Healthy Hues: Harness the Power of Color

Which color springs to mind when you see the word clean? How about cold? Or spicy? We’re conditioned to associate particular colors with concepts and moods. Blue, for example, is often linked to nature. As a result, most people find sky blues to be tranquil and relaxing. Once you’re aware of how color affects your mood and behavior, use that knowledge strategically in every part of your life—from the color of your walls and clothes to the plates you use—to help enhance your mental or physical health. There’s truly a whole spectrum to consider. 

How do colors make you feel? Learn how red, black, blue white, yellow and brown influence you.


Think back to the comfort foods of your youth: macaroni and cheese, chicken soup, vanilla and butterscotch puddings, even popcorn and biscuits. It’s not much of a leap to see why soft, buttery yellows often trigger feelings of nostalgia, warmth (think: sunlight) and even safety. Of course, you’ll want to stick with lower-calorie sun-colored foods like corn, butternut, squash and papaya.

Yellow is comforting in other forms as well. Studies have found that when the eye takes in yellow, the brain releases more serotonin, a neurotransmitter that has been linked to depression if the body produces too little of it. Incorporate a soft chamois, butterscotch or honey yellow into your living room, entryway or foyer to boost moods—an antidepressant that comes in a paint can instead of a pill bottle.

The color once associated mostly with soil—or, worse yet, dirtiness—has reemerged as a rich mocha, linked to the robust flavors of coffee and chocolate. Many people who claim not to like brown have beautiful dark wood floors or armoires that have been in the family for generations. Perhaps because of its association with the stability of the earth, brown connotes security. Use it generously in bedrooms to increase the sleep-inducing sensations of safety and comfort, whether through sturdy, mahogany-colored furniture or rich, sumptuous fabrics for bedspreads and linens.

Almost all blues provide a sense of serenity. The dark-primary blues typical of twilight and
predawn welcome reflection and rest, while the sparkling turquoises and aquamarines
of tropical waters convey a type of relaxation that comes with more energy and heat.
Maybe that’s why heart rate and perspiration drop and breathing deepens when people look at blue. Bath manufacturers have begun to offer chromatherapy tubs and showerheads that
incorporate colored lights to maximize the relaxing benefits of a soak or shower.

For a fix that doesn’t require new fixtures, toss aqua-tinted bath beads or aromatherapy
salts into a warm tub to maximize the beneficial effects of soaking away stress and
inflammation that can exacerbate conditions like arthritis.

From ceilings to sheets, towels to table settings, white is forever classic. We associate white with cleanliness and purity—hence its prevalence in bridal gowns—but that can lead
to too much of a good thing. Pure white used throughout a house can come off as “super-pristine, and that leads to a feeling of coldness.

Furthermore, too much white in a room can lead to headaches and eyestrain. To avoid a sensation similar to snow blindness, temper the white with colored furniture or accessories, so that white constitutes no more than 75 percent of the room. Or reduce the brightness to
more of a creamy off-white. Your eyes will thank you.

There’s a lot of beauty, elegance and sophistication in black. But too much black is intimidating, if not downright sinister. Its inky darkness evokes moonless nights and the
finality of the grave, making it the go-to hue for mourners, Goths and sullen teens alike.

When discussing colors, those suffering from anxiety and depression name black and its lethargic cousin, gray, as the ones that best represented their mood—and as the colors they’re most drawn to. The Family Guide to Surviving Stroke and Communication Disorders warns that darker shades in room color can themselves have a depressing effect. To help ward off a lack of energy and banish the blues, limit the black and gray in your life
and surround yourself with sunnier tones like yellow.

Whether positively or negatively, no color stimulates like red, a hallmark of fruits and berries at their ripest, flowers in full bloom and even the flushed lips and cheeks of sexual arousal. It’s also the color of spilled blood, which may explain the body’s involuntary, fight-or-flight-style reaction to casting a glance at the color, including elevated breath and pulse rate and an increase in both adrenaline and perspiration.

Most reds fall into either warm (orange-red) or cool (blue-red) categories, and only the right one will truly flatter your complexion. Research about women and cosmetics has linked self-confidence to looks: If the woman looking back at you in the mirror appears confident
and successful, chances are you’ll play the role when you leave the house, too.

A Palette for Your Palate
Eating fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors helps ensure your family gets a full range of vitamins and minerals—and may reduce your risk of many diseases, says Cris Hartley, registered dietitian at GMC's  Diabetes & Nutrition Education Center.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend making fruits and vegetables half of what you eat each day, with a special focus on:

  • Dark-green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, which are good sources of vitamins A, C, D, E and K, and minerals calcium, folate and iron.
  • Orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes, which are high in beta carotene and fiber and also low in fat.
  • Starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn, which provide fiber and vitamins B1 and C.
  • Dry beans such as kidney beans, which are a vegetarian way to get nutrients such as protein and fiber.


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