Color Therapy 101

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Hello dear friends!

As I sat in the waiting room for a doctor's appointment the other day, I noticed that I started feeling an usual amount of anxiety. I typically dislike waiting rooms (who doesn't?), especially when there are lots of people, televisions/radios, or other stimulation. But I've been through this kind of experience countless times by now, so what on earth was my problem? As I closed my eyes and did a round of centering breath, the answer came to me. It was the wall color. Now, I know that may sound a bit out there, but the affects of colors on the human mind has been acknowledged for centuries. It's just not something we think about very often! Once I identified that the putrid yellow-green color on the wall was irritating me, I was able to get up and move to a different seat, thankfully one with a view that was a little less grating!

Our environment has power. What we see, hear, smell, taste, feel, and sense can affect us, especially those of us who experience heightened sensitivities, those with touchy nervous systems, and those with empathic gifts. And while most people will acknowledge that an overpowering perfume can be distracting, many people don't give a second thought to the wall color. But why?

Let's start with a little science...

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It has been estimated that the human eye is capable of detecting over 10 million different colors, with 1000 variations of light/dark, 100 variations between red/green, and 100 variations between yellow/blue. This incredible capability gives our world amazing depth and richness, with shades and tones across the spectrum making everything look unique. Color is, in scientific terms, the aspect of something that is characterized by different qualities of light being either emitted or reflected. In order to have color, we must first have light. White light, like that produced by the sun’s rays, reflects all the wavelengths in the color spectrum equally (and absorbs none), which is why when you hold up a prism to pure white light, it scatters into a rainbow. The color black is the direct opposite- it absorbs all the wavelengths of light and reflects none. Each and every shade, all 10 million of them, are created from a combination of these two principles.

All light rays contain color, which is made up of electromagnetic waves. The wavelength, or distance between corresponding parts of two of the waves, determines the color that we see. In the human eye, the longest wavelength that we can detect is red, and the shortest is violet. Ultraviolet light has an even shorter wavelength, but we cannot see it, although many animals can. Infrared light has a longer wavelength than red, and while we cannot see this one either, we can feel its heat. Light, and the color it contains, is pure energy, and our bodily systems respond to this energy. This is the basis for modalities like color therapy, which have been practiced for thousands of years.

In the culture of India, along with the rise of yoga and Ayurveda, came the chakra system, which is one of the most common ways to work with color. These ancient practitioners found that there were seven main energy centers of the body, and each had a corresponding color, which matched the vibration/wavelength of that chakra. In many ways, this traditional knowledge has influenced modern secular color therapy and the study of color psychology, as the human brain tends to have similar responses to the same color. And just like we all have different personalities, experiences, and brain chemistry, each of us may be drawn to or repulsed by different shades. But the overall effects remain intact, especially in a therapeutic setting.

Drawing from the wisdom of the chakra system, here is how we categorize the main color groups and their actions on the mind and body:

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Red

  • Associated with the first chakra, the root chakra
  • Stimulates blood flow, body temperature, and overall energy
  • Contains long wavelengths which are good for grounding, connecting to our center, and finding strength, stability, and security
  • In marketing, the color red is linked with: excitement, youth, sensuality, and boldness

Orange

  • Associated with the second, aka the sacral, chakra
  • Creates warmth in the body, along with creative and sexual energy
  • Good for encouraging connection and relationships, enhancing receptivity to pleasure, and stimulating vitality and joy
  • Known as the “social color”
  • In marketing, orange is linked to friendliness, cheerfulness, and confidence
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Yellow

  • Associated with the third chakra, the solar plexus
  • Brings brightness, empowerment, and motivation
  • Good for lifting mood, enhancing willpower, and stimulating self-esteem, abundance, and healthy digestion
  • In marketing, yellow is used to convey warmth, optimism, and clarity

Green

  • Associated with the fourth, or heart, chakra
  • Known as the most healing and nourishing color
  • Balances the immune system, helps generate new growth in the brain and body, and connects us to universal compassion and connection
  • In marketing, green is linked to growth, prosperity, health, and peace
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Blue/Teal

  • Associated with the fifth, aka throat, chakra
  • Known as the “color of truth”
  • Cooling to the body and mind, creating a spacious, airy energy
  • Very thoughtful, spiritual color, good for enhancing communication, and encouraging flow between the head and the heart
  • In marketing, this color conveys strength, trust/truth, and dependability

Indigo

  • Associated with the third eye, the sixth chakra
  • Signifies spiritual wisdom and deep connection to Source
  • Sedating and meditative color, good for developing inner peace, intuition, and clarity
  • Work on both the pituitary and pineal glands, and helps regulate sleep/wake cycles
  • In marketing, deep blues and purples signify wisdom and imagination
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Violet

  • Associated with the highest chakra, the crown chakra
  • Known as the “color of transformation”
  • Good for slowing down nervous energy, and connecting us to our Divine purpose
  • Helps to balance the right and left hemispheres of the brain, enhances dream activity, and heightens meditation/prayer
  • In marketing, violet and lighter versions of it are generally thought to be creative, calm, and balanced

If you are new to working with color, this guideline is a great place to start. I would invite you to begin noticing the colors in your environment and how they make you feel. Experiment with using different colored lights (or filters) in your home, or paint your walls to invite your desired energy. There are so many ways that we can harness the healing vibrations of color to balance our minds and bodies, so get out and explore, and see what resonates with you!

So friends, what colors do you absolutely love? Which ones set your teeth on edge? Tell me in the comments!

And until next time...

~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~