One of the aspects of this time of year that I love most is the light. Maryland summers are often swamped with humidity, turning the hot summer sky more white than blue. In winter, we get weeks of unrelenting overcast, but in early spring, the clouds lift, the humidity remains low, the trees aren’t yet leafed out, and the sky–and life–are filled with light. Even more than moderating temperatures, the return of a bright blue sky lifts my spirits and wakes up my mind.
And then there’s the return of color. I’m crazy about spring bulbs, and this is their time to shine. Deep purples, bright yellows, and brilliant combinations abound. Then the flowering trees get into the act, and I’m am inebriated with visual joy.
And I am not the only one. The not-for-profit organization Publicolor uses the task of adding color to schools and public spaces as a means of teaching students skills for school, work, and life. They get terrific results in terms of graduation and promotion rates, but they also hear from principals that after a school has been freshened with bright hues, absenteeism goes down, graffiti stops appearing, and students report feeling safer.
If you allow prison inmates to watch nature videos in the prison gym, disciplinary incidents decrease. If you give them a window so they can actually see the green and natural world, the rate of anti-depressant use drops by double digits (which doesn’t happen if all they get to see is the basketball court).
If you keep around you objects and images that visually represent your triumphs and accomplishments–graduation day pics, a diploma or award, your mentor beaming at the camera with you when you were nominated for some honor--you will be more resilient to stress.
According to a study done by Taskworld, if you work in a bright, colorful office space full of blues and greens and enlivened with some red and yellow, you are more likely to feel (and be) friendly, alert, efficient, and confident. Add some green plants, and productivity goes up even more. Go back to cubicle-hot-desk-open-plan gray and biege, and particularly for women, the result will be a sense of gloom and sadness. Men don’t thrive on those tones either, and the guys also aren’t so keen on purple or orange. White walls are a bad choice too, giving off a sterile, clinical vibe.
The point is, our visual environment has a tremendous impact on us even when we think we’re not noticing it. What you regard as a minor self-indulgence–some pictures, a bouquet of carnations, sprinkles on an ice cream cone–can make a significant difference in your mood and energy. The same is true in reverse. The drab school hallways, grim prisons, dull offices, and boring nursing homes are stealing joy in the name of saving a buck. When joy is as close as a can of paint or a spray of flowers, I think that’s a false economy.
What are your happy colors and how do you keep them front and center where you spend your time? Are there places you’d love to take a paintbrush to? To one commenter, I’ll send a SIGNED copy of When a Duchess Says I Do.