When I was severely depressed, everything appeared and even felt dark. I saw the world and everything in it through a lens that was black and about 50 shades of grey. It was as though the colour had been drained from my life.
Now obviously, it hadn’t. What had changed was the chemistry in my brain. But this sense of loss of colour was something I felt acutely. It was very real for me. As wellness crept up on me through rest and medication and visits to the psychologist, slowly the colour returned to my life.
Taking long walks in the park resulted in me feeling as though I was seeing nature again for the first time. Sunsets just blew my mind. I noticed the deep periwinkle blue of the sky as the sun began to set and marvelled at the way it shimmered as dusk enfolded it. The vibrancy of the apricots and peaches and pinks as the sun itself played with light and shade in its final moments before dipping behind the horizon, leaving me in awe and almost breathless with joy.
Colour. Light. Beauty. Awe. Joy.
I need these things in my life.
But I was deeply perplexed about how my mood could swing so viciously between dark, suicidal thoughts, and the stark contrast of feelings of light and joy and the desire to live forever?
This distressing reality prompted several questions. Where did the colour go when I was unwell? Was there something that I could do to ensure colour didn’t disappear again? Was colour itself more important to maintaining wellness than I’d ever considered? Was colour therapy a thing?
If you google ‘colour therapy’ you will mostly get what I respectfully call quackery, with a little bit of science undergirding some of it - thankfully. Simply put, colour is just light of varying wavelengths and frequencies. Electromagnetic waves constantly surround us, and colour is part of those waves. Some websites then send you down the path of chakras and crystals but that’s not really my cup my tea. I simply realised that for some reason colour had an impact on my mood, so I started paying closer attention.
As I did I discovered that an absence of colour lowered my mood, and where there was colour my mood lifted. Sufferers of seasonal depression will no doubt relate. But sometimes, an abundance of colour – be that in nature or an art gallery or simply my choice of clothes for the day - produced feelings of tangible positivity and dare I say it, even joy!
Now I know that for some of you reading this, even the concept of joy (especially when we are unwell) feels like a slap in the face. I’ve felt like that often along my journey with depression and anxiety. Why is it so elusive? Why do others experience it so easily and frequently? Where is the joy in my life? But the pursuit of wellness can bring joy. Trust me.
Out of the blue one day a TED Talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee popped up on my facebook feed. I found the title annoyingly provocative – ‘Where joy hides and how to find it.’ In my desperation to combat my despair I watched it. And so much of what Lee said made sense. I even enjoyed her presentation - I loved the bright colours and images she showed on the big screen behind her. Something resonated within me. I wanted more colour in my life – I was desperate for joy!
Lee explained that psychologists define joy as ‘an intense momentary experience of positive emotion that makes us smile and laugh and want to jump up and down.’ She discussed how our physical environment affects our emotions. The suggestion that intentionally inviting colour into my life – my home, my workspace, my wardrobe - seemed simple enough to apply. And sure enough, increasing colour and texture and light has helped me experience feelings of joy!
I’m required to wear a uniform to work – white shirt, black pants – boring! But some days just knowing I’m wearing hot pink underwear, or that my socks are bright red is enough to keep my mood up.
Other days it’s a bunch of bright yellow roses on my desk. It’s glittery blue nail polish, and hot pink toenails. It’s crocheting with bright luxurious red wool. It’s eating M&Ms. It’s art on my walls and deliberately chosen mismatched dinner plates of different colourful patterns. It’s purple Doctor Martin boots and bright orange sneakers.
Colour is powerful. The power of nature is its colour and beauty and capacity to produce wonder in us – to produce feelings of joy! Paying attention to colour and including it in my life more fully has helped my mood. And it just might help yours too.
So maybe, colouring your world could contribute to wellness and release some joy! What have you got to lose?
Give it a try! Go on – colour your world!