“Mere color can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.” ~Oscar Wilde
As children, my brother Ian and I published a short-lived comic book featuring a curious raccoon named Charlie. Ian, who would grow up to be a talented artist, drew the comic and allowed me to color in his drawings and add dialogue to the word bubbles. In the first issue, where our hapless hero Charlie gets stuck in a trashcan, I diligently colored and wrote, proudly handing the finished comic back to my brother. He stared at it, his nose wrinkling in disgust. He looked at me in pity, said, “Are you blind?”
Turns out, I kinda am. We discovered soon after that I am one of the rare .05% of women who are colorblind. As the gene for color blindness is located on the X-chromosome, it’s quite rare for a female to be colorblind. Basically, the rods and cones in my eyes are inefficient at absorbing photons, those tiny particles of light that allow us to perceive color. Ian quickly appointed himself Artistic Director and I was relegated solely to penning the words that would move Charlie’s story along.
I share this so that you understand my perception of neutral colors is limited and inaccurate. I cannot discriminate between shades of brown, gray, dark green, or dark blue. I can drive because I know that the red light is on top and the green light on the bottom. I have no idea what taupe means. Ecru, eggshell, ivory, cream or vanilla are all just white to me.
Remember #thedress, when the Twitterspehere went bananas deciding if it was #blueandblack or #whiteandgold? That’s my everyday reality.
But I see bold, vibrant colors well, as they vibrate at a higher frequency and have a more excitable molecular structure than neutrals. So I was beyond stoked this week to see my first sunny yellow daffodil poking his head out of the ground. “Hey there, you!” I sang, grinning like an idiot. “Welcome back!” I noticed that I felt cheerful and ebullient the rest of the day.
Humans evolved to discern red berries on a bush or yellow bananas hanging from a tree. Seeing those colors meant the difference between eating and going hungry.
Yet science has discovered that it is our brains and not our eyes that see colors. Our gray matter reconstructs images in the occipital lobe. Since the brain is the seat of both color and feeling, it’s no surprise that we are emotionally aroused by vibrant shades and tints. Bright yellow evokes feelings of sunshine and warmth; red and orange makes us feel happy, energetic and sometimes hungry. Green symbolizes new beginnings and health, while blues calm our nervous system, purples connect us to the divine and pink makes us romantic.
As I write this in late March, my eyes are ready to come out of hibernation. Though the drab starkness of winter carries its own beauty, I’m certain that Heaven looks a lot like springtime in Kentucky, with its yellow forsythia, purple crocus and wild redbud trees.
Color psychology can prime our brain for joy and enthusiasm. Spring into the season by bringing more color into your life. Wear bright colors, buy some fresh cut flowers for your dining room table, or spice up your living room with some new throw blankets or pillows. Dress up an office space by adding some colorful picture frames to display your favorite photos or adopt a green spider plant.
Just as important, change out all your lights for bulbs with full spectrum lighting, which mimics natural sunlight to emit all the colors of the rainbow and reduce depression. Also look for “warm” bulbs (sometimes called soft white). David bought a bunch of “cool light” (or daylight) energy-saving bulbs on clearance at Lowe’s recently. Daylight is good, right? After installing them in the yoga studio, everyone looked washed out and sickly, as if they were recovering from a particularly nasty stomach flu. While cool lighting helps you feel alert, and is perfect for bathrooms and garages, the colors in most living spaces will seem more welcoming if you choose warm lighting.
Start looking at your world as a canvas. Create your best reality, and don’t forget to use the whole box of crayons.