Colour my world

Colour my world - As you look at the "restful" colours in the picture accompanying this story, you may feel stress ebbing away. Your breathing starts to improve and your tensed, hunched up shoulders relax.

On the contrary, you may find yourself getting irritated and fatigued, if you are surrounded by too many bright colours such as yellow and red. Or so proponents of colour psychology claim.

Art therapist Esther Ann, from National University Hospital's department of rehabilitation, is no stranger to colours and its emotional effects. In the field of art therapy, colour is thought to be closely related to a person's emotion.

"Colours may alter moods, influence behaviour and may even cause physical reactions such as raising one's blood pressure or suppressing one's appetite," said Ms Ann.

Mr Jeremy Rowe, managing director of AzkoNobel Decorative Paints in South East Asia and Pacific, the manufacturer of Dulux, cited an example.

"For instance, studies have shown that looking at red can increase heart rate, prompt the release of adrenaline into the blood stream and raise blood pressure," said Mr Rowe.

According to Dr Adrian Wang, consultant psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, a person's mood is affected by small cues in the day that can have "a knock-on effect" on how he feels and thinks.

"Such cues include light and colour. It's not uncommon to feel gloomy during a dark, cloudy day. So - yes - colours, or rather our perception of colours, can affect how we feel. The colour of the room, or a person's clothes, can influence one's feelings in subtle ways," he said.

Explaining why colours can affect a person's emotions, Ms Ann said: "Attached to the human brain are pineal glands, which control the daily rhythms of life. When light enters through the eyes or skin, it travels along neurological pathways to these glands. Different colours give off different wavelength frequencies which can have varying effects on us."

Not just a matter of aesthetics

Which is why if you're thinking of giving your walls a fresh coat of paint before the Lunar New Year, what colours you choose can impact your emotional wellbeing.

Although there is "no solid proof" and it may not necessarily work for everyone, certain hues may be more suitable than others for certain areas in your home.

Here's a colour-by-colour checklist by the experts, and their potential effects on one's mood.

Use green and blue, to achieve a serene, calming effect

According to Mr Rowe, most people tend to associate tranquillity, calmness and relaxation with these "restful colours".

He added that since the eye focuses green exactly on the retina, it is considered the most restful colour on the muscles of the eye.

"Blue is recommended for frequently-used rooms because it is supposed to be a soothing and relaxing colour. According to American art historian, Faber Birren, who wrote numerous books on colour theory, blue can apparently promote oxidation in the tissues, lower blood pressure and decrease respiration," said Mr Rowe.

Use these colours in rooms such as the study room or library, where "a cool head" is needed for mental tasks. They are also good for the bedroom, where you go to relax.

Use orange and yellow to achieve an invigorating effect, or to whet the appetite

It is believed that the colours, orange and yellow, are often associated with food and can stimulate the appetite. No brownie points for figuring out why many restaurants and food advertisements use these citrusy colours.

However, be careful where you use these bright colours in your home. Ms Ann said such colours reflect more light and can excessively stimulate the eyes, causing irritation and fatigue.

Use these colours in the kitchen and dining room - don't you want your guests to slurp up your food? But you may want to steer clear of these colours if you're on a diet.

Use purple to get your creative juices flowing

According to Mr Rowe, purple embodies a balance of stimulating red and calm blue.

"For this reason, purple is said to be uplifting, often offering a sense of spirituality and encouraging creativity. A lighter shade of purple is believed to provide a peaceful environment and relieve tension," he said.

What about very dark colours such as black or grey

While dark colours may evoke negative emotions, Mr Rowe, who sees more requests from clients for darker neutrals such as grey and dark brown, said that that using slightly darker hues may "evoke a warmer and cosier feel".

While sticking to "positive" colours may help uplift the spirits, Dr Wang said relying on colours alone will not help a person suffering from severe depression.

Mr Rowe also added that ultimately, the perception of different colours can vary from person to person, based on cultural and family influences, as well as one's personal experience.

"How we perceive colour is also influenced by the intensity and lightness (light reflectance value) of the hue, as well as where it is placed. So in the end, it is quite subjective and personal," he said. ( )

So who's to say you're mad, if grey makes you happy?

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