Do you often dress head-to-toe in black, or some iteration of black, gray, white, and neutrals? Is your home a collection of walls and furniture blanketed in whites and beiges? Do you literally cringe at the thought of wearing neon or even pastel? We feel you. It can seem easier and definitely less intimidating and less committal to just stick to basic, neutral, dare we say bland tones. But think about what you enjoy looking at when you observe the world and the colors around you? We doubt you’re energized by anything black, and rarely does a dreary gray sky make you feel lively and happy. On the flip side, a sunny day, a clear blue sky, turquoise oceans and bright green grass can make us feel more awake, more alert and more joyful. So why do we avoid color when it comes to our lives?
Turns out, those of us who have entire closets dedicated to black fabric are not alone, and we also have a condition called “Chromophobia.” Yes, really.
According to Dictionary.com Chromophobia means “an abnormal fear of colors or a color.” It refers to an irrational, but persistent, aversion to colors and it can even elicit psychological reactions among people who possess this phobia. It sounds fake, but it’s a real thing; in fact, there are even works of literature dedicated to investigating this phobia and the way that color impacts our lives. For example, Chromophobia (Focus on Contemporary Issues) by David Batchelor focuses on uncovering the motivation behind the chromophobic impulse that lurks within much of Western culture.
While some of us don’t have the full-blown phobia of color, many of us still do avoid color in our lives. And if you ask Peter Stamberg and Paul Aferiat, architects of the technicolor Saguaro Hotel in Palm Springs, California, the real underlying issue isn’t so much about a specific hue, but the art of decision-making. “It’s the fear of making a choice,” Aferiat said. “Of making a mistake and having to live with it.”
Clearly, Stamberg and Aferiat don’t have such issues — their hotel is an extremely vibrantly designed structure, bursting with color and uniquely bright features, making it the third most Instagrammed hotel in the world.
And experts agree that color and joy are inextricably linked. According to Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of Joyful: The Surprising Power of Extraordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, joy and color have always been connected. After years of studying joy, Lee argues that from the beginning “it was clear that the liveliest places and things all had one thing in common: bright, vivid color.”
In addition, Leatrice Eiseman, color specialist and executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, explains that colors, especially the color yellow, have always been associated with joy. Over the years she has conducted various color word-association studies on thousands of people, and “the first words that consistently come to mind when people see the color yellow are “sunshine, warmth, cheer, happiness, and sometimes even playfulness,” she told CNN.
While it can often feel as if black and neutrals are safer or less intimidating, they are not the best way to bring joy into our spaces and our daily lives. Colors help reflect light and can bring energy into a space or a setting. Darker hues actually absorb light, making a room or a space feel colder and less inviting.
If you’re looking to find some simple and quick fixes to add a little more joy and positivity to your daily routine, start with your wardrobe or your home. Add a colorful pillow to your bed or couch, or hang up cheerful and bright art. Swap your black sweater for a pastel or patterned top. Or if you’re not feeling totally color-brave, pop on a colorful pair of shoes or a bright scarf. Even baby steps can make a difference as you start to incorporate a bit more color into your life. And trust us, you’ll notice a difference in your mood, even if you’re not completely sure why you’re suddenly a bit more cheerful.