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4 Ways Color and Light Influence your Mind and Emotions

4 Ways Color and Light Influence your Mind and Emotions

The spectrum of color and light is a vast kaleidoscope, a pallet with which your brain works to paint a picture. What does your painting look like? Adjusting the colors you wear, the colors you surround yourself with, and the lighting around you will help you adjust your emotions. This is a matter of understanding not just the generalizations and applications generated by scientific research, but your own associations as well.

Adjusting the colors you wear, the colors you surround yourself with, and the lighting around you will help you adjust your emotions. This is a matter of understanding not just the generalizations and applications generated by scientific research, but your own associations as well.

1. Color temperature

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    In layman’s terms, color temperature is the intensity and brightness of light. As the term color temperature suggests, the level of brightness has a direct bearing on color. You can view an interactive example of color temperature’s effect on a room at the Lightbulbs website. Note how the different levels of light change the hue of the room.

    The 6500K setting renders the room bluer and is closest to the sun’s intensity at high noon. The lower the color temperature, the warmer and more golden the light, the warmer the color of the room.

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    Light at a higher color temperature promotes a higher level of alertness, while lower, redder light has a calming effect. Simply the way you light a room can help determine your level of energy.

    2. Blue light and sleep

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      Bluer light, which has a higher color temperature, is closer to midday sunlight and has an alerting property. Research from PLOS Biology explains how this type of light interacts with the brain. Blue light interacts with a photopigment called melanopsin. Melanopsin is especially sensitive to blue light, and together with the rods and cones in our eyes, it signals the brain to be vigilant. Green light has the opposite effect—it promotes sleep. According to the researchers, “All studies converge to show that blue-enriched light is more efficient in increasing performance and decreasing sleepiness.”

      Your cell phone and your computer screen emit a great deal of blue light. Have you looked into how a lack of sleep affects your mood? If you’re getting too much blue light throughout the day, particularly near bedtime, your sleep may be suffering. In turn, you’re crankier, more depressed, overly emotional.

      The good news is you now know that green light helps with sleep. Working on a computer all day? A program such as F.lux adjusts your screen’s color temperature so you’re not constantly inundated with blue light.

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      3. Color and light

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        I’ve been discussing the color temperature of light and its effect on the brain. Light also determines how we see color. When light hits an object, such as a banana, the banana absorbs some of the light and reflects the rest. When you look at a banana and see yellow, it’s because the banana is reflecting back light that fits within a certain wavelength. That wavelength corresponds to the color yellow.

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          In turn, your brain has a certain association with the color yellow. The association our brains have with colors, and the resulting emotions and impulses, are very important. For one, they influence something as simple as choosing a tablecloth.

          Occitan Imports has an interesting point to make here. In the blog post, A Simple Question of Color, they chronicle how a customer asked if a red tablecloth was more on the ‘blue side’, or the ‘orange side’, of red. The answer to the question would determine the purchase. Occitan points out that, “The color of an object is heavily influenced by the nature of the light that is hitting it.” This is because, as you saw earlier, the color temperature of light interacts with the hue of objects.

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          Try changing the color temperature of the light in your room to see how it affects your mood. To treat Seasonal Affective Disorder and other common mood disorders, counselors often recommend light therapy. Light therapy alters color temperature to simulate sunlight, which really brings out the full color of things.

          4. Color and the emotions

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            How, exactly, color alters emotions is still being studied. A study of college students found that they had the most positive emotional responses to the principle colors: red, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

            Red is associated with excitement, passion, and warmth. Green is calm, refreshing, balanced. Yellow is stimulating, optimistic, confident, friendly. Blue is intellectual, logical, trustworthy. Violet is luxurious, authentic, spiritually aware.

            These are the positive associations, but the study also found cultural and personal experience creates positive or negative associations. There are negative emotional analogues to colors. Yellow is oftentimes associated with fear, red with rage, green with boredom, violet with feelings of inferiority, and blue with coldness and unfriendliness.

