When you look around at the environments you spend your days in, the decor you furnish your home with and the clothes you dress yourself in, do you see a lot of neutrals? Our modern lifestyles have become awash with shades of blacks, whites, greys and beiges.

We’ve come to believe that neutral is the more sophisticated, practical, safe and mature choice. Which has also caused us to be afraid of colour – a fear known as Chromophobia (this term coined by artist David Bathchelor).

Why Colour Makes us more Joyful

Throughout modern history society has conditioned us to see colour as childlike, superficial, irrational, primitive and distracting. This conditioning has instilled the Chromophobia fear in many of us. Have you ever felt you won’t be taken seriously enough if you are dressed in too much colour? Or that you are more likely to regret choosing the blush pink kettle over the white one? I know I have definitely let feelings like this hold me back when it comes to colour choices.

But did you know that our brains are hardwired to have a joy filled reaction to colour? Our eyes can differentiate around 10 million different hues. In fact our colour vision is an integral sense that relates directly to our survival. And during our evolution as our vision improved, senses like smell and hearing declined.

A rich colour vision allowed our ancestors to identify sugar-rich ripe fruits and nutritious young leaves in the dense treetops where they lived. Neutral landscapes meant lack of food, vibrant landscapes meant an abundance of food.

When colour is transmitted through the human eye, the brain releases a hormone which affects our moods, mental clarity and energy levels positively. On the other hand we turn inward in monotone/neutral environments, which may induce feelings of anxiety, fear and distress resulting from under-stimulation. This lack of stimulation further creates a sense of restlessness, excessive emotional response, difficulty in concentration and irritation.

Using Colour to live more Joyfully

Now we know colour has a truly psychological and physiological affect on us, our minds and bodies respond to colour. So how can we use the element of colour to live more joyfully? I don’t think we all need to go and paint our homes in rainbow hues or radically change the way we dress. But I do think we need to be more mindful about whether it’s Chromophobia making our colour choices for us.

I’m also not saying there is anything wrong with enjoying neutrals. I love the lightness of a white room and the buttery warmth of beige. But I also know how much joy I feel if the canvas of that white room is home to a fluffy bunch of cotton candy coloured flowers or a scattering of pastel hued cushions. The specific colours we incorporate are also down to what we are personally drawn to, maybe you love bright bold colours, deep rich gem tones or whisper soft pastels.

There are an infinite number of ways we can mindfully incorporate smaller bursts of colour into our days. Below are some of my suggestions.

Burst of Colour in Everyday Life:

  • Taking up a colourful hobby (think painting, gardening, photography (photographing flowers is one of my hobbies – check out my prints here)
  • Cooking with more colour (think using bright fruit and vegetables or baking)
  • Collecting colourful objects (think crystals, teacups, jewellery)

Bursts of Colour at Home:

  • Accent pieces of furniture (think sofas, chairs, shelves, coffee tables)
  • Accent pieces of decor (think appliances, ceramics, dinnerware, cushions, rugs, blankets)
  • Accent walls
  • Light fixtures
  • Artwork, photos, books, magazines
  • Nature (think indoor plants, bunches of fresh flowers, bunches of dried flowers)

Bursts of Colour at Work:

  • Accent pieces of furniture (not always possible)
  • Stationery
  • Phone case
  • Phone wallpaper
  • Computer desktop/wallpaper
  • Water bottle
  • Coffee/tea mug
  • Artwork, photos, books, magazines
  • Mood board
  • Nature (think indoor plants, bunches of fresh flowers, bunches of dried flowers)

Bursts of Colour in your Wardrobe:

  • Activewear
  • Bag
  • Wallet
  • Scarves
  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • Jewellery
  • Sunglasses
  • Glasses
  • Nail Polish

Next time you find yourself reaching for the neutral option because it’s more practical, stop and consider if there’s a coloured option that might add a little sparkle of joy to your day instead. Don’t let Chromophobia win every time.

Big love,

PS. If you enjoyed this post on colour you might just like this IGTV episode too!

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Chromophobia

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