A couple weeks ago, in my article “Three Ways To Biohack A Sauna For More Heat, A Better Detox & Enhanced Fitness“, I used the slightly woo-woo sounding term “chromotherapy”.
Upon deeper digging, it turns out that chromotherapy, also known as color light therapy, is something we all encounter every day, such as when we walk outside and experience optimism induced by a blue sky or orange sun, or experience quite the opposite effect from a grey day.
Light therapy is also used to relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), regulate your internal biological clock (circadian rhythms), and affect mood. Companies such as GE and Philips have even created phototherapeutic products such as the home lighting “Hue” system to improve and regulate mood. The therapeutic applications of light and color are also being investigated in many hospitals and
research centers worldwide. Results so far indicate that full-spectrum, ultraviolet, colored, and laser
light can have therapeutic value for a range of conditions from chronic pain and depression to
Although I didn't know what it was called at the time, the concepts behind chromotherapy were something I first encountered a couple years ago when I read the book “Drunk Tank Pink“, a rather fascinating read which describes how the isolation tanks in many prisons are painted a specific color of pink that is known to pacify feelings of anger and rage. The book also describes how we tend to trust people who wear blue shirts, we are more likely to donate when the donation button is pink on a website, we are more likely to buy when a button is orange, and much more.
I've also written about how I wear a special set of purple tinted lenses to enhance my reading speed and visual perception, have red light bulbs in my room for relaxation, blue light bulbs in my office and bedroom for alertness, and even bright yellow LED lights for inner ear phototherapy.
It turns out that color, specifically when combined with light, can actually affect both emotions and energy systems. So now, as I perform my daily sauna session in which I sit, stand, sweat, swing kettlebells and do yoga while using my magical chromotherapy wand (the sauna remote control) to vary colors from red to blue to green and beyond, I've delved a bit more into playing around with chromotherapy. In this article you're going to learn exactly how you can use color to do things like change your mood, your cognition, your performance and more.
Although it's slightly pseudoscientific, I find this stuff fascinating, and I think you'll find a few gems in this relatively short article. Enjoy (and I'll include a link to a longer, scientific article at the end).
How Color Affects Your Health & Physiology
So here's the basic and very brief science of color…
…color is simply light that has been split into different wavelengths that vibrate at different speeds and at different frequencies. Objects that absorb all wavelengths and do not reflect any back are black. Objects that reflect all wavelengths and do reflect are white. Everything between black and white is color. Colors are wavelengths of energy that, to you and me, appear as color because of the potential and capabilities of any given object to either absorb or reflect the energy.
There. Every physicist on the face of the planet is probably snickering, but that, my friend, is how I personally define color.
Now, let's look at which colors do what for your emotions, your health and your physiology.
Much of the information below is derived from both Ayurvedic, Egyptian, Chinese and Greek medicine. For example, in India, Ayurveda, an ancient form of medicine practiced for thousands of years, is based on the idea that every individual contains five elements of the universe which are present in specific proportions unique to each individual, including their personality type and constitution. When these elements are out of balance, Ayurvedic medicine implements color therapy to restore this balance.
For example, in Eastern medicine, you'll often encounter the concept of chakras. The body has seven major energy centers at the sites of each of the major endocrine glands, and these are known as chakras. Each chakra is responsive to a different color, each chakra energizes and sustains certain organs and each chakra corresponds to specific states of consciousness, personality types and endocrine secretions.
Check out the image at the top of this post. See how those colors line up to specific areas on the body?
Red – Root chakra
Orange – Sacral chakra
Green – Heart chakra
Blue – Throat chakra
Indigo – Brow chakra
Violet – Crown chakra
In ancient Egypt, the art of healing with color was founded in the Hermetic tradition, and both the ancient Egyptians and Greeks used colored minerals, stones, crystals, salves, and dyes as remedies, as well as painted treatment sanctuaries in various shades of color. In China, traditional Chinese medicine associates specific colors with specific organs and energy systems.
Now I'll be among the first to admit that many Eastern healing traditions aren't necessarily rooted in hardcore, Western, clinical, white lab-coat research, but I certainly know that when using chromotherapy light with colors you're about to read about below, I've experienced several of the effects listed, and I've tried to include as many resources and references as I could hunt down below this list of colors.
Red and Pink
In chromotherapy, red and pink are called “The Great Energizers.” They are said to help loosen and release muscle stiffness and constrictions. Red and pink promote cellular growth and the circulatory system, and therapy with these colors are indicated for colds, sluggish or dormant conditions, such as pneumonia, arthritis, anemia, as a liver stimulant, an energy builder, and for increasing circulation. Red stimulates the base of the spine, causing the adrenal glands to release adrenaline. Red can also cause hemoglobin to multiply, increasing energy, raising body temperature conditions and stimulating sensory nerves such as hearing, taste, smell, and metabolism. It is supposedly excellent for anemia or blood-related conditions. Pink helps activate and eliminate impurities from the blood stream. It also acts as a cleanser, strengthening the veins and arteries.
Practical Suggestion: place a red light or red heat lamp next to your bedstand for use in the evenings.
Yellow helps awaken mental inspiration by arousing higher mental function and self-control and has a very enriching effect upon the intellect. It is an excellent color for nervous or nerve-related conditions or ailments, stimulating the solar plexus. Yellow can be used for conditions of the stomach, liver, and
intestines, and can help the pores of the skin by repairing scar tissue. Yellow rays supposedly also have an alkalizing affect that strengthens the nerves. Typical diseases treated by yellow are constipation, gas, liver troubles, diabetes, eczema and nervous exhaustion. Providing clarity of thought, increasing awareness, stimulating interest and curiosity, the color yellow is related to the ability to perceive or understand. So basically, yellow energy connects us to our mental self.
