If you close your eyes and imagine walking into a room painted vibrant yellow, how do you feel?
Or perhaps blight blues and white? Rich reds? Black? Can you sense a change in mood, thought, emotion or perhaps even temperature within the body?
The psychology of how colour, and colour therapy affects us is fascinating. From the colour of our office, car or home to the clothes that you wear. There is something about colour that triggers our senses.
Say for example; If you have a cherished, happy memory of a time where you were surrounded by blue skies in a bright, airy space, heated sun, good emotions; smiles, laughs, love – it is likely that you will be somewhat transported back to those feelings, even the warmth of the heated sun of that time should you find yourself in an environment that mimics your memory. It could be a blue or perhaps white spacious room, an object of a colour that resonates with you, something that matches the exact ‘air’ from your memory – making you feel the positive energy from that exact moment back in time.
On the other side, should you have an unpleasant experience, the same might happen should you walk into a similar environment – colours, dark or perhaps garishly bright or even perhaps the bright blues and whites of the above mentioned positive experience may be the triggers of a negative experience for someone else.
Colour can have a significant impact on us
Colour is our intake of light and our perception around it. For example, if we are in a positive environment and experience, our perception and intake of colour is likely to be more vibrant but if say we are unwell, we may have a distorted view of colours, making our perception feel somewhat less vibrant.
Memory holds power in perception also and if we hold happy or negative memories (such as the examples above), we can be transported back to those memories at a glance (not forgetting the other senses, taste, smell, sound, touch). And with this, the body responds. The heart might pick up pace, emotions may be triggered etcetera.
Just as we can learn to re-frame our perceptions of events in traditional therapy, we can use additional colour therapy to adopt different perceptions of our environments.
Colour therapy works with the idea that colours create electrical impulses in our brains that stimulate hormonal and biochemical processes in our body. As we process what we are seeing, we feel calmer or perhaps more roused.
The goal of colour therapy is to correct physiological and psychological imbalances. For instance, if you're stressed, colour therapy can help soothe you so that you can regain your psychological balance. If you're depressed, colour therapy can be used to invigorate you and give you increased energy.
Each colour has a unique therapeutic value, and each can be used to treat a particular physical or emotional problem.
The therapy can vary from actual projection of light within a room, paired with talking-therapy or body work (for example massage) to visualisation and re-framing of thoughts.
It is an ancient practice said to go back to the Ancient Egyptians who believed colours promote healing. Many healers link heavily to the colours associated with our core energy centres, the chakras.
Root – grounding and connection
Sacral – processing information, reproduction, the kidneys and adrenals
Solar Plexus – strength and intuition ‘gut feelings’, pancreas, liver, digestive system, and gallbladder
Heart – connection to ourselves, emotional focus and control and the nervous system, heart, lungs, and immune system
Throat – communication, voice, expression, thyroid and metabolism
Third Eye – intuition, clarity, esteem, wisdom also associated the pituitary gland and pineal gland
Crown – light sensitivity, sleep cycles, dreams, clarity
Lets look at some more colours:
Below shows a chart which shows the anticipated effects of different colours; how they can be visualised, intended and applied to thoughts, feelings and even memories.
Visualisation: A technique in re-framing the perception of an event by ‘brightening’ the imagery. Visualisations and grounding techniques have been used for many years, they create a space for us to re-programme the way we see and interpret thoughts and feelings.
By closing the eyes and imagining either a) an actual event or b) through breath work, finding yourself somewhere of which you are able to describe; this could be an actual place, or an imagined space (this links to thought and feelings of the ‘here and now’), we can be guided to isolate the vision and effectively ‘change’ the way we see things. If we are sitting in a field which is muted greys and dull greens, perhaps we can choose to brighten the image, isolate the vision of the field, make the grass and trees more vibrant, with that the sky, imagine a bright sun (and with that the kinesthetic feelings of heat and introduce auditory aspects (sounds) and the entire sensory realm).
Linked with calm breathing, we are able to re-visit an event, thought, feeling or scenario and create a brighter, more visible environment which in turn aims to lift us from a negative space to a more manageable or uplifted awareness.
This is not to say that a person’s therapeutic needs are going to be resolved through just this technique – but it is an effective way of reducing fear, anxiety and depression when part of a therapeutic process, (American Addiction Society).
Visualisations also are useful when creating a ‘safe space’ to return to when feeling overwhelmed.
Chromotherapy: Looking at or the projection of colours combined with expressing thought and feelings associated with the perception of colours. This is a way of leading conversation in therapy. What does this bring up for you? What are the sensations in the body? How can we then re-frame thoughts and feelings and ultimately change behaviour?
Chromotherapy works toward adjusting the vibrations of the body. It is said that colours possess frequencies of a specific vibration. The sun’s light for example can be broken into a seven colour spectrum and an imbalance of these colours may result in and imbalance of physical and mental symptoms, (Azeemi, Raza, 2005)
Colour ‘baths’: There are a growing number of services who promote their version of Chromotherapy, working with rooms of changing colour. For example ChromaYoga in London (www.chromayoga.co.uk) offer classes ‘combining light therapy and colour psychology techniques’.
They interestingly state: ‘One of the most common colours which affect our day to day routines is blue light. The advances in technology over the past 40 years has culminated in a influx of over exposure to blue light through laptops, smartphones, tv’s and tablets. This prolonged exposure to blue light has been scientifically proven to suppress the production of melatonin and subsequently interferes with our natural circadian rhythms. Suppression of melatonin at night can contribute to a wealth of emotional and physical problems such as insomnia, anxiety, S.A.D.’
You will also find colour ‘saunas’ where you can enjoy the experience of both heat and light therapy in one sitting.
Although there is still research needed around colour therapy there is enough evidence to show that there is an affect linked to the perception of colour within our environment and thoughts; taking us back or into a moment but also bringing us ‘forward’ in our redevelopment of perceived events.
Very interesting and worth having a try. My first suggestion would be, on a rainy day, exploring a visualisation of blue skies and all the senses that create the perfect Summers day. Journal the experience, check in with yourself and persevere - even changing the colour of our clothes, our walls at home or the office, even our towels could have a big affect on our wellbeing. See how you feel!
American Addiction Centres Resource, Colour Therapy
Samina T. Yousuf Azeemi* and S. Mohsin Raza, 2005, A Critical Analysis of Chromotherapy and Its Scientific Evolution
Galyen, Wendy, 2020, What Is Color Therapy, What Is It For, And Is It Right For Me?