We may "feel blue" on a dreary Sunday afternoon. We "see red" when an obnoxious driver cuts us off in traffic. And when we’re "in the pink," nothing can stop us. Believe it or not, there may be something to these common sayings—adherents of color therapy say that different colors can boost your spirits and even improve your health.
Every color in the spectrum is a concentration of a certain kind of light waves. These waves create the sensation of light to our eyes, and it’s their speed that determines what shades we see—different frequencies register on the brain as different colors. The theory behind color therapy is that these different frequencies cause a variety of psychological and physiological responses.
"There have been many studies done about how various colors affect people’s moods and the environment in which they live," says Ted Andrews, author of How to Heal with Color. "Some colors can be very depressing and some can be very enlivening, some stimulate mental activity and some stimulate a sense of cheerfulness. We do know that color affects our moods and affects physical aspects as well as emotional aspects of health."
People have been experimenting with color therapy since ancient times. In the last 30 years, however, people’s interest in color therapy has grown significantly along with other alternative health practices like aromatherapy and acupressure. While there aren’t conclusive studies confirming color’s ability to treat illness or disease, researchers are studying the psychological and physiological effects that colors have. Businesses also are interested in how consumers respond to certain colors—for example, fast food restaurants often use the stimulating shades of red, yellow and orange in their décor while hospitals and medical offices opt for calming blues and greens.
What color is right for you?
While you can’t really prescribe certain colors to treat an illness (say, "take two reds and call me in the morning"), you can use colors as a way of calming or stimulating your body. Different colors promote different responses—for example, red is a stimulating shade and can be used for increasing blood flow while green is calming and soothes the nervous system.
If you’re looking for a color therapist, check with your local metaphysical bookstore or do a search on the Internet. Some use light filters that project different colors onto your body; others recommend special colored oils or colored gels that you bathe in or rub on your skin.
However, it’s just as easy—and less expensive—to perform your own color therapy at home by using colored candles or by "color breathing" where you visualize inhaling a color and your body absorbing it. Wearing different hues is another simple way of adding the power of color to your life.
Certain colors are better for calming or relaxing effects while others tend to be more energizing:
l Red is stimulating, energizing and warming; it’s also good for colds or nasal inflammations.
l Yellow stimulates mental activity; it also eases indigestion and relieves gas.
l Blue is generally very calming and good for respiratory problems such as asthma.
l Green is calming and balancing; it eases anxiety and is good for the nervous system.
l Purple helps to eliminate negativity.
l Pink is a very soothing and healing color; it calms anger and is beneficial for skin conditions.
l Orange, particularly salmon shades, stimulates joy and makes people feel more secure, more outgoing and less sensitive to the influence of others.
l Brown is good for feeling more practical or grounded.
l Black is a very insulating and protective color; it can help you become more focused.
Finally, remember that color therapy shouldn’t be used as a substitute for medical treatment for serious health problems. See your doctor if you have symptoms that concern you.
Kelly James-Enger is a mom living in Downers Grove and a freelance writer specializing in nutrition, women’s health and fitness.
Color healing for common ailments
The next time your head pounds or your stress levels skyrocket, select the appropriate color to treat your symptoms. You can wear it, burn a colored candle or visualize breathing in that particular hue:
Anger: soft emerald green or pastel pink.
Anxiety: anything in the green to blue range.
Asthma: turquoise blue.
Colds/congestion: any shade of red.
Eye strain: deep indigo or royal blue.
Headaches: light pastel yellow or icy blue.
Indigestion: shades of light or lemon yellow.
Skin problems: pink.
Vision problems: pale green.