Let’s unravel the mystery behind colours.
When were colours first recognized? What was the first colour palette like? How does colour therapy work?
History of Colours:
About 40,000 years ago, a basic palette had five pigments—red, yellow, brown, black, and white—made with a blend of burnt charcoal, chalk, animal fat, and soil1. Over the years, from Renaissance to Impressionism, artists played with new pigments to paint pictures never imagined before. As per research, art has therapeutic and socializing effects on patients2.
350 BC to 1500 AD:
Aristotle3, in 4th Century, considered yellow and blue as two primary colours signifying the sun and the moon, expansion, and contraction, yin and yang, male and female. He developed a linear colour system based on white light in midday and black at midnight.
Hippocrates3 identified that the therapeutic effects of light violet is different from a purplish violet shade.
In Iran, in the 11th Century, a patient’s natural colouring was used as an indication of various diseases during diagnosis.
In 15th Century during the Renaissance, a Swiss doctor ‘Paracelsus’ emphasized the importance of colours in the healing process3.
After an intellectual upheaval during the times of Martin Luther King, Physicist Franciscus Aguilonius3 developed a three-colour system of red, blue, and yellow as primary colours.
During the same period, an astrologer and priest Aron Sigfrid Fortius developed the five central colour system containing red, green, blue, yellow, and grey colours.
Sir Isaac Newton wrote in his paper ‘Opticks’ about white light passing through a triangular prism to refract at different angles, which formed a colour spectrum—the rainbow. No other colour was divided into further colour spectrums other than white.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832), worked on the psychological effects of colours; thus, setting the base for modern psychology.
Michel-Eugène Chevreul (1786 – 1889), was a French chemist, who devised a colour system that lead to a fundamental palette of colours.
A Scottish physicist, James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879), formed a triangular chart based on the electromagnetic theory of light. He created the basis of CIE Chromaticity chart used today to quantify light.
Gunnar Tonnquist, Anders Hard, and Lars Sivik developed a Natural Colour System (NCS) based on how humans experience colours and previous research. Presently, the NCS is the only colour system used by paint companies.
The art of colour therapy was renewed. Research in Germany at the Bauhaus school showed that the favorite colour of students was related to a student’s physical colouring.
Later on, Angela Wright3, following Aristotle’s idea, classified colours into cool (blue tones) and warm (yellow tones), that were further divided into various categories based on levels of intensity. Black, white, and grey were also added.
How Colour Can Affect Your Mood:
Colour is abundant – we are surrounded by variations of beautiful colours every day. The colours we gravitate to most may have a more significant impact on your mood than you realize. Since certain colours have an effect on our subconscious, it’s important to intentionally choose the right colours, based on what effect works best for you.
Each of us has a different association with specific colours based on personal experiences and associations, which can affect our well-being. Deciding what colour would enhance a room, maybe different than deciding on what colour of outfit would flatter your complexion, hair, and eye colour. You may love teal green on the walls in your living room, but to wear this colour, maybe the wrong choice to enhance your features.
Ever wondered how colours can help you to look your absolute best? Take the colour quiz and learn how to choose colours that are uniquely yours, provide confidence, and enhance the beauty within you!
Studies have shown that intense red can actually speed up your heart rate and raise your blood pressure, while blue can be calming and may reduce these reactions. Alternatively, yellow is an interesting colour. Reports have indicated that although yellow can enhance your mood, it’s not recommended as a main colour scheme and could actually cause people to lose their tempers more easily.
Variations of shades, such as the depth and darkness of a colour have been known to impact the feel of your surroundings. For example, dark purple can cause a more dramatic reaction, whereas light purple can be calming and may be a good choice for a bedroom where you want to relax. When in doubt, start with neutral colours such as tans, grays, and whites, adding and building up colours to evoke certain emotions and a desirable effect and create the atmosphere you want to achieve.
The colours you choose should make you feel warm and connected to your surroundings. Avoid mixing more than 3 or 4 colours in one room. Too many colours can make a room feel chaotic and cause a stressful reaction. Complimentary accent colours create harmony. By using the colour wheel for inspiration, you can experiment with contrasting colours to take on a whole new look and feel of your environment. Using light or dark colours can dramatically change the feel and size of a space. For example, using dark colours can make a room feel smaller, which can be a positive effect if you are aiming for a cozy, intimate space, whereas light colours tend to create the illusion of spaciousness and open up a room.
Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to take a few risks with colour while you are developing your own individual style.
