Colour psychology (also known as chromatherapy in healthcare applications) is the study and understanding of the effects of colour, how we feel and how we perform.

Many studies have been conducted and research undertaken that confirms that when we see a colour we instantly feel its effect, whether we are consciously aware of it or not.

Colour psychologist Karen Haller says that colour is a powerful tool for all kinds of reasons. One of the biggest is how colour affects mood, and sets the general atmosphere in a space.

Each colour has positive and negative psychological effects depending how it is used. The key to a positive harmonious colour palette is the relationship between combinations of colour, which can be used to change the mood between rooms in your home or place of business.

For businesses, colour strengthens and supports the company’s values, brand and image, from company logo and stationery through to the carpet in the reception area, and colour can be used to elicit specific customer responses.

Colours can have a very strong effect on the human mind and the choices we make throughout our day, but experts recommend revision of the widely popular assumptions with regard to the use of colour on ceilings and walls. They suggest that in order to make a room appear higher, use light colour tones on walls as well as the ceiling. The colour of the floor has no effect on the way that room height is perceived.

Here are some common associations with basic colours and how they affect us psychologically.

White – is a relaxing colour that projects purity, cleanliness and neutrality, which is why doctors have white coats and brides traditionally wear white dresses.

Blue – is peaceful, seen as trustworthy, dependable and committed. The colour of ocean and sky, blue is perceived as a constant in our lives. Blue invokes rest and can cause the body to produce chemicals that are calming; however, not all blues are serene and sedate.

Electric or brilliant blues become dynamic and dramatic – engaging colours that express exhilaration – although some shades of blue may come across as cold or uncaring.

The colour blue slows respiration and heartbeat, making us feel calmer. Walls painted a medium blue can make a small room appear larger because our eyes focus blue in the front of the retina. Blue also has a reputation for inhibiting appetite.

Yellow – depicts optimism, enlightenment and happiness, but it can provoke anxiety. Shades of golden yellow carry the promise of a positive future. Yellow will advance from surrounding colours and instil optimism and energy, as well as spark creative thoughts.

Although happiness, joy and hope are connected with yellow, experts find that spending long periods of time surrounded by yellow that is unrelieved by other colours can make a person irritable and hostile.

Perhaps someone should tell the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge that studies done at the University of Chicago indicate that babies cry more in yellow rooms. Balancing yellow with other colours can help relieve this problem!

Green – is the soothing and pervasive colour in the natural world, making it an ideal backdrop in interior design because we are so used to seeing it everywhere.

The natural greens, from forest to lime, are seen as tranquil and refreshing, with a natural balance of cool and warm (blue and yellow) undertones. Green is considered the colour of peace and ecology.

Recent concern for environmental issues has brought green a new level of popularity. Dark green has been a traditional favourite for years, and current colour-trend forecasts expand the palette, featuring a wide variety of greens.

Because we focus the colour green directly on the retina, it’s the easiest colour for the eye to see, and the best colour to use in a study or library because it helps us to read, relax and concentrate. The colour is also connected with feelings of security and stability. Because it’s considered the colour of home and hearth, it can help ease homesickness.

Purple – a mysterious colour that embodies the balance of red’s stimulation and blue’s calm. This can cause unrest or uneasiness unless the undertone is clearly defined, at which point the purple takes on the characteristics of its undertone.

Shades of purple and violet can relax and stimulate us at the same time. Violet is relaxing, making it a good choice for use in a bedroom setting. Purple is often favoured by artists, designers and musicians because it stimulates creativity. Daydreams are more likely when you’re surrounded by purple, which in turn can stimulate imagination.

Red – This is the most dynamic and energising colour of the spectrum. The warmest colour, with the longest wavelength, closest to infrared, it can make us feel hot. Red makes food look more appealing and is used widely to great advantage in restaurants and kitchens.

The intensity of red can be overwhelming; tone it down with shades of green and blue-green that are its opposite on the colour spectrum. Plants or art in these colours will provide necessary visual balance.

Colour in healthcare applications

Colour therapy is the principle that certain colours are infused with healing powers. The seven colours of the rainbow improve balance and healing in the mind and body, and this form of therapy also works in conjunction with hydrotherapy and aromatherapy to enhance the healing effect.

Research shows colour directly influences human behaviour. Knowing the basic principles of each colour and how to use it accurately is important in creating suitable, salubrious healthcare settings.

Architects, interior designers and healthcare administrators put a great deal of thought into creating holistic, therapeutic environments. For instance, the colour selection for a patient’s room depends on how long someone will reside there.

A neutral or pastel colour scheme may be suitable in a hospital room where the patient is likely to stay only a week, but a patient in a long-term care facility spends considerable time in one room, and such a colour scheme can become boring, as well as difficult to use for people with low vision.

Long-term care facilities and nursing homes should provide rooms with a balance of colour and a mixture of contrasting tones. Essentially, the idea is to keep the space fresh and interesting with clearly defined visual effects.

The colour and interior design of a space is an issue of comfort as well as functionality. Specialised facilities like those for people with Alzheimer’s disease should avoid patterns because they create confusion.

When decorating a space the colours red, blue, yellow and green can be used to restore people’s health. These colours relate correspondingly to the body, mind, and emotions—and the essential balance among them.

According to colorconnections.com, the psychological properties of these colours are as follows: Red raises blood temperature, stimulates circulation, and is used to care for people with anaemia, fatigue, paralysis and exhaustion.

Blue is used for cases of inflammatory conditions, burns and bruises. It also helps with eczema, psoriasis, rashes and sores. In addition, blue helps alleviate tension, stress and problems with the immune system. It is believed to relieve insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, migraines and skin irritation.

Yellow is used to aid digestion as well as the liver and intestine process. Yellow is thought to have decongestant and antibacterial properties to act as a cleanser for the body. It has been known to help relieve rheumatism and arthritis.

Green creates balance and harmony within the body. It is especially good for heart and blood problems. It is known to influence the human cell structure and muscles.

Orange gives vitality to the body and is associated with the kidneys, urinary tract and reproductive organs.

Purple is associated with the eyes, ears, nose and mouth. It helps with head congestion and sinuses, and is known to calm the nervous system.

Flooring

Although the colour of the flooring may not necessarily affect depth perception, it will definitely contribute to or alter the tone of the room. With floor paint now an option for sealing concrete screed floors, the colour scheme may be extended to the lowest surface too.

Standard Floor Paint neutrals are available that will contribute soothing undertones to sanctuary-like interiors, but it also comes in a versatile offering of tinted brights that will lend upbeat energy to a room.

Treatments for walls in 2014 have been predicted in a colour forecast created by international trend analyst and Plascon’s colour manager, Anne Roselt. While largely vibrant, there are four inspiring directions: a bold tribal palette; a collection of contemporary pastels; new, bright ‘naturals’ that include sharp green and yellow; and serene and contemplative colours inspired by the night sky.

Acknowledgement and thanks are given to the following for information contained in the compilation of this article: www.colorconnections.com; www.http://karenhaller.co.uk; www.diynetwork.com; www.pva.org and Plascon.