your shopping cart!

Warm Colors - Reds, Oranges, Yellows

I have always found warm colors to be relaxing.  Think of how you feel in the fall, all snuggled and warm with orange and red leaves surrounding you.  This year we chose to paint our room a wonderful, warm autumn orange. While my significant other joked that we were going to be sleeping inside a pumpkin, neither of us could deny that once the project was complete we found ourselves sleeping more restfully.  Before we decided to paint the room, we experimented with changing our comforter and sheets to warmer tones - an easy and cheaper switch that helped us decide that orange was the color for us before diving into a bigger project.

A woman in a white dress walks away from the viewer in a desert landscape with swirls of yellow light, lightning and red clouds around her
Reds, yellows and oranges evoke feelings of warmth, excitement and energy.

Red

Reds have traditionally been associated with love and excitement.  If you need a bit of a push to get things done, wearing red or even carrying a red handbag can help make you feel a little bit of extra encouragement and excitement.  Red also has the risk of becoming aggressive - there is a reason we think of “red flags” as a negative.  Avoid the bright “stop sign” red and stick to darker crimsons and lighter pinks to avoid these feelings of aggression.  

Yellow

Yellow is the color we all think of when we think about the sun - it represents light, energy and warmth.  As winter comes along you can wear a yellow jacket to feel warmer and more cheerful - it will help you forget that you aren’t seeing as much of our beautiful yellow sun.  Use a yellow blanket in your living room to help you keep the thermostat just a bit lower in cool weather.  Because yellow can be very bright and hold your attention, aim for tones on the softer side of the spectrum to use daily - too much bright yellow can actually be aggravating.  

Orange

Orange is a color that screams for attention - and can make you feel bright and uplifted.  I love waking up in my “pumpkin” because I feel like I can start the day with a bit of extra mental energy - the warm tone makes me feel like every day is a new dawn.  You’ll notice that orange is used frequently in advertising because it can draw your attention.  The  board where I write my daily affirmations has an orange background, because then as I pass it every day it grabs my attention and lets me remember to hold my affirmation in mind.  

Cool Tones - Blues, greens, purples

Before our switch to autumn orange, our bedroom was sky blue - I’m pretty sure our home’s previous owners heard blue was relaxing.  All that blue light bouncing around instead convinced our brains that we were out under a clear blue sky - not very restful!  Blue is amazing in our home office however - it gives us energy each morning as we greet our own “blue sky”. The cool tones still lend toward a bit of mental relaxation - not as visually exciting as the warm tones, they help us settle into a calm and logical way of thinking, which can lead to boosted productivity.  

The swirl of the Aurora Borealis over a winter landscape with blue, green and purple tones throughout
Cool colors evoke calm nights, nature and the feeling of mystery

Blue

Blue is the most popular color - regularly ranked #1 on “favorite color” surveys. Research has shown that blues help boost productivity - which is why many businesses now are opting to paint their walls in blue tones to encourage their employees subconsciously.  Because blue doesn’t show up often in food, our brain tends to avoid eating as much around this color.  Avoid blues in dining rooms and kitchens unless you’re trying to encourage weight loss.  Be careful with blue - we call sadness “the blues” for a reason - it can be calming to a point of depression, so try to stick to brighter, happier versions of the color to boost productivity. 

Green

Green is the color of nature and the color we associate with good health.  This is the color we use in our kitchen to help us feel connected to the food we are cooking, and mentaly suggest that we eat more natural foods and plants! Because we so closely associate it with health, you’ll notice that many doctor’s offices are painted in green tones - just being surrounded by the color green can help you feel a little healthier!  

Purple

Purple is the color of royalty - because it is so hard to find this color in nature, it was very expensive to dye fabrics this color traditionally.  So we have come to associate purples with wealth and power.  It also sparks our imagination because it is so rare and mysterious to us from nature.  I use purple in my meditation spaces, and because of the tones of red in the color you can use it to balance out some of the blue light that might trigger your brain into staying awake - making it great for transition spaces like hallways.  

A full spectrum rainbow behind the branches of a tree
Every color of the rainbow will make you feel something - how do colors affect you?

The easiest way to find the colors work best for you is to ask yourself a few questions.  How do you use colors in your daily life to influence your mood?  Have you found there is a room that you like more for certain activities - does it have a color that you think is influencing you?  How do you feel when you’re in spaces that are predominantly one color or another?  As you learn more about how each color affects you, you’ll be better equipped to improve your mood through colors.



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Sarah Knight
Sarah returned to her education after 10 years of real world experience.
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