Meaning of Colours – Effect on Mood and Health:
Sir Isaac Newton discovered how to organize the colour spectrum, but the psychology of colour dates back thousands of years to the Egyptians4 who practiced holistic health and combined colour to enhance moods.
Below, you will find a chart that can determine what colour may have positive benefits on holistic health.
|COLOURS||PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS||Holistic Benefits|
|1||Yellow||Optimism, clarity, warmth||Purifies body and stimulates nerve impulses|
|2.||Orange||Friendly, cheerful, confident||Boosts energy|
|3.||Red||Youthful, excitement, bold||Increases blood circulation and stimulates mind & body for action|
|4||Purple||Creative, imaginative, wise||Treats Skin Problems|
|5||Blue||Trust, dependable, strength||Soothes pain|
|6||Green||Peaceful, growth, health||Meditative and calming for the mind.|
|7||Grey or Black & White||Balance, Neutral, Calm||Black: Life and Rebirth|
What is Colour therapy?
Colour therapy, or chromotherapy, uses the energy relating to 7 spectrum colours, consisting of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Each colour has its own particular energy, varying wavelengths and resonating with energy from each of the 7 main chakras, within the body.
The meaning of the word chakra originates from Sanskrit, meaning wheel, and relates to the smooth flow of energy within. Just as a cog or wheel needs to run smoothly for a clock, or an engine to work properly, so does our body. Colour therapy may also help to re-balance or stimulate blocked energy by applying certain colours to different chakras.
A rainbow of colours resonates with various parts of the body (the energy centers). Colour energy is used to balance the body’s energy, as well as help to dispel negative feelings, free blocks, and re-balance and restore harmony emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Listed below is a Chakra Rainbow5 and the area of the body it relates to:
- Root: Targeted at the spine, the grounding chakra affects the survival instincts, stamina, and passion. ‘Red’ colours offer improved circulation.
- Sacral: Targeted at the pelvis, the optimism chakra is meant to connect sexuality, pleasure, and enthusiasm. Here, orange offers an antibacterial effect and eases digestion.
- Solar Plexus: Targets naval area, the willpower chakra, increases happiness. Yellow helps with neuromuscular systems and the lymphatic system.
- Heart: Targets the heart. The acceptance chakra attempts to balance and create abundance and love. Green reduces depression.
- Throat: Targets the throat, the expression chakra emphasizes communication and knowledge-seeking. Blue brings calmness in breathing and heart rate and reduces toxins.
- Third Eye: Targeted at the brow, the intuition chakra refers to clairvoyance. Indigo colours reduce headaches and treat migraines.
- Crown: Targeted at the head, the knowledge chakra brings spirituality and imagination together. Violet aims to bring calmness to the nervous system.
Life experiences can have either a positive or negative impact on our lives. Negative experiences may manifest physically over time and bring on dis-ease. As an example, if someone who has had a difficult time expressing their wants, needs and wishes, or has had difficulty speaking their mind, over time, may have developed a blockage in the throat chakra that may lead to physical health concerns within this area.
Benefits of Colour Therapy:
Colour therapy aims to balance the physiological and psychological imperfections. For example, if you are feeling down, colour therapy can help you regain balance by increasing your energy levels.
Colour therapy can also be useful in environmental design. For example, in an inclusive classroom, students with ADHD or autism may demonstrate higher stimulation to the colours around them. A red colour can increase circulation, blood pressure, and a sense of smell; thus, overstimulating their responses. On the contrary, blue can calm the body temperature, heart rate, and curb appetite.
Environmental designer ‘Frank H. Mahnke’ suggests warmer colour tones for elementary levels, cool hues to improve concentration for upper grades, and pale green to increase quietness in libraries.
Medical Institutes are using colour and art therapy to help speed the healing process.
However, studies have shown that colours can benefit or have a negative impact. For example, seeing red before an exam can decrease test performance.
Several studies have also shown that the impact of colours may vary from person to person. According to a 2011 study, students of Berkeley had positive associations with the blue and gold emblem of their school and had an aversion towards Stanford red and white. Similarly, Stanford disliked blue and gold more and preferred red and white of Stanford6.
Colour plays an essential role in our subconscious mind and also has a huge impact on our lives and our business. Colour can change our thinking patterns, as well, may cause different reactions to our mental and emotional health. Amazingly, it can evoke various emotions and not have the same effect on the same two people.
We live in a colourful world. A world that mother nature graces us with her beauty from the colour of the sky, to the colour of the earth, and everything in between. Colour is not only beautiful; it can also be beneficial to our health and well-being.