woman wearing yellow top and blue skirt
Life

How to boost your mood using colour during autumn and winter

It’s easy to feel down when it’s dark and cold outside but there are lots of ways you can bring colour into your life. Here, an expert explains how to use colour psychology to help boost your mood.

Welcome to The Curiosity Academy, Stylist’s new learning hub where you can access workshops, how-to guides, new research and learn the most up-to-date skills from the UK’s most in-the-know people.

We think about colour all the time. It dictates the clothes we wear, how we decorate our homes and so many other small decisions we make throughout the day that we might not even realise colour is influencing. Our colour preferences are often ingrained within us, which is why it can be hard to explain why a particular colour, like blue, for example, is your favourite, but you find yellow totally unappealing.

Colours can also help us express and understand emotions, making them a powerful communication tool. This is a discovery people have made on TikTok recently. Creators have been taking to the platform to explain the meaning of each colour and how it can help them understand themselves and the people around them better, with the tag #colourpsychology reaching over 4 million views. 

As we head into the autumn and winter months and the nights get darker, many people will find this negatively impacts their mood. But although the skies might not be blue, there are plenty of ways you can bring more colour into your life and use it to help improve your mindset.

In fact, you can even use colour as a self-help method. Karen Haller, a behavioural colour psychologist, has spent years researching this and has found an array of methods to help you do so. Although it’s not necessarily as simple as TikTok would have you think.

You may also like

Art therapy techniques you can try at home to look after your mental health

“Colour psychology is a study of how we can use colour to positively influence how we think, feel and behave,” Karen says. “It’s one of the most underestimated resources we have to change how we act.”

“When you decide whether or not you like a colour, that’s an emotional experience,” Karen says. “It makes you feel something, even if you’re not consciously aware of it.”

Building a personal relationship with colour psychology is an ongoing process but there are a few things you can do to start to use colour to positively influence your life, and maybe even help you deal with issues like self-doubt and social anxiety

What is the meaning behind each colour?

Karen explains that each colour has a traditional psychological meaning. However this can vary depending on the shade of the colour, so it’s not necessarily important to learn them all. It can be useful to understand what the primary colours represent, though.

“Each colour has positive and adverse effects,” Karen says, explaining that both of these things need to be taken into account when you’re thinking about how to use these colours to your benefit. 

Red

“Red is a very physical colour. Red physically stimulates us – it encourages motivation and energy,” Karen explains. “Because of this, however, red can also cause overwhelm, as it represents speed, and it can sometimes make you feel like you are moving too quickly.”

Yellow

“Yellow has a direct effect on the nervous system. Yellow is an optimistic colour that encourages positivity,” Karen says. “However, the adverse effects are that yellow can be quite irritating and anxiety-inducing.” 

Blue

“Blue is the colour that aligns with the mind. Dark blue is mentally stimulating and it can help with focus; soft blue is a colour that allows your mind to dream,” Karen explains. “Often, blue can keep the mind overly-stimulated, which is something to look out for as an adverse effect.” 

How to figure out which colours work for you

Although there are traditional meanings that can be assigned to each colour, as people do on TikTok, Karen explains that colours are actually very personal, and the colours that help you feel better will be different to the colours that help a friend or family member feel good.

Karen recommends going through your wardrobe and pulling out clothes in an array of colours and then holding each of them up to your face, in order to figure out what your relationship is with each colour. “Without any make-up on, stand in front of a mirror and hold the different colours up to your face,” Karen says. “Take note of what happens to your face – does it light up or does it create shadows?”

If you know one colour suits your complexion, you can use this to compare to the other colours. This method isn’t only about your appearance, however. Consider how your facial expressions and other reactions differ with each colour, as this will help you to understand how you connect with different colours. 

How to establish an emotional connection with colour

You’re constantly coming into contact with different colours in your day-to-day life and it’s not possible to consciously understand your reaction to every single one of them. But in order to become more in touch with your relationship with colours, Karen recommends keeping a diary for a period of a week to take note of how you respond to any colours that stand out to you or that you have to make decisions about.

“Write down what you are wearing each day and how the colours in your outfit make you feel,” she explains. “You should also take note of other decisions about colour you make, like choosing a red glass instead of a yellow glass.”

You don’t have to acknowledge your decisions in this way for very long but by doing so for a short period of time, you’ll come to better understand your relationships with specific colours, which will help you make better colour decisions in the future. 

How to incorporate colour psychology into your life moving forward

Once you have established your relationship with particular colours, you can start to incorporate them into your life more, whether that’s through decorating your home with them or buying clothes in that colour. You can then also follow the same process Karen explains above to figure out which colour combinations work for you.

“The most important thing is that you think consciously about the decisions you make about colour,” Karen says, adding that by making intentional decisions, you will become more conscious of which colours you like and dislike, which will help keep you in touch with your emotions.

Want to learn more about colour psychology? You can buy Karen’s book, The Little Book of Colour: How To Use The Psychology Of Colour To Transform YourLife.

  • Karen Haller, colour psychologist

    Karen Haller, colour psychologist
    Karen has spent many years researching colour psychology.

    Karen is a leading international authority in the field of behavioural colour and design psychology. Her area of speciality is in behavioural and human centred design and how our relationship with colour, design and nature affects and influences us, as well as how businesses and designers can use it to influence positive behaviour and wellbeing. 

Images: Getty and Karen Haller