By Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu
Colour for healing was adopted 2,000 years ago in Ancient Greece, Egypt, and China. They used color and light in the form of sunlight, crystal reflections, paints, and plants were employed to improve people’s moods.
Color therapy, also known as chromotherapy, is a form of therapy that uses color and light to treat certain mental and physical health conditions.
The concept behind this alternative medicine therapy is that different colors evoke different responses in people. Some colors are considered to be more stimulating and energizing, while others are more soothing. Because of this, it could be said that color exposure can impact one’s overall mood, motivation, sleep, outlook, appetite, and decision-making.
Types of Color Therapy
In color therapy, it is believed that different colors can impact the body differently.
- Red = stimulating. Connected with the root chakra and spin. Considered grounding, instinctual, life-giving. Thought to promote stamina, passion, and circulation.
- Orange = enthusiasm. Connected with the pelvis chair and tied to optimism, pleasure, sexuality, excitement, happiness, and energy.
- Yellow = happiness. Connected with the naval chakra and tied to hope, willpower, laughter, warmth, optimism, and hunger.
- Green = acceptance. Connected with the heart and tied to healing, balance, love, grounding, nature, growth, health, envy, and calmness.
- Blue = calmness. Connected with the throat chakra and tied to communication, knowledge, serenity, wisdom, loyalty, and truth.
- Indigo = balance. Connected with the third eye chakra and clairvoyance, pain relief, prosperity, wisdom, royalty, mystery, and respect.
- Violet = knowledge. Connected with the crown chakra and imagination, spiritual awakening, calmness, serenity, and creativity. Purple utilizes both red and blue to provide a nice balance between stimulation and serenity that is supposed to encourage creativity
- White = pureness. Connected with innocence, cleanliness, and neutrality.
- Black = authority. Connected with strength, power, evil mourning, and intelligence.
- Brown = reliability. Connected with stability, friendship, sadness, comfort, and security.
Mechanism of Action
The Art Therapy blog explains that the psychology of color is based on the mental and emotional effects colors have on sighted people in all facets of life. There are some very subjective pieces to color psychology as well as some more accepted and proven elements. Keep in mind, that there will also be variations in interpretation, meaning, and perception between different cultures.
Hence, Color is consistently used in an attempt to make people hungry, associate a positive or negative tone, encourage trust, feelings of calmness or energy, and countless other ways.
A study by Azeemi et al.(2019) shows that Color is visible to the human eye because of how it reflects, bends, and refracts through particles and objects. Color and light enter our bodies through both our eyes and our skin, and once they do so they lead to electronic impulses that can activate the release of various chemicals and enzymes that affect how we feel.
A previous study by Azeemi et al.(2005) on chromotherapy explains the science of color: “Light is electromagnetic radiation, which is the fluctuation of electric and magnetic fields in nature. More simply, light is energy, and the phenomenon of color is a product of the interaction of energy and matter.”
Every color has its wavelength, frequency, and quantity of energy. All colors that we can see fall on the visible spectrum of light, and they have their electromagnetic frequencies.
Each unique frequency relates to a color of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Each color has a different effect, so different colors are used for different purposes.
Improves Seasonal Depressive Disorder
Dr. Axe.com explained that people deal with seasonal affective disorder because of a lack of sunlight exposure. Most people do not go out to experiencenature and our inability to get natural light can increase the risk for depression.
The reason is that sunlight tends to have a mood-boosting and energizing effect — plus it can help regulate our circadian rhythm, which helps with sleep.
Dr. Axe. Com also stated that some colors, such as blue, green, and light purple, can have a calming effect on the mind and body, leading to physiological changes, such as reduced anxiety symptoms, decreased blood pressure, slowed breathing, and help with relaxation and sleep.
Green, especially when found in nature such as among forests and gardens, is another color that may be used to help people feel more grounded, serene, and balanced. Green is also considered the primary color of healing since it’s associated with nature and growth.
Sometimes art therapists instruct their clients to paint with a certain range of colors that help bring out buried issues or allow them to deal with them more effectively, and often these include colors that can help fight stress, such as lavenders, greens, and blues.
Sometimes therapists, especially Eastern medicine practitioners, use colors in conjunction with other methods, like vibrational healing or acupuncture, to help restore someone’s “energy fields” and assist healing and mood stabilization.
Boost Energy and Motivation
Kim and Kang’s (2013) study found that art therapy utilizing colors also improves the “purpose of life” among patients with post-stroke disabilities.
Dr. Axe.com further noted that the color red is one of the warmest and has the opposite effect as cooling colors, such as blue. It tends to be energy-boosting and can lead to increased heart rate, greater stamina due to adrenaline release, and sometimes anger or increased appetite.