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            Black can be associated with emotional security and safety, but it also can suggest menace and emotional coldness. Brown can be reliable, supportive, serious, but it can also be humorless. Pink can be tranquil, warm, and loving, but too much can be emotionally claustrophobic. Orange can be fun, vibrant and active, but can also be frustratingly frivolous and immature. Gray is neutral at best. White is clear and pure, but can be unfriendly, expressionless, sterile.

            To evoke certain emotions with colors, to alter mood, pay attention to the emotions colors cause in you. If you’re feeling dull and trapped, try red. If you’re feeling anxious, try green. If it seems like you make people feel uncertain, try blue. Work with the lighting and the colors in your workspace and your home until you find a balance that feels right to you.

            Work with the lighting and the colors in your workspace and your home until you find a balance that feels right to you.

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            Dan Matthews, CPRP

            A Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

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            Published on November 2, 2020

            How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

            How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

            I get my best ideas when I’m not trying—when I’m zoning out in the shower or taking my dog for a walk. Suddenly, something I’ve been racking my brain to figure out seems to just come to me. It may seem like magic, but it’s actually just my unconscious mind coming through for the win.

            What Is Conscious Thought?

            Let’s start by explaining what the unconscious mind is not. I want you to think about what your dream house would look like if money were no object. Then, think about where you were the first time you can remember feeling joy.

            That voice in your head that was talking you through those two tasks is your conscious mind. Simply put, any thought process that you are aware of (conscious of) is part of your conscious mind. I’m using my conscious mind as I sit here and write this article.

            One of the major brain centers for conscious thought is in your prefrontal cortex. This is on the outside of your brain behind your forehead. Some of the downsides of conscious thought are that it’s energetically taxing and finite. What I mean is, your conscious mind can only think one thing at a time, and it burns through a lot of glucose to do so.

            Try to figure out the square root of 2400 while creating a grocery list. You can skip back and forth between those two tasks, but your conscious mind can’t wrestle with both simultaneously.

            Also, think of a time when you were utilizing your conscious mind for an extended period. Maybe you were in classes all day or busy with a tough work task late into the night. You were probably exhausted after such intensive and extended conscious thought.

            What Is the Unconscious Mind?

            That’s why the unconscious mind is such a valuable resource. It isn’t energy taxing, and it is virtually limitless. Your unconscious mind could be trying to figure out thousands of problems right now.

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            The downside is that you aren’t conscious of any of it until you are—until your unconscious thoughts make it into your consciousness.

            That’s why it behooves us to figure out how to create the right environment for our unconscious minds to flourish.

            System 1 and System 2 Thinking

            Daniel Kahneman’s seminal book Thinking, Fast and Slow gives us another way to think about the difference between the unconscious and conscious minds. Kahneman describes two different modes of thought called System 1 and System 2.

            System 1 is quick, emotional, and intuitive, while System 2 is slow, methodical, and logical. System 1 works in tandem with System 2.

            For example, if you see someone looking at you, your System 1 might assume they are upset with you. Then, your System 2 takes over to process information and discern what might actually be going on at that moment.

            Kahneman warns us that System 1 and System 2 are metaphors for how the mind works.[1] It would be an oversimplification to try to explain specific regions where System 1 and System 2 thinking takes place. However, System 1 and 2 is a powerful way of thinking about different modes of thinking. Kahneman calls System 1 automatic thinking and System 2 effortful.

            The idea of focus is key here. In a famous experiment, participants were told to watch a video and count how many times people in the video passed a ball to each other. This required their System 2 thinking. However, the intense focus required for this experiment caused most people to miss the fact that while the people in the video were passing the ball, a person in a gorilla suit slowly made his way through the shot.

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            How to Make Your Unconscious Mind Work For You

            Focusing too intensely can cause us to miss details and solutions better suited to our unconscious mind. That’s why we sometimes have to stop and chill out, instead of forcing solutions.

            Here are five ways to make your unconscious mind work for you.

            1. Manage Stress

            Your unconscious mind is not a big fan of you being stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed. Managing stress is important if you want to be able to come up with those effortless “aha!” ideas.

            Imagine that you’re under a strict work deadline. Your anxiety is compounded by the fact that you’re worried about losing your job and that your entire family relies on your income. This is an incredible amount of pressure that makes it tough for your unconscious mind to break through with that effortless creativity.

