Imogen Bond, TW’s resident expert on all things creative, is a firm believer in the mood-boosting power of colour.
The start of spring is one of my favourites times of the year. The reason? Colour.
For me there’s nothing more cheering than seeing bright heads of daffodils, or the first signs of blossom appearing in the early spring sunshine. Forget New Year, this is the time of year for me that feels most alive with possibility and fresh starts.
I think my love of colour started when I was a student at Bristol University. To pay my way I got a part-time job working in a flower shop in the rather swanky Clifton Village. The florist, Lisa, had newly taken over the shop when I popped in one day in my Fresher’s Week to enquire about work. She took me on as she needed help on Fridays and Saturdays, despite the fact I had no floristry experience to speak of.
I don’t know what made her give me a go – perhaps my willingness to learn, or my obvious love of the gorgeous flower display, or simply the fact that, as I was doing an English degree, she assumed I could spell and so tasked me with writing all the cards sent out with bouquets!
Whatever it was, I got stuck into creating colourful displays of all sorts, learning the ropes as fast as I could, and loving every minute of it. Walking into the shop quickly became a foolproof mood booster; seeing the flower stand stuffed with gorgeous blooms in a rainbow of colour never failed to cheer me up.
The science of colour
There is actually some science behind why colour affects our moods. The retina at the
back of the eye sends signals to the visual cortex for the brain to interpret, but it also
sends signals to the hypothalamus, which plays no part in forming visual images. Instead, the hypothalamus is a key part of the brain responsible for the secretion of hormones, which control many aspects of the body’s self-regulation, including temperature, sleep, hunger and circadian rhythms.
The idea is that different colours might signal to the hypothalamus to respond differently. For example, research from Leeds University suggests that red can raise the heart rate and blood pressure slightly, whilst blue can slow it down.
These physical effects can have a real world application. In 2009 blue lights were installed at platforms on Tokyo’s Yamanote railway line to help reduce the incidences of suicide, and indeed suicides fell by 74% – similar coloured lighting has also been installed at Gatwick Airport train platforms too.
Give colour a go
If you’d like to put colour to work for you, here are a few ideas to get you started. Yellow is known for its mood-boosting effect, so introduce pops of yellow into your home. Even a big bunch of daffodils is a supremely easy way to get happy.
Try painting the wall opposite your bed with calming blue or positive pink. Tester pots are a great way to do this without spending a fortune. Cushions, throws or bed linen in brighter colours are also great ways to experiment with colour.
Add a bright scarf or jumper to a darker outfit – wearing colour is one of the most fun ways to instantly affect your mood, and those around you. Don’t worry if it’s not ‘you’, give it a go, you might be surprised at the reaction it gets.
Eat a rainbow – fill your plate with foods of every colour, great for a vitamin boost too.
Or, very simply, find your inner child and get painting – throw perfect out the window and give it a go. Splatter, splodge and swirl your way to feeling more joyful.
Get creative with colour, you never know – it might just cheer up a grey day.