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A Brief Guide to The Psychology Of Color|colorful||blue|orange

Health & Wellness

The Psychology Of Color: How Can Colors Change Your Emotions?

There's no denying that color can actually have an effect on a person. While this won't seem like a news flash to anyone, many people are actually surprised at just how big of effect colors can have on you psychologically once you fully dive in. The study of how color affects people and their actions is referred to as, "color psychology."

Color really does affect everything. The color of food can affect taste (Case in point: no matter how hard it is to believe, the famous Shamrock Shake from McDonald's is not mint), the color of a room can affect the emotional mood of people, or the color of a shirt can actually help determine if you're more or less attractive to single members of the opposite sex.

For many people, it's hard to believe that colors can have this type of effect, but it all can be traced to one proven, though not fully understood, truth: color affects mood. 1

Before We Go Too Deep Down The Rabbit Hole

One really important factor that needs to be talked about when it comes to color is culture. 2 The culture a person is raised in can radically change how they react to color, suggesting there is definitely a taught aspect to this. In some cultures, a color might be good luck while in others that same color is a bad omen. In those cases, the color is still going to affect both people's moods - but in very different ways.

Another way to say this is that the cultural symbolism of colors changes how a color may affect you!

While this is really going to dive into colors and the ability to use certain colors to elevate or boost your mood if you're from a culture with a different tradition around colors then, by all means, make sure to adjust the information here to fit your background!

In addition to this, strong memories or personal experiences can also paint a very different picture of a certain color for that individual. Colors aren't magic, after all, but they are an interesting piece of a larger puzzle of the things that affect our mood in everyday situations and life in general.


Why Does Color Affect Mood?

The strange thing is, as much as we know about color, there are some basic things that we don't really understand. The "Why?" behind, “why does color affect mood”, is one that we don't fully know. While a lot of basic knowledge is known about color psychology, it's actually kind of surprising how most of the evidence is experience based since not nearly as much empirical study has been done as you would expect.

However just because there isn't a confirmed biological reason for why color affects our mood, there are actually some pretty good answers. Well, at least partial answers, anyway.

One is that color is tied to sense. Sight is one of the five senses, and color is a natural way to interpret what you're seeing and to differentiate one thing from another. That sets the basis. Beyond that, there's no question that cultural symbolism and cultural traditions play a major part in how moods change or react based on color. 3

If these two things don't make up the full reason why color affects mood, then they are certainly going to be the two largest factors that create influence. To the best of our knowledge, that is why color can have such an effect on mood, though any physiological reasons are still somewhat of a mystery.


Where Is The Study Of Color At?

No one will be surprised to learn that marketing and advertising professionals have really delved into studying how customers and consumers react to various colors. 4 Those are industries that are always looking for a little bit of influence and there is plenty written about colors in advertising.

However, what about more in-depth studies? How is happiness connected to color? Are there happy colors? Are there unhappy colors? Maybe most importantly: how can any of this knowledge actually be used in order to help make us happier in our everyday life?

Warm Colors Vs Cool Colors

The first step is understanding the concept of warm colors versus cool colors. While these terms are often used in art classes they actually offer a really interesting insight into how color affects individuals in everyday life. This makes a lot of sense when you think about. After all, who has a more vested interest in understanding how people interact with colors than actual artists?

Remember that once again these are general statements that can change based on color, but on average there are some things in common. Warm colors can be brighter like yellow or red, which can actually encourage a bit of stimulation and are good in limited amounts. Too much can be annoying or irritating. However, if you find yourself just a bit fatigued, a touch out of energy, feeling like you're missing a little spark of some kind, a reasonable infusion of warm colors could be the ticket to help subconsciously push you back towards that little spark of happiness once again.

A good way to think of these warm, almost "citrus-y" colors is that a little goes a long way.

So what does this mean for the so-called cool colors?

These tend to be popular when looking for a calming or peaceful effect, two things that might not be the same as happiness but for many people, the two will go hand in hand. Greens and blues especially tend to be considered very restful, relaxing, and calming. In fact, there's even some potential science behind this belief seeing as how the eye focuses the color green (and similar blues on the spectrum) on the retina. This means less effort to see it and thus less physical strain on your eye muscles. 5

Blues are great for high traffic rooms and bedrooms. In fact, blue has been found cross-culturally to be one of the consistently favorite colors. This makes it ideal for places where you want to meditate, rest, or get away from the stresses of the day. This makes blue a potentially very powerful color when it comes to encouraging relaxation and setting up the foundation for happiness. Doubly so if a relaxing blue room includes aromatherapy for your you time.

