As I sit here writing not only my first post of 2017 but my first post ever, it feels that the optimism of a New Year has already begun wane. In a frightening world, where the Doomsday Clock is resting at two and a half minutes to midnight, we must remind ourselves that every day is a new start. Every day is a new chance to get back to what is important and meaningful to our lives. We must embrace the effort to create a world that promotes positivity and healthy growth. It may seem trivial to tie color and design into a discussion on the global environment, but The Pantone Institute of Color did just that when they chose the color of the year. The Institute chooses one color every year as an interpretation of our modern world. This year’s choice could not have been more insightful this year.
The chosen color, 15-0343 “Greenery,”is a bright, clean and lively yellow-green hue. Leatrice Eisman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, described it as a color that “bursts forth into 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another, and a larger purpose.” Green is the most common color found in the natural world. It is only logical that it reminds us of our most basic need, to connect to the world around us.
Understanding Green and “Greenery”
The Scientific Effects of Green
Nature is of supreme importance to our health, but we must also consider the impact the indoors has on our lives. Americans now spend an average of 90% of their time indoors (1.). In an era controlled by technology, we are beginning to crave nature more than ever. Brain scans have proven that interacting with nature improves mood. It also lowers stress hormones in our bodies. The same study also connected living in urban environments to greater risk of mental illness. (2.) Interaction with nature along with smart interior design decisions can help us improve our mental and physical well-being.
Many psychological studies have shown that the color of a room can influence body functions and mental activity. Shorter-wavelength colors, like blue and green are less mentally stimulating. They provide stronger feelings of tranquility and help the body to relax. Green can even improve focus and increase reading speed and retention. Longer wavelength colors like Red and Orange are more stimulating and distracting. (3.) Green has also been shown to stimulate the pituitary gland. Stimulation of the pituitary aids the dilation of blood vessels and make muscles more relaxed. It can also decrease the effects of histamines (allergens) in the body. (4.) Bottom line-Green is a very powerful color, with powerful effects.
Green in American Society
In our modern American society, the single color green also has many positive and negative symbolic associations. Green is the color of a stoplight, signaling you to go forward towards your destination. It is the answer button on an iPhone. The color of “Mr. Yuck” who warns consumers of dangerous or poisonous goods. We tell people they look a little green when they are sick. We associate the color with feelings of envy. Our dollar bills are green and we reference an account with a positive balance “in the green.” Companies and initiatives focused on ecological efforts declare themselves “green.” So many different facets of our modern world are symbolized in the expression of one color. Color may not be something that everyone sits and contemplates but it is a very powerful part of our world. It is too often overlooked as a purely aesthetic element.
How to Incorporate Green into Your Everyday Life
Good design is all about making educated and mindful choices that allow our environments to work for us. You don’t need to be a trained designer to make planful choices that will affect your life. Here are a few ideas for incorporating Green and Greenery into your life this year.
Hang some nature-inspired art.
The green hues and natural themes will bring calm and the peace of the outdoors into your home or office space.
Paint a room.
Paint a library or home office a nice shade of green to increase your retention of information in that room. It can also provide a balance to stressful work that may take place in that area. A few to start with: Benjamin Moore “Spring Meadow Green,” Hirshfield’s “Green Thumb,” or Farrow & Ball Cooking Apple Green. While these aren’t exactly Pantone’s shade they are great room colors none the less.
Add some accessories.
You can add Greenery colored accessories anywhere. A great place to start is a bathroom. There is a reason you see the color so often in spas. Imagine taking a relaxing bubble bath in a room that is also working with your body to reduce stress. Some candles, a rug, or some plants (faux or not), are a great place to start.
I know this one seems crazy, but make a conscious effort to leave your house or office for a while each day. Observe Greenery out in nature. Enjoying your backyard or a nearby park can reduce blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex. It is an area of the brain associated with brooding and focusing on the negative. By reducing the blood flow to this area you will improve your mood and outlook on life. (2.)
Thinking of color may not seem like a priority in these uncertain times. And it isn’t. But embracing the effects and ideals of being “green” can make a difference in all our lives. No matter how cold the winter is spring comes and the leaves sprout and life return. Remember that every day is a new start. A new chance to reconnect with people, nature and the important parts of life returns.