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Can Colors Affect Your Mood?

Updated on May 30, 2012

Colors can affect your moods. At least that’s what a recent article published in the Feb. 8, 2010 issue of BMC Medical Research Methodology claims. They might be on to something. Years ago, other studies said the color pink had a calming effect on prisoners. However, the idea never seems to have caught on with some of the more upscale, high class penal institutions.

But seriously, let’s look at the concept a little closer. Here are a few phrases often heard, but one rarely thinks about what inspired them. Colors did in many instances. When someone is feeling good and upbeat, they’re “In the pink.” The opposite of that would be a “blue funk.”

The article went on to explain colors are a useful tool in determining a patient’s mood when they have communication problems. It was found those who were in depression tended to choose the color grey while those in good spirits picked yellow.

So it’s obvious colors are frequently used to describe how we feel. But, up until quite recently, no one had done any exhaustive research on color association. A group of physicians were about to change all that. They selected eight colors: red, orange, green, purple, blue, yellow, pink and brown. Next, they added black and white in the same fashion and made a 38 color wheel.

Then, they chose three focus groups averaging about 100 each to test the theory. The groups consisted of healthy, anxious and depressed adults. Later,another group of about 200 healthy volunteers classified each color as positive, negative or neutral.

The results revealed some interesting information. Shades of colors seemed to play the most important part. For example, a light blue conveyed a happy mood, while dark blue indicated a poor one. Yellow was consistent with happy and upbeat. Depressed, anxious and healthy people in the test all liked blue and yellow, with the shade of blue being the determining factor. Yellow was picked as the most eye catching.

So how can we use such information other than as a medical diagnostic tool? Artists and interior decorators have been utilizing the concept for quite a while. They discovered color has a tremendous impact on moods and emotions. In some cases it can signal action, cause physiological reactions, raise blood pressure and metabolism, or cause eye strain.

Of course, feelings about color can vary with different cultures. For example, white in many Western societies, represents purity and innocence. On the other hand, in many Eastern countries, it’s a symbol of mourning.

It was in 1666 when English scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, discovered pure white light passed through a prism refracted it into all visible colors. He also found mixing different colored lights could produce various other colors. For example, red mixed with yellow creates orange. However, mixing colors, such as yellow and purple, canceled each other out and produced white.

Some colors have universal meaning. Red, orange and yellow are known as warm colors and can induce feelings ranging from comfort to anger. Blue, purple and green are known as cool colors and evoke calmness, but can also make one feel sad.

It is interesting to note, ancient Egyptians and Chinese used colors in healing techniques. Today, this is known as chromotherapy or light therapy and is still being used by some alternative medicine and holistic practitioners.

In this treatment:

Red: stimulates body, mind and increases circulation.

Yellow: Thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body.

Orange: Used in healing lungs and increase energy levels.

Blue: Believed to soothe illnesses and treat pain.

Indigo: Thought to alleviate skin problems.

Many psychologists view this therapy with skepticism, pointing out the effects of color are exaggerated. In addition, some research has shown mood-altering effects of color to be temporary. Initially a blue colored room may cause feelings of calm, but dissipate a short time later.

Other studies, however, have demonstrated some colors affect performance in certain areas. For instance, students exposed to red before an exam performed poorly. On the opposite extreme, red caused others on the athletic field to exhibit greater speed and strength.


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    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 

      6 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Interesting article! I have always believed that colors can affect your mood!

      Biologically speaking... the whole brain is interconnected! The signals received by the eye then might affect other interpretations of the brain...

      Like red might increase the feel of passion and white of peace :)

      Great hub

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Well, then ya gotta lot of reading to do. I figured you were busy moving. You talked about it in your hubs.

    • Lucky Cats profile image


      6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Oh, John...I've been very busy having moved back to Calif w/some of my furry family..and all the work required to make it 'work.' So far...very very well! I've meant to take the time to far, my only efforts are when I'm online & view the live feed...I pick out hubs to read//respond to...I haven't been on when you have until now...loved this one. I relate very strongly to colors and the (imagined or real) effect on our moods. Personally, I believe there is much to this theory. Love your writing, as always, and will promise to find time to peruse all that i have missed. Kathy

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Well, well well...if it ain't the cat lady. Thought you had found some other hack to follow. Glad to see you back. It's been quite a while. It took me a long time to get over my feelings of abandonment. I locked myself in an all yellow room for two weeks!

    • Lucky Cats profile image


      6 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

      Hi there JY! As always, you've presented an excellent article which allows the reader to reach his/her own conclusion. In my own experience, I find that I am "uncomfortable" in rooms which are too 'dark' such as (the currently popular) deep reds/maroons/forest greens. These effect me as being depressive and confining. Conversely, lighter colors (lighter in hue as well as a 'feeling of lightness') seem wide open, clean, unconfining. I love the "calm" colors such as celedon, pale yellow, peach/pale apricot, subtle teal..very very faint....these are the colors in which I feel most relaxed and free. I know, Chinese restaurants are often painted in shades of reds which is considered an appetite stimulent; waiting roos in hospitals are painted "cool," pale shades of celery or powder blue; thought to be relaxing, calming. You are right...that different cultures use and view colors in a wide variety of variances as compared to Western culture. Great hub, JY....UP Useful Interesting and Awesome.

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      I didn't know that.

    • Harsha Vardhana R profile image

      Harsha Vardhana R 

      6 years ago from Bangalore

      Yes, colors are quite effective once a person patiently develops receptivity to it.

      Leonardo da Vinci had suggested that prayer or meditation would be 10 times more powerful if done under violet shade


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