Brighten up: Can colour really change the way we feel?

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On a grey day when you’re feeling blue and you’ve spent too much time on social media getting green with envy at other people’s perfect lives, it’s all too easy to sink into a black mood. Could a change of outfit put you back in the pink? The link between colour and emotion is written into our language. But do the colours with which we surround ourselves actually have the power to change the way we feel?

The ancient Egyptians certainly thought so. They were among the first to practise “chromotherapy”, using coloured minerals, stones and dyes to treat the sick. They also created special rooms in their temples where they used refracted light to “bathe” their patients in colour. A thousand years later, in the 11th century, Persian physician and philosopher Avicenna drew up a chart that matched colours to what he believed to be their physiological effects. He proposed that while red increased blood flow, blue could reduce it. Meanwhile he thought that yellow helped reduce inflammation and could ease muscle pain.

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