Yellow is another warm color that is invigorating. It’s often recommended for people suffering from depression or lack of motivation.
It may also help boost creativity and logic. Therefore along with orange, which promotes productivity, it is often used in school settings.
Desire to Eat More
Stimulating colors, such as red, yellow, and orange, are associated with motivation, which can increase the desire for food and other forms of excitement and reward.
Red may also boost someone’s sense of smell, while blue can have appetite-reducing effects in some cases. This is why places like restaurants, theaters, and casinos often use these warm colors to appeal to customers’ senses.
How to Get Started
Dr. Axe.com provided the following recommendations:
- Get rid of blue lights at nighttime for better sleep. Research has shown that the blue light in your laptops, phones, and televisions can affect your circadian rhythm, which affects your sleep quality. Wearing anti-blue light glasses or turning the settings on your gadgets to warmer yellow tones has been found to help. Read more at Harvard Health. Blue light has a dark side. July 7, 2020
- Choose colors purposefully when painting rooms in your home/office — Consider how different colors affect your mood while in a room. For example, light blue, light green, and lavender tend to be calming, while warmer colors like yellow and orange are awakening. In classrooms, natural colors such as beige, light green, and white may be best, since some intense colors, such as yellow, may be too distracting for some students.
- Get more sunlight exposure — Try to take advantage of sunlight’s uplifting effects by spending at least 20 minutes outdoors each day, which also offers additional mental health benefits by boosting vitamin D levels. Even if the sun isn’t bright and shining, and there aren’t blue skies to be seen, being outside can still be invigorating and relaxing.
- Try color therapy glasses — Colored glasses allow you to choose how you want to feel based on the influences of different colors. They come in many shades and often block out UV light. It’s recommended that you wear your glasses daily for about 30 minutes to help impact your mood, such as by wearing blue glasses for help with a lengthened attention span or yellow glasses for an uplifting effect.
- Take advantage of colors found in nature — Being outdoors in nature is one of the easiest ways to expose yourself to various colors, such as blue from skies, green from grass, blues from bodies of water, purples, and reds from flowers and plants, etc.
- Try creative activities like drawing and painting — Depending on your mood, try using colors for creative purposes that help bring about the mental state you hope for. For example, purple can help with self-knowledge and wisdom, indigo can promote creativity intuition, and visualization, and greens can promote harmony and love. In general, colors used in art therapy practices have been shown to help people feel more energetic less depressed, and anxious, to support memory and communication skills, and to lead to feelings of affection and connection.
- Consider red light therapy — One form of color therapy uses light delivered into the skin. Red light therapy is an example of this approach. It uses red light within a certain wavelength range to promote mental or physical invigoration. Red light therapy uses include treating inflammation, pain, mood issues, skin issues, and more.
- Experiment with visualization and crystals — Some people choose to utilize crystals to break up sunlight shining through and to emit different colors. Others might use visualization and/or crystals while meditating or practicing breathing exercises to put them into a certain state of mind. For example, you can practice visualizing yourself surrounded by your color of choice to help you relax or be more creative.
Things to Consider
While the premise of color therapy is that certain colors elicit specific emotions from most people, this isn’t always the case. Human beings are unique. The effects of certain colors on people may range from person to person. Colors most people might find calming or soothing might be anxiety-inducing or depressing to others.
If you’re interested in using the effects of colors to manage mental health problems, it’s best to work with a trained practitioner at first.
Be intentional about color choices. When picking colors for anything, from the color of the walls in your room to the color of the clothes you wear, choose colors that you find stimulating or elicit positive emotions.
It’s important to reiterate that color therapy doesn’t serve as a definitive treatment for any mental or physical health conditions. If you are experiencing a condition such as depression, it’s important to speak to your doctor about it.
The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, a Medical Journalist, an author, and a science writer. E. mail: [email protected]. For more about me,Visit: profnyarkotey.com
- Kim MK, Kang SD. Effects of art therapy using color on purpose in life in patients with stroke and their caregivers. Yonsei Med J. 2013 Jan 1;54(1):15-20. doi: 10.3349/ymj.2013.54.1.15. PMID: 23225793; PMCID: PMC3521264.
- Azeemi STY, Rafiq HM, Ismail I, Kazmi SR, Azeemi A. The mechanistic basis of chromotherapy: Current knowledge and future perspectives. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Oct;46:217-222. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2019.08.025. Epub 2019 Aug 30. PMID: 31519282.
- Azeemi ST, Raza SM. A critical analysis of chromotherapy and its scientific evolution. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2005 Dec;2(4):481-8. doi: 10.1093/ecam/neh137. PMID: 16322805; PMCID: PMC1297510.