            Think back to the video where the person in the gorilla suit sneaks through all the people passing the ball around. Most people are so focused on the task at hand that they don’t see the most interesting part of the video. Stress and pressure can lead to a kind of tunnel vision that works the same way. Our attention becomes so narrowly focused that we aren’t able to zoom out and connect the dots between broader patterns and ideas.

            That’s why it’s crucial to find ways to manage stress. I recently spoke with humor engineer Drew Tarvin who explained the 4 R’s of managing stress.[2]

            First, try to reduce stress by eliminating stressors from your life. This might mean finding a less stressful job or leaving earlier for work.

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            Next, reframe the stresses that you can’t eliminate. Reframing isn’t pretending that your stress doesn’t exist; it’s trying to think differently and change your perspective about stressors that do exist. This might mean looking at the bright side or trying to see the bigger picture. If I don’t want to quit my stressful job, I can try to reframe by thinking more about the money I make or the times I feel fulfilled at work.

            The third step is to relieve stress. This means finding ways to relax throughout the day. You might try meditating or watching funny cat videos on YouTube to clear your head and relieve your stress.

            Finally, refresh. Find ways to take more extensive breaks where you completely de-stress. Pre-COVID, this might have meant taking a vacation to a beach somewhere. But now, you’ll have to get more creative as you find ways to put your phone down, forget about work, and come back completely refreshed.

            2. Take Breaks

            Part of stress management is taking breaks. But taking breaks is also an important part of tapping into your unconscious mind.

            When I’m trying to figure out how to structure an article or put together ideas for a larger project, I schedule in time to completely put the project down. This allows my unconscious mind the freedom to come up with some truly novel solutions, and unlike conscious thought, it feels effortless.

            This is that experience of the light bulb suddenly going on while you’re showering or driving to work. When you aren’t focused on anything in particular, your unconscious mind has the quiet it needs to bubble up to become conscious thought.

            So, take breaks. One strategy is what’s called the Pomodoro Technique, which is when you stop to take a five-minute break after every 25 minutes of work. This allows you to recharge. Plus, by systematically easing your intense focus, you are giving your unconscious mind opportunities to come up with some truly novel ideas.

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            3. Get Creative

            The unconscious mind is great at effortlessly seeing patterns and finding interesting solutions, but for this to happen, it needs some inspiration. That means creating and consuming as much creativity as you can.

            Pick up an artistic or creative hobby. Paint, write, build, or dance. It’s also helpful to consume creativity. Go to museums, read poetry, and walk in nature. Taking in creativity with your conscious mind will give your unconscious mind all the inspiration it needs to be able to do its thing.

            4. Don’t Force It

            The most crucial takeaway about the unconscious mind is that you can’t force it. You can struggle and strain all you want when you’re using your conscious mind, but the unconscious mind can only bubble to the surface when you aren’t trying so hard.

            Think back to that phenomenon of having an aha moment while you’re showering or walking your dog. The unconscious mind is better able to break through when you aren’t focused so intensely on whatever it is you’re trying to solve.

            So, relax and give yourself some time and space. That’s when your unconscious mind is most likely to breakthrough.

            5. Play

            Finally, don’t forget about the power of play. Play is inherently fun, and a playful mode of thinking allows your unconscious mind more of a chance to innovate. If you turn your task into a game, you’ll be more relaxed, have more fun, and collaborate better with your colleagues. That means you’ll be more likely to riff and get to a more creative “unconscious mind” solution.

            You can also add play throughout your day to tap into this freer, less constrained kind of thinking. Turn your commute into a game, play hide and seek with your children, or join a local bowling league. This will help you get reacquainted with your childlike sense of joy, wonder, and curiosity—all key ingredients to nurturing and fostering your unconscious mind.

            Final Thoughts

            Dealing with and utilizing your unconscious mind is very different from doing so with your conscious mind. Tapping your unconscious mind is a technique that, when done right, can help you get what you want by untapping your potential.

            Featured photo credit: Katerina Jerabkova via unsplash.com

            Reference

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