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Feeling Blue? Brighten Your Mood Using Color

Saguaro Palm Springs, one of my favorite colorful places

Saguaro Palm Springs, one of my favorite colorful places

Color influences our behavior on a daily basis- tells us when to go, when to stop, what food or drink to reach for, and in what direction to head. In fact, entire industries are built on choosing colors and color palettes to drive human emotions and behavior. Think about the Whole Foods logo in green that moves us to purchase organic items and to feel like they are an energy-friendly and natural place to shop. Or consider Facebook’s icon, in a trustworthy and dependable blue, encouraging us to connect and stay calm. And relatedly, the lure of the red Facebook updates, bright, emergency-like, and encouraging us to attend to our latest update immediately!

In the past, colors were used to help us to identify ripe fruit and other foods and to help us find mates and survive. Color continues to inform our behavior and whether or not we know it, we continue to follow its’ lead. Oddly, color and its influence on how we feel is left out of psychology and therapy conversations. Given what a powerful tool color can be, MindWell NYC is here to give you some tips on how you can purposefully and easily incorporate it into your routine to shift your emotions when needed. We are going to move color by color with some specific tips. Today, we will talk about the warm colors, red, orange, and yellow, and in a follow-up post, will review the cool colors and how we can use them to change our mood.

Red, the color of passion and revolution, tends to evoke intense feelings of anger, excitement, or sometimes danger. This color, before the time of the written word, was the first to be named across cultures on every continent, likely from the intense impact it has on our experience (Eckstut & Eckstut, 2013). Red tape is frustrating, seeing red most likely feels very angry, and if someone’s red-faced, you might want to stay away and give them some time to cool off. Turn to engaging with the color red if you’re looking to up your energy levels or feelings of intensity or if you’ve been feeling sluggish and down. As shades and hues are important, be careful not to choose a shade that will lead you to feel angry or to increase your heart rate if you’re trying to relax (Augustin, 2017). Color with red markers, mindfully look at a piece of red construction paper, snack on some apples or peppers, or go for that red lipstick. You’re likely to feel energized and ready to take on the day.

Orange evokes an experience of alertness similar to red, but with less intensity and more energy, cheer, friendliness, and fun. This color was known for centuries as red-yellow, but gained its’ rep as orange when the fruit became well-known (Eckstut & Eckstut, 2013). Orange is encouraging, motivating, and also warm, like a friendly athletic coach that wants you to succeed. Having trouble meeting your goals or feeling stuck? Head out for that orange-hued sunrise or sunset or peruse the fresh citrus produce aisle. It might be time for a trip to the pumpkin patch you’ve been waiting for this Fall or to look at pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge. Used in more subtle tones, orange can help facilitate conversations or connectedness with others. As Sinatra said, “Orange is the happiest color.” We think it might also be the greatest motivator.

Yellow is dazzling and optimistic, bringing forth feelings of joy and happiness. The spectrum of yellow is seen by humans more than any color and therefore easily stands out to our eyes in its’ many shades (Eckstut & Eckstut, 2013). Yellow can grab your attention, warm up spaces around you, and make you feel lighter, brighter, and more stimulated. If you are in the midst of a challenging situation or feeling blue, getting a dose of yellow can be an excellent way to experience a feeling of freshness or newness. Highlighters and yellow post-it notes are regular staples in most offices, so avail yourself of what they have to offer and mindfully spend a minute using either one. Pick up a bunch of daisies, sunflowers, or yellow tulips at your local market and put them in your home. Imagine sipping lemonade on a balcony on a sunny day or drop a few slices of lemon into your water at work. If you’d like to paint or color something, paler shades of yellow can offer a sense of expansion and brightness for your mind. Use yellow to your advantage and it won’t disappoint.

Stay tuned for our next post on quieting and relaxing colors, the cools.