On the other hand, if you want some creative energy and charge because you're happier and engaging, go darker with purple. Purple is that blend of red and blue that gives some peace and calm, and some stimulation and encouragement. This is potentially a pretty impressive combination for the right person.

Why Narrowing Down Colors Is Tricky

Even in color psychology, rarely does anyone try to narrow down a color to one meaning. A major reason for this is cultural. Even ignoring the fact that you are going to have different memories, feelings, and experiences with certain colors rather than others, many colors have more than one symbolic or cultural meaning - and sometimes those meanings can seem very contradictory!

What does the color black mean for you? Death? Mourning? Evil? Or does it symbol authority like a nice suit, formality, and class like a tuxedo or elegant dress? None of these thoughts are wrong and in fact, these are just some of the different things that the color black can symbolize.

Take red as another example. Does it mean power, blood, strength, and war? Or does the color red bring up images of roses, love, lust, passion, or desire? You could argue that those two groups of responses are on pretty opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to symbolism.

Yet in many Western cultures red does indeed represent all of those things. This just goes to show the challenge of trying to detail how color affects mood...because what two people see in the same color can be radically different things!


So Are There Naturally "Happy" Colors?

There are some colors that tend to encourage happiness more often than not, and vice-versa. Think of these as more of guidelines than hard and fast rules. So what are those colors?

First of all, there's blue. There is no other color that seems to get the universal love across gender lines and cultural lines than blue does (though interesting enough there is one universally "disliked" color on the other side of the spectrum - take a look at the next section for that one). So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that blue tops the list as a potential happy color.

Green comes in as the second favorite color for men and third for women, and its close relation to blue makes it a really solid choice. Keep in mind that shade does matter. There's a big difference between pine green and “puke green” and you don't want to find yourself trying to make the latter one work.

Yellow is also an okay choice in small amounts. There are a lot of people rather averse to this color because it's "too bright" in large amounts, but then again an easy association with yellow is the classic smiley face. Maybe like the traffic light, it's best seen as caution before acting.

The most interesting choice for a "happy color" just might be purple. Amongst women, this is actually the second favorite color and a real strong contender as a great choice for encouraging happiness. However, it is tied for the second most hated color by men and doesn't even appear in statistically relevant numbers as a favorite choice for men, so overall this appears to be a very gender-based reaction in many cases!

Going with a favorite color can be tempting, and it isn't necessarily a bad idea, however, remember that many colors can be stimulating in nature, and just because someone has a color that's a favorite doesn't mean that color will then calm their nerves or encourage happiness. That's information to consider, but there are plenty of people for example who love the color black but don't find it relaxing or inspiring happiness at all.


So Are There Naturally "Unhappy" Colors?

Just as there are plenty of colors that can help encourage calmness or happiness in an individual, there are plenty of colors that go in the other direction, as well. While having a favorite color doesn't mean that color will consistently be good in helping you to feel happy, the inverse might actually be true. If you dislike or hate a certain color, chances are it's going to do very little to make you happy and it could easily make you unhappy or just heap on after a rough day.

Because of that this section reads more like the law of averages. When it comes to the most hated colors there are a couple of Whatever you want to call them two colors really stick out as being the least popular. Brown is the least favorite of men and the second least favorite color among women. Not surprisingly, brown doesn't register much at all with either gender as a favorite to balance it out.

The next most hated is orange. Orange is tied with purple as the second least favorite color among men and is the least popular among women. There are a few more of each gender who like orange versus brown, but it's pretty clear these are the two largest losers.

So if you were planning a fall themed brown and orange paint scheme for the inside of the really might want to reconsider!

Can Color Match With Scent?

The short answer is yes, in a very limited or personal way. These each play on different senses since you don't see smells or smell colors. However, there are some that go hand in hand. If you absolutely love pine or spruce essential oils then doing essential oil aromatherapy in a room painted green might be able to help enhance that experience. Vanilla has that visual cue that goes with white, and so on.

How much this combination enhances the mood will vary, but every little detail helps when it comes to happiness!

In Conclusion

The study of color and how it consciously and subconsciously affects thoughts, decisions, beliefs, and even actions really is amazing. If you find yourself thinking you could spend hours and hours digging even deeper into this topic don't worry - you're not the only one! There is an amazing treasure trove of information out there delving into specifics though we hope this post has been a true eye-opener for you on the how's and why's of what color might be doing to you on a daily basis and how to use a little bit of knowledge to make sure you get the right colors working on your side to help foster more happiness.

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