Studies show that college students across the world are exposed to increasing mental stress. Anxiety and depression are believed to affect over 54% of college students in the US alone. According to an international study sanctioned by the WHO, 1/3rd of the first-year collegiate participants were screened positive for DSM-IV mood, anxiety, or substance use disorder.
For many students, the cause of stress was the increased familial and academic responsibilities they now faced as collegiate students. College students also experienced increased mood swings when they had financial worries regarding student loans.
Unfortunately, many colleges around the world still don’t offer mental health counseling to students in need. Of the few that do, some run extremely underfunded programs. As a result, there has been an increase in suicidal tendencies, with some studies indicating that 11% of the surveyed population had seriously considered ending their lives.
In the absence of mental health support, colleges can do something else to alleviate stress and improve the moods of college students. They can use colors.
Role of colors in improving mood
· Colors have meanings that resonate with us
Every color on the color spectrum/wheel has a specific effect on the human mind. Each color conveys a particular message and has a symbolic cultural or religious impact on the person viewing it. For example, white means purity in many countries, just as blue means peace & mental clarity. These messages, which a stressed collegiate receives from colors, can be therapeutic, soothing, and affirmative.
· Colors make us feel very happy
Take, for example, colors like red, ochre, orange, and yellow. According to the color theory, they are very warm colors to look at and can make us feel happy, safe, and loved. Studies have found that when we look at bright colors, our brain releases the happy hormone “dopamine.” As the dopamine floods our brain, we immediately experience an upliftment of our mood.
· Colors make us less anxious
There’s been some research to show that cool colors like blue stimulate the release of the hormone “oxytocin.” This hormone is one of the love hormones and is responsible for comforting anxious, depressed, and stressed people. It does this by reducing activity in the amygdala. When oxytocin is released, you are less likely to be fearful and more willing to take chances.
· Colors can make us feel energized
Take colors like green, pink, and yellow, for example. These are colors that are commonly found in nature. Numerous studies have proven the extremely therapeutic effect of nature on our mood. Looking at such natural colors can allow us to recreate some of the cognitive and emotional effects that we feel when we’re outside. Especially during the time of the coronavirus, when staying inside all day can lead to negative mood and anxiety, surrounding ourselves with colors can be very healthy.
· Colors can help us improve our memory retention and recall
Many college students experience negative mood swings because of the academic pressures they face and their inability to stay on top of their classes. Colors can help address this challenge. Certain colors like red can increase our attention to detail. A color like blue can improve our creativity.
Studies have also shown that colored multimedia presentations can facilitate better recall of information by giving us a way to codify and highlight knowledge.
Which is the best color to improve the moods of college students?
Of all the colors that have a positive effect on mood, blue is the best.
Blue universally represents the color of the ocean and the color of the sky. This lends it a very tranquil, relaxing, and peaceful air. Looking at blue has been found to increase feelings of mental peace and happiness.
Darker shades of blue have an intense appeal and have been found to increase mental focus in viewers. For many artists, from Raphael to Van Gogh to Klein, the color blue has been very inspiring. College students who may be experiencing a negative mood because of a mental block might feel more inspired if in a room that’s painted blue. In fact, studies have proved that blue can increase productivity when used in classrooms and offices.
Blue also represents stability, trustworthiness, and harmony. Wearing a blue-colored dress or shirt can inspire the same feelings in college students who have a lot of anxiety and mood swings.
Finally, in chromotherapy, the color blue is harnessed to soothe physical pain and reduce dissatisfaction and feelings of irritation. There has been some research to show that using blue colored lights can reduce incidents of crime and suicide.
Other colors that have a positive impact on mood
Apart from blue, other colors that can have a positive effect on college students’ mood are:
Green, as discussed, represents nature. It creates a soothing feeling and makes people feel physically healthier. In many cultures, green is also a symbol of good luck and fertility. Having bursts of green around campus can create a conducive atmosphere that always fosters positivity and peace.
Orange is a very friendly and energetic color that can pull people out of their stupor. But it isn’t as aggressive as the color red. This makes orange perfect to help college students cheer-up and reduce drop-outs. In fact, this is one of the reasons why college athletics uniforms and mascots are often orange-colored.
Pink is a very gentle color that evokes kindness and calm. Given its association with romance, pink can also evoke feelings of love. Wearing pink can help college students temper their erratic moods and feel calmer throughout the day.
Brown, just like green, increases our affinity to nature. Additionally, brown is considered to be a solid, reliable, and adaptable color. This is why many people – including college students – find it easier to speak to people in uniforms of brown hues.
Purple is considered the color of royalty in many countries. Darker shades of purple have been found to stimulate creativity as well. Lighter shades of purple are used in beauty and skincare branding since it looks very gentle, soothing, and luxurious. Purple can help college students feel creative and self-confident.
How can colors be used to improve college students’ moods?
The most important thing colleges need to do to help college students manage mood swings with color therapy is to
- Educate students about the psychological impact of various colors and advise them on incorporating healing colors into their wardrobe.
- Re-paint sections of the building to inspire (such as the classroom/laboratory/theater) and calm (quadrangle/library/dormitories).
- Invest in growing a garden or maintaining a landscape that can include these healing colors.
- Change their collegiate sporting/event uniforms to a color that increases the students’ self-confidence.
- Have optional art therapy classes that students can attend to get in touch with healing colors, alleviate anxiety, and improve their moods.