Understanding your relationship to colours and how they make you feel can provide powerful insight into ways to uplift, empower and transform your life, says Nicola Chantler
Our world is awash with colour. From the moment we open our eyes, we are exposed to a rainbow spectrum that encompasses light and dark, warmth and cool, shade and tone. But far from being purely aesthetic, colours boast a surprising ability to impact our moods, emotions and sense of identity.
‘Colour can have an impact on our mood and wellbeing, and influence our emotions, how we feel, and even how we behave,’ says Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist and wellbeing specialist.
‘Different colours can evoke physiological and psychological responses, changing our state in the present. They can also impact us from a symbolic perspective: certain colours [carry] meanings and emotions culturally, [and we might associate] colours [with] memories and feelings.’
Our moods are impacted by our surroundings. To create calm, we might feel drawn to uncomplicated, neutral spaces. To help conversation flow, we might wear vibrant hues or spend time in colourful surroundings to encourage openness and authenticity.
‘Calming, cooler colours that we often find in nature are more likely to ground us and have us feeling at ease,’ Chambers explains. ‘Sky and sea blues, forest greens and earthy browns work well, as do softer purples and warm beiges. And when it comes to promoting communication and social connection, warmer vibrant colours tend to get people energised and talking. Red and orange are a great place to start. Having them as a pop of colour in a space can incite that spark, and wearing them as a colour is always a talking point, draws people to you and pulls attention.’
This significance of colour is not a new discovery. In ancient yoga tradition, chakras are coloured to depict each of the different energy centres and the meanings behind them. The colours help yogis to visually connect with this subtle body energy, as they work to bring balance. They might meditate on a chakra’s specific colour; visualise their breath making a colourful path around their body, or wear the shade of the chakra with which they are working.
Pantone unveils a ‘colour of the year’ each year, as a way ‘to draw attention to the relationship between culture and colour’. In India, they celebrate ‘Holi’, or the ‘festival of colours,’ as a way to spread love and positivity.
Even artists have long used their palettes as a means to convey emotions and memories, giving art-lovers an intimate insight into their inspiration and personal lives (think Picasso’s ‘Blue Period’). In the multi-million pound interior design industry, extensive research goes into colour and design choices for shops, restaurants and hotels, to ensure a particular ‘mood’ is created on arrival.
Whether we realise it or not, we tap into the power of colour daily. From the colours we put on our plates, to how we decorate our homes, to how we dress for an important business meeting – each choice is impacted by our relationship to colours.
A flash of red lipstick might boost our confidence, while immersing ourselves in nature’s colourful balm can renew our feeling of connection with ourselves and the world around us.
The hues we are attracted to can feel instinctual. But their roots go deeper. Our favourite colours are impacted by a multitude of experiences: upbringing, lifestyle, gender, environment. Memories of days by the sea with loved ones might mean blue tones make us feel calm and safe. Reds could evoke feelings of passion and determination, owing to strong relationships in which our self-confidence has blossomed.
So how do we identify the colours that we align with, and use them to make positive change in our lives?
‘When it comes to utilising colour to empower us, we have to first consider our own colour associations and preferences,’ Chambers says. ‘These can be individual and play a role in how we best use them to our advantage.
‘[Consider which] colours we express ourselves in through clothing. [This] can impact how we feel about ourselves and the message we project to the world around us.
‘We can also bring colour to our environments – from paint and decorations to ornaments and plants – to create positive, uplifting spaces that express our character and make us feel like we belong.’
This positive language of colour can add a creative twist to our self-care rituals too, providing ways to deepen our practice and inner connection. You might use your favourite hues to journal your morning thoughts, or in your meditation and visualisation practice.
In our own exploration, we might discover certain colours lift our moods; some balance our energies, while others ignite our passions and sense of togetherness.