Ever wonder why you choose to wear purple one day and black the next?
Or why you feel happy in one friend’s living room, but sleepy in another’s?
Or why you’d never ever buy a dull green car?
There’s no doubt that we’re influenced by colors. A 2007 study, for example, found that even the brief perception of red prior to taking an important test could impair performance on that test. Eating off red plates, however, encouraged participants to eat less, in a 2014 study.
Turns out the more we learn about color and how it affects our thinking, mood, and emotions, the more we can use it to improve our lives.
Color Therapy: The Basics
Though there are variances, most of us respond in similar ways to certain colors. Of course, we have to remember the colors within the colors—a bright red, for example, might have an entirely different effect on the emotions than a warm, more subdued red.
Our past experiences can also create color associations that may be outside the norm. If you grew up loving the time you spent with your family in your blue-and-yellow kitchen, then you may feel similarly happy if you recreate that color scheme in your adult life.
Research to date, however, has found that in general, we associate the following colors with the following emotions:
- Red: aggressiveness, energy, movement, confidence, stimulation, intensity
- Yellow: happiness, vitality, improved mood, optimism, laughter
- White: sterility, cleanliness, purity, innocence, light
- Pink: calm, reduced appetite, sweetness, love and romance
- Green: renewal, openness, peace, prosperity, tranquility
- Black: strength, toughness, power, anger, authority, intelligence
- Blue: openness, space, contemplation, focus, serenity
- Orange: energy, ambition, activity, socialization, freeing
- Brown: reliability, stability, wholesome, organic, natural
- Purple: intuition, creativity, luxury, spiritual, wisdom, mystery
20 Ways to Use Color Therapy to Improve Your Life
Here are 20 ways you can use color to shape your habits, the impression you give off, and how your spaces feel.
If you want to improve your performance, choose a red outfit, and take your route downtown where you’re more likely to see red road signs, red cars, and red stoplights.
2—When You Need to Remember Something
Try to get yellow into the mix. Some research has suggested it may improve memorization.
3—When You Need to Get Work Done
Avoid white walls. Studies show that employees working in white-walled offices experience more side effects like headaches and nausea than those in red or blue workspaces.
4—When You Want Some Space to Relax
Get some green into the mix. Because of its connection to nature and the environment, it’s typically associated with relaxation and comfort.
5—When You Want to Refrain from Eating Too Much
If you’re watching your weight, avoid yellow in your dining room. A 2007 study found that people in a yellow room ate twice as much as those in a red or blue room.
6—When You Want to Feel Confident
Try a mix of red and black. Both are associated with confidence. If you’re going up in front of a room full of people, black can help you appear more authoritative and possibly sophisticated.
7—When You Need to Be Creative
Go blue. A 2009 study found that people exposed to blue were better able to explore their creative sides. Use blue in your art, crafting, or writing room, or slap on a blue piece of jewelry for a creative boost on the go.
8—If You Want to Feel Energetic and Happy
Combine orange and yellow in your wardrobe. Not only will you feel more sunny, but you’ll project that image onto others, potentially helping to lift their mood.
9—When You Need to Be Calm
Going into a stressful situation? Try a combination of pastel green and blue colors. These work well in rooms in the home where you want to relax after a stressful day at work, or somewhere within eyesight when you have to confront a stressful situation. Green is particularly helpful for promoting calm in health-oriented spaces, like hospitals, clinics, and counseling offices.
10—When You Want to Be Romantic
Add a little pink to your table decorations, your wardrobe, your jewelry, or your bedroom. Pink is the color of romance, and also tends to be calming and soothing.
11—When You Need to Focus
If you work at home or have your own office, you may want to be sure you have blue in the décor. It not only calms and stimulates creativity, but it can encourage focus, helping to limit distractions so you can get your work done.
12—To Help Keep Your Spirits Up
If life has been difficult lately, it may be time to bring in more yellow to your living and working spaces. Yellow is associated with optimism and good times. Choose bright and cheerful yellow pictures, molding, drapes, or other decorations to help you feel better.
13—When You're Hosting a Party
Make sure you have some orange around! This is a lively, flamboyant color that helps stimulate energy between people, and promotes interaction.
14—When You're Tired and Just Don't Feel Like Doing Anything
Get some red on! This color creates energy and helps infuse your spirit with vitality. Rely on it to get you through a tough day.
15—If You're Having Trouble Expressing Yourself
Go somewhere you can be exposed to orange. This color helps lift repressions and encourages freeing expression. If you’re in a relationship and it’s time to open up, use orange to give you a helping hand.
16—If You're Taking a Class
Wear some yellow, as it will help stimulate your interest and curiosity. Yellow connects you to your learning self, and will help motivate you to open up your mind.
17—If You're Feeling a Bit Off-Center
Get out in nature where you can be surrounded by green things. Green connects us to the spiritual center, and brings our attention to the heart, alleviating stress and letting all those small worries just fade away with the breeze.
18—When You Need to Connect With Your Intuition
It’s time to incorporate purple into your life. Purple helps us get in touch with our intuition, and is also the color associated with dream activity and psychic powers. If your logical mind is running the show and it’s not going so well, get closer to your gut feelings by exposing yourself to more purple.
19—When You're Redecorating Your Home
Consider the effect of each color and what you want to feel in each room. Kitchens and bathrooms often incorporate yellow to convey happiness and joy. Dining rooms that use blue and green will feel more calm and may inhibit the impulse to eat too much. A little pink in the bedroom may stimulate romance, but you may want to combine it with blue or green to encourage a restful sleep. Your workout or exercise room would benefit from performance-enhancing red, and maybe a bit of energizing orange. A little purple in your guest room can make it feel luxurious, and is also great for creative rooms.
20—If You Want to Look Smart
Going for an interview, or trying to impress someone with your brainpower? Go for blue. It’s a soothing color, but also aids concentration and is perceived as conveying intelligence.