Blue, blue, blue … we speak with Kimberley Lee, Counsellor and Therapist, Communications Specialist and Certified Meditation Teacher on the impact of colour on the human psyche.
M+E: Why are colours important in human nature/emotion/psychology? Does this differ from one person to the next?
KL: Artist Pablo Picasso said, “Colours, like feature, follow the changes of the emotions.”
For sighted people, colour provides another layer to human experience. How you feel about colour is often personal and connected to your life’s experiences and culture, although there are some common themes around the meaning of different colours.
Colour is another data point – another piece of information – that can evoke emotion or spark a memory. For example, ‘Tiffany blue’ often prompts a feeling of luxury and love from gifting a precious piece of jewellery, often used to mark a milestone life event. While there are common triggers within a shade, colours can also have opposed assigned meanings. In western culture, the colour blue symbolises trust, stability, security and is often seen in branding for associations of trust and authority, e.g., royal blue. However, it’s also used as a colour to describe low feelings of melancholy – ‘feeling blue.’
M+E: What are some ways we can integrate colour in our lives for positive emotional/psychological benefits?
KL: In terms of the psychological impact of colour, there are two main categories of primary colours: warm and cool colours. Warm colours include red, yellow and orange, and are associated with feelings that range from love and comfort to anger and rage. Cool colours include blue, green and purple, and can bring about feelings that range from calmness to sadness. Cool colours also tend to be more calming as the eye focuses the colour green directly on the retina which can be less straining for eye muscles.
When designing a room, for example, think about the mood you want to evoke. The colour blue can have a calming effect, which makes it a useful colour for creating a chilled vibe, or in places that are busy and may be high-stress environments. Used in the bedroom, soft blues and greens may help you relax at bedtime.
When choosing what to wear, notice the colours you’re drawn to and how wearing that colour makes you feel. Do your clothing choices reflect your mood, or change your mood, or both?
What do you notice about your emotional state when you’re in different coloured environments? What does being in a white room feel like? Or being in a natural space of green and blue, perhaps with a splash of coloured flowers? Or being in a space with dark walls? Notice how you feel around different colours and use this information when creating spaces in your home or office, or in the way you choose colour in your clothing, or even hair colour.
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“It’s the colour of the mind and generally calming, affecting us mentally more than physically as red does. Strong blues can bring about clarity of mind and concentration. It’s one of the world’s favourite and most seen colours, as it’s the colour of the sky.”
M+E: Do primal colours typically have a stronger influence on human behaviour?
KL: There are four psychological primary colours – red, blue, yellow, green – that relate to the body, the mind, emotions, and balance. They are also used to represent energy and chakras.
In this context, red is physical and represents courage, strength, warmth, energy, stimulation, masculinity, and excitement. Although it can also represent defiance, aggression, strain. It can also appear nearer than it is and grabs our attention first, e.g., traffic stop light. Red can stimulate and raise the pulse which can also make time feel like it’s moving faster than it is.
Blue is intellectual, the colour of communication, trust, reliability, serenity, calm, but also coldness, aloofness, unfriendliness or lack of emotion. It’s the colour of the mind and generally calming, affecting us mentally more than physically as red does. Strong blues can bring about clarity of mind and concentration. It’s one of the world’s favourite and most seen colours, as it’s the colour of the sky.
Yellow is emotional and represents positivity, optimism, self-esteem, confidence but also fear, anxiety and irrationality. It has a long wavelength which makes it the strongest colour psychologically, helping lift the mood.
Green represents balance, harmony, universal love, the natural environment, peace, but also envy, stagnation or being bland and stuck. It is restful for the eye as it’s the centre of the spectrum and can feel reassuring.