Colors are often used to express different emotions, as in the phrase, “I am feeling blue.” When you are sick, you might refer to yourself as green. Someone else might be red with anger. Colors provide a way to add a visual representation to an invisible quality. They help us more accurately describe emotions.
Did you know that colors can actually create and effect emotions, as well? Seeing a particular color can change your mood without you even realizing it. Marketers and advertisers exploit this fact all the time. How many big company logos are red? They not only get your attention, but they also get your blood pumping.
How Different Colors Affect Your Mood
There are several variables that govern your emotional response to colors, including past experiences. Here is a look at 10 colors and the most common emotions they evoke:
Red stimulates and excites the brain. It is associated with power, passion, and energy, or it might also be associated with danger or aggression.
When it is combined with other colors, red elicits different responses. For example, red and green represent Christmas and can evoke a range of emotions associated with that holiday. It has the same effect when combined with white in some Eastern cultures.
Orange is a stimulating color that elicits feelings of excitement, warmth, and playfulness. It has the same energizing quality as red but is more muted, which can bring about a sense of comfort and creativity.
When paired with black, orange represents Halloween as it’s celebrated in Western culture. This can evoke variant emotions such as delight or fear, depending on the viewer.
Yellow draws attention and stimulates positive emotions. It is associated with hope and optimism, but it can also communicate cowardice and dishonesty. In the Hindu religion, yellow is a sacred color.
This color is often calming and cool. It can represent good luck, health, nature, and renewal or rebirth. Green can also communicate jealousy and envy.
It can even have different meanings across cultural lines. For instance, green is not a successful color in China or France. However, it draws out investors in the Middle East who associate it with money.
Blue improves concentration because it calms the mind. It can be sedative and calm or sad. Psychological associations with the color blue include trust and security, cleanliness, order, and technology. IBM was nicknamed Big Blue among international technology markets. Many banks have blue logos to evoke a feeling of trust in their customers.
Purple is calm and soothing like most cool colors. It is associated with spirituality, royalty, and mystery. Purple can also symbolize cruelty and arrogance. There are very few elements of nature that are purple.
Pink is a calming color that signifies vulnerability and safety, as opposed to the aggression of red. Pink is often associated with femininity in Western cultures.
Brown is warm and restful, but it can also be depressing. Combining brown with orange, yellow or gold reduces its depressing quality. Brown symbolizes earth, endurance, and reliability. Brown is a successful packaging color for food in the U.S., but it has the opposite effect in Colombia.
Black is depressing and associated with death, unhappiness, and fear. It can also signify elegance and sophistication, power and sexuality. Many Western cultures use black to signify death, but in clothing or packaging it represents wealth, elegance, and sophistication. Black clothing has long been the unofficial uniform of sophisticated New York City dwellers.
White is cheerful and can be associated with sunlight when combined with red, yellow or orange. It represents purity and innocence, but can also be associated with sterility and death. Cultural responses to white can be quite different. In the U.S., it is used for weddings to symbolize purity, while in many Eastern cultures, it signifies death.
How Color Can Be Applied
Different shades of color can also affect the emotions. Combining colors also change how they are perceived. In general, too much bold color can be irritating, even if it is a typically calming color. The best uses for the emotional responses to color are subtle. You may not remember what color the walls are in your favorite restaurant, for example, but you know you feel relaxed when you eat there.
Color is not only used to infuse emotion into advertising, it is also used in the decor of public buildings to evoke the preferred emotions in patrons. Pale green is often used in prisons to calm inmates. You won’t find a prison room painted red because there is no desire to inflame excitement, anger, or aggression in that setting.
Hospitals were traditionally all white to signify the cleanliness and purity. More recently some relaxing cool colors are incorporated to reduce the tension created in some by an antiseptic atmosphere. Soft warm shades of pink and yellow might even be used to cheer the patients.
How to Affect Your Mood with Color
Becoming conscious of how colors affect your mood is the first step in using them to your benefit. Psychological reactions to colors can be very personal and may be based on personal experience. If you find you have a strong reaction to a particular color, it might be a good idea to figure out why.
Notice the colors around you in your favorite places, and you will discover a color palate that is good for your mental health. When choosing colors for your house, office or any other space where you spend a lot of time, consider the psychological effects of those choices. Try to pick colors that elicit the feeling you want to have when you are in that room.
For instance, you may want a more stimulating color in your office, so you are energized to accomplish your daily tasks. In your bedroom or other places in your house where you relax, a calming color can help put you in the right frame of mind. If there is a color that gets a strong negative reaction from you, avoid it whenever possible. Use your knowledge of how colors affect your moods to improve your mental well-being.