Colour Psychology: How Colour Influences Your Brain

There’s a reason McDonald’s is branded in Red and Yellow. And there’s a reason that you feel calmer and more focused when you’re surrounded by blue and green hues. This is called ‘colour psychology’.

Colour Psychology: How Colour Influences Your Brain
In the vast spectrum of colours in our world, each hue can influence our emotions, mood and brain function in subtle, but powerful ways. Colour psychology is a school of study that explores how different colours can affect how we feel and act. Understanding the power of colour can be a game changer to enhance mental wellbeing and cognitive function. So how what does each colour mean for your psychology and how can you use colour to your advantage?

What is colour psychology?

Colour psychology is rooted in the idea that colours have a psychological impact on our behaviour and emotions. Certain colours can influence our mood, stress levels, and even appetite. Colours can mean different things for different people, and geographical and cultural differences can influence the response. However, in general, the human brain tends to respond to colours in the same way. For example, it’s been shown that red can cause increased heart rate and faster reaction times, indicating heightened arousal. And another study found that individuals surrounded by blue reported lower anxiety and improved cognitive performance in tasks requiring sustained attention.
So it’s not surprising that companies use colour charts throughout their brand, packaging and campaigns. For example, McDonalds is red and yellow which is connected to joy and urgency. Red has been shown to make you eat more, and yellow has been shown to make you eat faster. Brands can influence emotions and subtly influence you trust them or purchase their products through colourful packaging. Designers will also use colour psychology in fashion and interiors. For example, bedrooms (and pyjamas) tend to be in more muted and calming tones to make you feel relaxed.

Understanding the colour spectrum

Colours can be broadly categorised into warm colours and cool colours based on their wavelengths.
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Warm colours These colours, like red, orange, and yellow, possess longer wavelengths and are often associated with feelings of excitement, stimulation, and increased energy. They can be ideal for adding a burst of creativity to your home office or gym area.
  • Orange: joy, creativity, optimism, energy
  • Red: love, passion, anger, danger
  • Pink: love, sensitivity
Cool colours Conversely, cool colours like blue, green, and purple have shorter wavelengths and are generally linked to feelings of calmness, relaxation, and improved focus. Consider incorporating these colours into your bedroom or study for a sense of tranquility and concentration.
  • Blue: calmness, focus, trust
  • Green: contentment, relaxing, calming
  • Purple: creativity, pleasure, mystery

Colour Psychology of Blue: Calmness and Productivity

Blue is universally beloved and known for its soothing qualities. It is the colour of the sky and water which are both environments that are proven to calm your mind. In colour psychology, blue is associated with calmness, stability, and productivity. Being in a blue room or incorporating blue elements into your office space can help reduce stress levels and promote a peaceful state of mind, enhancing focus and efficiency.
  • Promote Calmness and Focus: Paint your bedroom or study a light shade of blue or green to create a calming and focused environment. If you can’t paint your room, you can use soft furnishings too.
Blue hues in an office for calmness and focus
Blue hues in an office for calmness and focus

Colour Psychology of Yellow/Orange: Happiness and Creativity

Yellow or orange are the brightest colours perceptible to the human eye, is often associated with sunshine, happiness, and energy. This vibrant colour stimulates the mind, boosts creativity, and evokes feelings of joy. Adding yellow accents to your environment can brighten up the space and inspire creative thinking, making it an excellent choice for studios, workspaces, or any area where innovation is key.
  • Boost Creativity and Motivation: Incorporate accents of yellow or orange into your workspace, like a bright lamp or artwork, to enhance creativity and motivation.

Colour Psychology of Green: Balance and Growth

Green, reminiscent of nature and growth, symbolises balance, harmony, and renewal. It's the perfect colour to incorporate into spaces where you need to rejuvenate and restore your energy. A green room or workspace can help alleviate anxiety, promoting a sense of well-being and encouraging innovative thinking.
Green through plants and decor for relaxation and restoration
Green through plants and decor for relaxation and restoration

How to use colour to influence your mood

Transforming your personal spaces using colour psychology doesn’t require a complete overhaul, and it’s not just limited to interiors. Think about your sleepwear – do you gravitate towards muted, softer shades? “Pastel shades of blue, green or cream are known for their calming, balancing and restorative influence,” Lindsay Edwards told Stylist. “These colours are perfect to wear during yoga or pilates classes.”
  • Dopamine dressing: wear colours to compliment your activity or mood. If you want to feel more confident, wear red. If you want to feel more relaxed when going to a yoga class, wear muted tones or blues.
  • Interiors or soft furnishing: Opt for blue furnishings or paint for work environments to enhance productivity and reduce stress. Blue desk accessories or a calming blue desktop background can also be effective. Use yellow in areas designated for creative projects or hobbies such as using yellow notebooks or wall art.
  • Using lighting: Use different hues of lighting depending on your mood. For example, a warm yellow desk lamp to boost happiness and creativity.
  • Using plants in living areas: Integrate green through indoor plants or green wall accents to bring nature indoors, creating a serene and balanced living space.
  • Get outside: Immerse yourself in the natural colours to influence your mood. Look up at the sky (this is called ‘Skychology’), head to expanses of water for a dose of Blue Prescription or immerse yourself in greens of nature to reduce stress.
The colours that surround us play a crucial role in shaping our emotions and cognitive functions. By understanding and applying the principles of colour psychology, particularly focusing on hues that promote positive emotions like calmness, balance, and creativity, you can create environments that enhance your mental wellness and productivity. Start small, experiment with different shades, and observe the profound impact colours can have on your mood and brain function.

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