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What is chromotherapy?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It might sound like a long, complicated word, but chromotherapy is essentially ‘colour therapy’ – the ability of certain colours to impact our physiological health. You only have to look at the way we all wish to decorate our houses in a certain way or choose to wear particular colours to see that colour really can have an impact on how we think and feel. This extends culturally too, with traditions such as a bride wearing white or ivory on her wedding day to symbolise purity, and funeral-goers dressing in black to demonstrate mourning.

By getting colours ‘right’ you are putting yourself on the best pathway to achieving a healthy mental state. Importantly, there isn’t a right or wrong when it comes to colour and much of it will be down to how certain colours make you feel. Have you ever given a wall a fresh coat of a new paint and instantly felt better, for example?

How can chromotherapy help your wellbeing?

Chromotherapy is about more than just choosing colours that suit your lifestyle though. It takes it further by using colour and coloured lights to treat physical or mental health conditions, causing subtle changes in our mood and biology.

White light therapy

One of the most obvious examples of how light and colour can affect our mood is simply to look at the weather. How do you feel when the sky is grey, compared to when it’s bright blue? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an NHS recognised condition that sees people move towards a state of depression as the season moves from summer into winter. It’s a period when daylight hours shorten and there is less natural sunlight. One of their suggestions in dealing with SAD is light therapy, whereby you would sit by a special light that simulates natural sunlight that is missing during the winter months. It’s believed that this light encourages your brain to increase the ‘happiness hormone’ serotonin, while simultaneously reducing the production of sleep-inducing melatonin, thereby resulting in a more healthy mental state.1

Blue light therapy

Blue light therapy can be used to treat jaundice, a condition that can affect adults but more commonly affects babies. It causes high levels of bilirubin in the blood, which results in a tell-tale yellow tinge in the eyes and on the skin. This is commonly treated with blue light phototherapy, where a baby is placed under a blue halogen or fluorescent lamp during sleep so that their blood and skin can absorb the light waves, which help to eliminate bilirubin from their systems.

Blue light is not always a good thing though! It’s the type of light that is emitted from digital devices such as mobile phones and can be responsible for supressing melatonin – the hormone that regulates sleep. This is why staying up at night and scrolling through your phone can lead to a disturbed night’s sleep.

Green light therapy

There is some research underway on the effect of green light therapy for pain relief, such as migraines2 with results suggesting that exposure to a narrow band of green light may reduce light sensitivity and headache severity. Studies have shown that green light is significantly less likely to exacerbate a migraine attack than white, blue, amber or red. Twenty percent of those in the trial actually reported an improvement in their symptoms when treated with green light.3

Chromotherapy at home

While certain light and colours are medically recognised to improve aspects of your physiological health, there are also ways you can use colour at home and in your own life to encourage a more healthy mental state. When selecting anything with colour – be it clothes, or paint for a feature wall – pick what speaks to you and makes you happy. Particularly at home, consider what your space is used for. In a bedroom or bathroom for example, you will probably want to pick a colour that makes you feel calm and relaxed, whereas in a kitchen or dining room you might pick something more vibrant and energetic. You can also experiment with the light therapies mentioned above at home by buying yourself a SAD light, a pair of blue-light filtering glasses or even a green light treatment if you suffer from regular headaches or migraines. While more research is needed into the effects of colour therapy, using colour can be an easy and satisfying way to potentially improve your physiological health. Importantly, don’t rely on it exclusively to treat any medical concerns and always seek the advice of your doctor. Why not give it a try?

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