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Mind

Experts share how to use colours to brighten your mood

Surrounding yourself with joyous hues and soothing shades can work wonders for your mood

If you've ever put on a slick of red lippy and felt that little bit more powerful, popped some yellow flowers in a vase to cheer yourself up, or detected a greater sense of serenity when surrounded by greenery, you've been directly influenced by colour. Its effect on how you feel is real and experts say colour has the power to improve our mood.
"Colour absolutely sparks joy in humans," says Karen Haller, London-based colour and design psychology specialist, and author of the best-selling The Little Book of Colour.
"Every colour has the potential to change how we feel in an instant because it delivers an emotional experience. Colour is arguably the simplest tool we have at our disposal to enhance positive emotions and increase wellbeing."
According to Dr Emily Brayshaw, who has a PhD in fashion and costume design history, colour has been meaningful to humans for as long as we have been dressing.
"The ancient Egyptians loved gold, red, turquoise and blue, associating these shades with royalty," explains Emily. "The Romans and later the Byzantine Empire privileged Tyrian purple. Extracting this dye involved tens of thousands of murex rock snails and substantial labour, and as a result, the dye was highly valued."

Find your tone

While trends will come and go, Karen predicts colour personalisation as a growing cultural movement. "It's about picking colours that express your authentic personality, so that you can express
the true you from the inside out," she says.
Surrounding ourselves with colours that resonate with us personally can help us connect with ourselves and others.
"When we feel connected, we feel happier about who we are," says Karen. "And when we feel happier about who we are, we can begin to lead happier and more fulfilled lives. Colours that are low in saturation are more emotionally soothing and lead to a calmer or less intense emotional state. The more saturated or intense a colour, the more stimulating it can be for your emotions."

Your true hue

Working out which colours speak to you most is a simple case of trial and error, because what feels good to you depends on both cultural influence and personal associations.
"If your experience of orange is a delicious flavour, health, zest, fun and warm climates, then you'll think about these things, either consciously or subconsciously, when you see bright orange," says Emily.
"In Western cultures, black clothing has a long association with mourning and death, but it might not make you feel sad. You might feel elegant in a little black dress or edgy if you're heading to a metal-head concert in black. We develop our own colour language throughout our lives."
Weighty white
Researchers from Oxford University found people eat less from a red plate (red is, after all, a colour our primal nature may connect with danger). Conversely, eating from a big white plate might wake up your appetite – in some studies, food was perceived as more flavoursome (often sweeter) when served on a white dish.
Sleepy hues
"The best palettes for a good night's sleep are those that are soothing, which means colours that are low saturation," says Karen. "Think light pink, which is physically soothing, or light blue, which is mentally soothing. Soft peaches and apricots, pale greens and soft purples are also good." Avoid highly stimulating hues, such as bright red.
Blonde ambition
Studies (mostly led by hair-colour brands) have consistently found that women who dye their hair blonde feel more confident and sexy. Scientists have theorised that lighter hair may often be associated with youth and good health.
Touch point
Texture can influence mood, too. "Sometimes, we want the hard sparkle of metals, jewels and reflective surfaces for confidence. Other times, soft fabrics such as silk, plush cotton and velvet can offer comfort," says Emily.

The power of colour

Confidence boost
Wear darker blues to appear authoritative and knowledgeable yet still approachable, trustworthy and reliable.
Harmonious
Darker greens reflect balance and harmony, providing a sense of reassurance and peace.
Quick thinking
Turquoise is a stimulating colour that wakes up your mind.
Add cheer
Yellow is like a cheery hello. On the greyest of days, it's like taking the sunshine with you.
Playful spirit
A joyful hue, orange is great for lightening the mood.
Power play
There's nothing shy or retiring about red. It commands attention and will always get you noticed.

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