Practical Suggestion: venture outside into the sunlight when you need a burst of creativity.
Green is considered to be the universal healing color. Green is midway in the color spectrum, and because of this, it is said to contain both a physical nature and a spiritual nature. So green can be used for just about any condition in need of healing. When in doubt, green is always a good choice and will help relax muscles, nerves and thoughts. It is neither relaxing nor astringent in its impact. In a more practical sense, green affects blood pressure and all conditions of the heart, and is said to be able to help heal many illnesses of this nature, specifically including heart troubles, decreasing and stabilizing blood pressure, ulcers, headaches, nervous disorders and influenza, and acts as a general tonic.
Practical Suggestion: place a good variety green plants in your home, your office and your bedroom (NASA has a list of some of the best ones here).
Blue is at the opposite end of the visible spectrum, and can be used for any type of ailments associated with speech, communication, or the throat. It is a mentally relaxing color. Blue has a pacifying effect on the nervous system, which encourages relaxation and makes it ideal for sleep problems. Relaxing, soothing blue rays (not to be confused with the harsh, blue light used in things like light-boxing devices and computer screens) can bring calm and peace to the mind that is worried, excited, or in a constant nervous state. It is a very positive color, indicating truth, loyalty and reliability, as expressed in the sentiment of being “true blue.”
Practical Suggestion: occasionally take a break, lay on your back and gaze up at a blue sky.
Orange has a freeing action upon the mind, relieving repression (which is apparently why its such a good color for the buy button on a website). Because orange is a blend of red and yellow, it supposedly combines physical energy with mental wisdom, inducing a combination of a physical reaction and mental response. Orange is warm, cheering, and non-constricting, and is considered to be the best emotional stimulant, helping to remove inhibitions and pave independent social behavior. So perhaps orange-tinted glasses would be the ones to wear to a party, or on a rainy day. Physiologically, orange aids in repairing inflammation of the kidneys, gallstones, menstrual cramps, epilepsy, wet cough and all sinus conditions.
Practical Suggestion: wear bright orange colors when you want to go out and do something daring, like an obstacle race.
Violet is the last color you can see before light passes on to ultra-violet. This color is supposed to be an excellent remedy for neurosis, diseases of the scalp, sciatica, tumors, rheumatism, cerebral-spinal meningitis, concussion, cramps and epilepsy. Wow. Some color experts believe that it also provides nourishment to the cells in the upper brain, which purifies thoughts and feelings, and gives inspiration. Violet is also able to enhance artistic talent and creativity, and Leonardo da Vinci proclaimed that you can increase the power of meditation ten fold by meditating under the gentle rays of violet, as found in church windows.
Practical Suggestion: get some violent tinted glasses for times when you need creativity or artistic inspiration.
I'm not saying color and light is going to heal disease in any significant way. But I do think that it affects your energy systems and organs, and I know for a fact that it affects your cognition, your moods and your emotions.
If your nerdy self is interested in the proposed scientific mechanisms of why exposure to these specific frequencies of colors has this type of effect, then you should know that it basically it all comes down to the ability of a light wave to vibrate molecules at a specific frequency.
The paper “A Critical Analysis of Chromotherapy and Its Scientific Evolution” describes it like this,
“The quantum mechanical dipole moment as a result of the absorption of different colors, we conjecture, produces charge quantization phenomena. This review illustrates that the development of science in the field of electromagnetic radiation/energy can be very helpful in discovering new dimensions of this old theory…
…these visual colors with their unique wavelength and oscillations, when combined with a light source and selectively applied to impaired organs or life systems, provide the necessary healing energy required by the body. “
Anyways, go read the paper if you really want to delve into the nitty-gritty science. In the meantime, I'd recommend that, if this stuff fascinates you and you want to dive right into the practical application and experimentation, you start with any or all of the following:
–Read the book “Drunk Tank Pink” by Adam Alder, which is an excellent treatise on color for everything from mood to marketing.
-Play around with a “chromotherapy torch”. I found one on this website. It's basically very similar to a flashlight, but with colored discs.
–Check out my sauna article, especially the parts about the chromotherapy sauna I use. If you get the sauna, mess around with the colors while you're in there. It's amazing what you can do to your mood, and how you can choose different colors based on how you are feeling (e.g. red for arousal, green for happiness, yellow for creativity, etc.)
-Play around with visualizing color. My tennis coach used to have us do this in college so that we could close our eyes before a point and visualize a specific color that relaxed us (my color was blue). When he initially taught us this method, we would first get extremely relaxed using something called “progressive neuromuscular relaxation“, and then once in that state of relaxation, we would imagine our color. This way, during a match, we could instantly replicate that same state of relaxation by imagining our color in the heat of the moment. If you can visualize the color you need, you can access the color and its associated benefits anytime and pretty much anywhere. Just close your eyes, relax your head, neck shoulders, and concentrate on your breathing. Then visualize the desired color and, still focusing on your breathing, imagine “absorbing” that color and having your body be filled with that color each time you breath in. You can do this for just a few seconds, or for several minutes, just like a meditation session.
Have you personally experimented with chromotherapy? If so, which color “feels” best for you? Do you have questions, comments or your own practical suggestions about how to use color? Leave your thoughts below and I'll reply.
1. This is a very comprehensive article on Chromotherapy with a lot of science behind it:A Critical Analysis of Chromotherapy and Its Scientific Evolution
2. Natural Standard: An organization that produces scientifically based reviews of
complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) topics, including color therapy.
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