All of us know instinctively that colours can make one happy. This is scientifically established through reams of research that’s exploited productively by advertisers, product designers, spacemakers, and just about anyone who wishes to lure eyeballs. It goes largely under the banner of colour theory.
There is a biological reason why reactions to colours can stampede our rational mind and pierce our hearts directly. It was an evolutionary tactic from when we were still jungle creatures, which created these intuitive reflexes to colours. These coded in our memory things that helped us survive and objects that endangered us. This also explains why we may respond to green as promising wellbeing—in a jungle green signalled shelter, potential for food and water. Similarly, bright colours indicated fruits, flowers, food to our hunter-gatherer ancestors. We still respond to these stimuli just so, seeing in them the promise of spring and plenty. Or where bright colours alerted us to danger—like a bright poisonous toad, snake or spider—they served to knock our attention into instant alertness. Therefore they still stimulate our brain. Even shapes, for this reason, impact our moods. It's been studied in infants, that their irises widen at geometric shapes, perhaps for the same reason that this kind of alertness was a matter of life and death in the jungle—where we had to be one step ahead of the camouflage of secretive, deathly animals. But that's another story we will tell later.
Below we list colours that tickle or trick your mind into cheerfulness:
Red is THE colour to stimulate the brain immediately, which explains why so many famous food brands and their outlets exploit it in their logos and use lavishly in the overall décor. Bars and gambling dens use it even as lighting, while women who wear red lipstick are signalling their virility and boldness, even as the colour suggestively sneaks into their accessories where the rest of their attire may be a slimming or forbidding black.
How to use red in the home: While in a home or an office too much of red would mean a permanent party, it can be used to highlight cosy corners, or those spaces where one may let one’s hair down, or the “social” spaces where the family or friends congregate. It's known to stimulate appetite and stoke up a sense
The colour red is known to stimulate appetite and stroke up a sense of physical warmth. Image courtesy, Asian Paints
of physical warmth.
It is essentially seen as a feminine shade. Perhaps this comes from the association of little girls’ accessories! However some shades of pink are seen as mature, while some are seen as playful, vivacious or fun. It belongs to the red in the colour family, so this may partly explain its attention-getting quality. But it is seen as calming and its usage has been famously researched in prisons where it was found to calm aggression in inmates.
How to use pink in the home: In homes, where entire spaces cannot be obviously painted with pink, one may still use it as highlight units, cosy corners, or linings to more stable hues.
The yellow colour is known to energise and is an immediate mood lifter. Image courtesy, Beazy/ unsplash
Yellow is known to spike the blood pressure, in a positive way. Its impact is instantaneous and uplifting, which explains why most kindergartens, public spaces where families gather will have it as a dominant theme. It is warm, cosy, and vibrant. Its an immediate mood lifter.
How to use yellow in the home: The colour’s vibrancy may be tempered by mixing it with browns. When mixed with greens it can be lemony and tart. Again, in a bedroom it will be overstimulating, but in those social spaces where a different vibe is needed it will add a sunny vivacious charm.
If there is one colour that we can “smell” as a happy one, it is surely this one. It ranks with yellow as energizing and uplifting, the colour that gives an immediate zing. It is warm, suggests cosiness and depending on its infusions, can be either peppy or grounding. If fused with yellow its zippy and tingling. With overtones of brown, it matures into earthiness.
How to use orange in the home: It can infect your creative juices positively, and set the mood for flow. Therefore, it is ideal to complement the mood in a study, workroom or get-together spaces.
A survey of hospitals found patients whose rooms faced greenery healed faster. Another study found that the incidence of suicides at the London bridge dipped significantly when it was repainted green. The human brain appears to be hardwired to responding to green positively. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors sighting green meant water, food, shelter. It meant plenty.
How to use green in the home: Green gives a strong suggestion for deep relaxation, from the sense of grind in the rest of our lives. It also holds the promise for growth, regeneration and thereby, an acceptance of the circle of life. You can pepper various spaces in your home including the bedroom with green. Of course, using indoor plants gives the desired effect too.
The human brain responds to the colour green positively and is known to be harmonising and healing in its approach. Image courtesy, Asian Paints
Though most people may baulk at the use of gold in home decor, its impact is tremendous. It needs a certain flair and creative talent to play with gold in your spaces. But by projecting style, richness and resplendence it can uplift your mood in subtle ways.
How to use gold in the home: It can be subdued through limiting its use in outlines, frames, sparkles in textures, tiles, or as run-offs or undertones to more sober or sterilising hues of white or grey.
These are broad outlines used by designers, martketeers and advertisers. However there are no hard and fast rules here. Below is why:
● Some of the impact of colours may have a cultural context or trigger. Apparently lemony yellow is liked by Asian communities while
westerners like a warmer yellow.
● Depending on cultural exposure some cultures (like Islamic people whose dominant motifs all have blue and white geometric shapes in
monuments, tiles and carpets) may find blue as a happy colour while other cultures use it to suggest the staid or sturdy (the reason why
many banks use it in their branding).
● Responses to colour may be age-related. While kindergarteners like yellow, newborns may find it overstimulating and cry more.
● Colours change their personality as well, depending on whether they are used exclusively or as complements. Too much of one colour
dominating a room can make it boring or overwhelming, while too many combinations can create a sense of chaos and anarchy of
● Different shades of a colour can also have different impact. For instance, pastel pinks may suggest sophistication, while flamboyant pinks
could be felt as immature or too loud.
So, to sum up the most important aspect of colour theory: colours can elevate your mood powerfully. But a lot of factors go into deciding which colours do that for you personally. Today, creating virtual spaces is easy. So try various options. Consult other members of the family before cosying up to your favourite happy colour.
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