You open your cupboard and con front your daily fashion dilemma - should you wear the blue shirt or the red? This dithering may be more than frivolous wardrobe angst. If colour therapists are right, your decision could actually alter your day. There's a whole school of holism that believes you can colour-code your experiences by picking the right hue to energize, calm, unleash the imagination, heal the body or fire up relationships.
The problem is scientific study doesn't quite generate the same optimism about colour. Some research findings seem to support ancient lore, though we're far from a blanket confirmation.
We perceive colours because physical objects absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect the rest. A ripe tomato, for instance, reflects the wavelength of light that we perceive as red. That's why some alt healers say the tints of our food, home decor and clothing all matter - through our choices, we determine the nature of the wavelengths entering our system. They believe those wavelengths affect not only our bodily processes, but our thinking and moods, too.
The crossover point between these claims and science starts with colour's impact on hormones. Experiments have shown that people exposed to coloured light through electronic devices or visors have increased levels of many hormones, which in turn affect mood, brain function and overall metabolism.
If you want to try coloured light therapy, find a practitioner or psychiatrist familiar with the research literature. Because most studies have only investigated the impact of coloured light directly administered to the eyes and/or skin, we don't know whether the rainbow of hues reflected by everyday objects has the impact holistic types claim.
To experiment, try wearing red socks next time you need an energy lift. To kick-start a flow of new ideas, take a bath in some yellow-tinted water (bath pigments are available online). Wear an orange shirt - in a becoming shade, of course - to a party if you're tired of being a wallflower.
Even if you think colour has no real physical impact, you can, with a little research into its alleged meanings and a dash of daring, at least use it as a reminder of your intentions.
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
"You can use red light (via an electronic device) for healing. It has a significant effect on brain chemistry. The particular effect of red is on the excitatory neurotransmitters. People who benefit from red light tend to be low-energy, depressed, sluggish and fatigued. Blue light is calming and helps stimulate the production of serotonin, the relaxing neurotransmitter. If you're anxious, edgy and irritable, you might do well with it. Putting red light into the body actually stimulates energy production in the mitochondria, where the food we eat is converted into usable energy. I haven't seen any research that supports the idea that just looking at the colour red does that. It doesn't mean that that doesn't happen, but I'm not aware of any research."
SUSAN LARK , MD, Los Altos, CA
"(Ayurveda recognizes three basic body types.) We use colour therapy in the form of oil, food, gemstones, the wardrobe and colour in the environment to balance each person. For example, pitta' people are flammable. Their colour is red; we need to cool them down. We recommend they use cooling and soothing colours - shades of blue, pale and pastel tones, white, aqua, sea green and sand. Vata' types are very thin, creative and talkative. They tend to get cold and need to be warmed. We put them in deep earthy reds, oranges, burgundies and browns; we want to connect them to the divine mother's warmth. Kapha' people tend to be large and heavy. They don't like to change or move too much. They need stimulating, bright, shiny colours like silver, bright red, bright green and aqua."
ANDREA OLIVERA, Ayurveda spa specialist, Toronto
When people are avoiding a colour, (that can point to) psychological or physical issues. It's important for them to understand why. When we sleep we go into the indigo and violet energies. Indigo is our intuitive intelligence - it's connected to fantasy, as well as seeing things from different perspectives. Violet is our spiritual intelligence, it's also a visionary intelligence. During the day, reds, yellows and oranges are the colours we both need the most and avoid the most. A lot of people want to grow their spirituality, yet don't realize they need to focus on the lower chakras (associated with red, orange, and yellow). They need that focus to push their energy further."
SUSANNE MURPHY, colour therapist and educator, Vancouver
"Colour has psychological energy. If you want to blend in and you choose beige, you will - it's a non-threatening colour. If you're not in the best of moods, select high-energy colours. Red may be too loud; it could indicate anger. Coral, pink or raspberry would give you more warmth and energy. In the winter, northerners don't wear yellow, but that's when you need it - it's sunlight, it's warmth, it's vibrant. Aqua and turquoise, have almost a smiling effect - they're very non-threatening. White imparts a feeling of purity, gracefulness and precision. Most people can't wear pure white, so we recommend ivory. A softer version of white is more approachable."
GLORIA STARR, CEO, Global Success Strategies Inc., impression management consultant, Toronto, Palm Beach, Chicago, San Francisco
"For grounding, take three breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, then visualize a cord beginning at the base of your spine or in your feet and going down into the earth. You decide what colour that cord is, depending on what feels right for that day. If you're working with a difficult person or situation, use colour to create a buffer. Visualize the edge of your energy field encapsulated in a bubble, then add the colour that feels right. Blue brings more relaxation, pink more love, white more focus and purity, green more energy and vibrancy. I wouldn't use red - it's over-stimulating to be surrounded by and can cause arguments or friction. A black shield can be used for maximum protection if you're feeling very unsafe."
BRIDGET McFARTHING, feng shui consultant, Toronto