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How colour affects your mood

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Our lives are bursting with colour. Nature is full of it from bright blue skies to deep red roses. A yellow sun can lift our mood whereas a grey mist can make us feel gloomy. But why does colour have an effect on how we feel?

"Colour is more than just a visual experience; its transformative power influences our mood and behaviour," says Karen Haller, an expert in applied colour psychology.

She says: "Established research into theories relating to colour and psychology suggest each colour has specific effects that influence us on all levels; mental, emotional and physical."

"We have a subconscious association with colour, some associations are engrained, and others are cultural or personal," says consumer psychologist and colour expert Kate Nightingale.

Colour psychologists believe that the colour you paint the rooms of your home and workplace can have a big effect on mood, helping to improve your environment as well as supporting emotions and wellbeing.

So what do different colours and hues make us feel like?


To feel blue is to feel sad but that's not an emotion associated with the colour itself, which is often regarded as people’s favourite colour.

"Blue is largely associated with nature around the world; the massive sky the vastness of sea," says Kate. "It is associated with openness, a perception of a bigger space and a feeling of relaxation."

Naomi Martell-Bundock is a wellbeing expert and stress management specialist. She says: "My personal favourite is muted blues with white in bedrooms - not strong contrasts; that's too stimulating; but clean, soft blues help calm the mind for a restful night's sleep; and the freshness of the white works in the morning to set you up well for the day."


When you think of red it can conjure up associations with danger and sex.

Red has a connection with love in our modern day culture - think of red roses and red hearts. In the animal world the backsides of female baboons and chimps often redden when they are ovulating to attract a mate.

A 2008 study by researchers at the University of Rochester in New York found that women wearing red were regarded as more attractive and desirable than those in other coloured clothes.

"Red is long associated with danger, passion and love," says Kate, "your body starts reacting to the colour subconsciously."

Red may also give you a competitive advantage in the world of sport. Research from the University of Durham found when Olympic athletes who were evenly matched competed, those in red won significantly more than those wearing blue.

"Red energises through being stimulating, motivating, it's about physical action," says Karen.

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