What’s your favorite color? If a color (or two) comes to mind immediately, you already understand a lot about how color therapy works. Colors affect us in big and small ways: Some evoke feelings of calm and contentment — the color blue is known for this — while others may inspire feelings of excitement and joy, such as the combination of red and green if you’re someone who celebrates Christmas.
Also known as chromotherapy, the idea behind color therapy is that it can give our mental health a boost and even ease physical pain. Intrigued? Here’s everything you need to know about color therapy, and how to get started.
This history of color therapy
Color therapy is not a new concept. Actually, it’s been around since ancient times: In a 2005 analysis of color therapy, the authors of the study noted that Egyptians utilized sunlight and color for healing, and that in ancient Greece color was thought to be crucial to healing. The authors also note that color has been investigated as a form of medicine since 2000 BC.
While color therapy is still being studied, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence to support the idea that color therapy can have healing benefits and provide a significant mental health boost.
Color therapy has ancient roots.
How different colors are used
Color therapists use specific colors to treat different issues. Here are some examples:
Red: Red is a vibrant, energizing color, so when people are feeling down, tired, or depressed, color therapists will utilize the color red to help energize them. This might involve simply looking at the color red more, or reflecting it on certain body parts in hopes that the body will absorb it through the skin. It’s worth noting that red is an emotional color that can be very triggering for some, especially anxious people, so color therapists are careful in how they use it.
Orange: If you’re dealing with depression-related issues — including struggling to eat enough — color therapists might use orange to elicit feelings of happiness, lightness, and joy. The bright, vibrant color can help stimulate appetite as well.
Yellow: There’s a reason why happy faces are yellow: Yellow is a bright, joyful color. The sun is yellow, which calls to mind feelings of warmth and happiness, not to mention a vitamin D dose. So when people are struggling to feel happy, color therapists will use the color yellow.
Green: What do you think of when you think of the color green? We’re going to guess it’s nature, and that’s what color therapists are thinking about when they use it, too. Studies show that spending time in nature is incredible for our mental and physical health, and there’s evidence that simply viewing scenes or pictures of nature can reduce our stress levels.
Blue: Think of the sky and the ocean. How do you feel? A little calmer? We thought so — and there’s a reason for that. The color blue is commonly used by color therapists to treat anxiety, depression, and pain. And the use of blue isn’t limited to lighter hues: Darker blues are thought to have a sedative effect.
How to get started with color therapy
If the concept of color therapy is an exciting one to you, there are a few easy ways to get started. First, if you’re already seeing a therapist or other mental health provider, ask them if there’s a way you can incorporate color therapy into your treatment plan. They may be able to refer you to a chromotherapist, or if they have any expertise, they can work with you themselves.
You can also “do” color therapy on your own. For example, immersing yourself in nature, or adding pictures of nature to your living space, can help evoke feelings of calm and wellbeing. If you struggle with sleep, you can paint the walls of your bedroom blue. If you’re feeling down, you can try spending more time in the sun or looking at orange and yellow hues.
And while we’ve been exploring color therapy in very broad and general terms, you can also think about what certain colors or color combinations evoke in you. For example, yellows and oranges typically evoke feelings of lightness and happiness, and this may be particularly true for you if you have positive associations with fall. Maybe your grandmother always wore the color red — while for some people this color could evoke feelings of anxiety, maybe that’s not true for you: Because of your association with your grandmother, red could evoke feelings of happiness and comfort.
While color therapy is still being studied, its ancient roots give us reason to believe that it can be an effective treatment for a lot of mental health-related struggles — and potentially physical ones, too.
Next, try journaling for your mental health with these 50 prompts.