Have you ever thought why when you’re sad you’re feeling blue, or when you’re jealous you turn green with envy? And why is love painted red? Why is it that every time our emotions change, we become chameleons changing colours?
Colours are often associated with emotions, because, obviously, our world is not black and white. We see colours all around us, and these constitute an important aspect of our visual experience. Colours are not only detected by the eye, but by the brain and can thus affect various systems of the body. Dubbed as colour psychology, research has shown that we indeed associate various colours and the emotion they cause with the relevant physiological or psychological state of a person. For example, blue is perhaps the world’s favourite colour. Seen all around us in the sky and sea, blue symbolises openness, while it also soothes, calms and relaxes. Blue is also intrinsically linked to low blood pressure due to the deoxygenised colour of the veins and for this reason it is very often linked to sadness and depression. Contrary, red is the colour of passion. Associated with high blood pressure and heat, red is linked to vitality, ambition, and anger. It is actually linked to all emotions that cause your heart to race and stimulate an increase in adrenaline. In its lighter shade, pink is the colour of related to feminism, comfort, warmth and tender affection.
When you think of green what comes to mind? The environment, plants, recycling, eco-friendly activities. A calmness perhaps and a serene environment. Green creates feelings of comfort, laziness and relaxation; however, dark olive green is associated with illness – and thus we often see ill-stricken cartoon characters turning green. Yet, green also describes envy. In fact the Ancient Greeks believed that jealousy was accompanied by an overproduction of bile, lending a yellowish-green pallor to the victim’s complexion. In the seventh century B.C., the poetess Sappho used the word “green” to describe the face of a stricken lover. After that, the word was used freely by other poets to denote jealousy or envy. The most famous such reference and the origin of the term “green-eyed monster” is Iago’s speech in Shakespeare’s Othello.
Other colours are intrinsically linked to the physiological state the emotion incurs, explaining for example why we turn white with fear due to the presence of all colours causing a rush of emotions, or why white symbolises purity and peace. Yet, colours such as yellow although on the one hand are reminiscent of sunshine and cheerfulness, on the other also symbolise cowardice and fear, probably because it causes more eye fatigue than any other colour!
Did you know that orange is lonely? Literally lonely? Because nothing actually rhymes with orange! Yet the colour itself is psychologically warm, welcoming and vital. Purple is majestic in its own right, while it is also associated with combating shock and fear. Having been used in the care of nervous disorders, this colour has shown to help balance the mind and transform obsessions and fears. Additionally purple is also linked to the right side of the brain stimulating intuition and imagination. Brown, an earthly colour reminds us of home. It arouses feelings of stability and security, as well as credibility and reassurance. Black on the other hand, entails a negative feeling, often of loss, void, emptiness, insecurity and mystery, given that this is caused by the absence of colour. So there seems to be a colour for every mood, every emotion, every physiological and psychological state. Even for the indecisive and ambiguous, there is grey, for it is neither white nor black!
Colours are our way of experiencing the world. It is why “adding colour to your life” has become such an important expression. Because in order to experience life in its fullest we ought to live out its every colour and every emotion that comes along with it!