Hate therapy? Fire your shrink and hire a painter

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The Psychology of Interior Paint Colors

I’ll start with a disclaimer. Movoto Real Estate is not advocating for home redecoration as a substitute for professional psychological evaluation. (That would be certifiably nutty.) But let’s face it: quality psychotherapy can be hard to find, much less afford. Hiring a guide to your subconscious can cost upwards of $200 a session, and even if an affordable option is available, many people just aren’t interested in discussing their personal issues with a stranger.

If your psychological woes are more of an annoyance than a serious medical problem, maybe it’s time to make some changes. With these tips, you can manipulate your subconscious landscape by heeding some simple rules of color psychology.

The use of color to heal psychological and physical ailments was a common practice in ancient Egyptian and Chinese cultures. The treatment, formerly called chromotherapy, still enjoys a niche within the alternative health movement. In modern times, the link between color and psychology has been verified by behavioral researchers.

Ignore the power of paint colors at your own peril! It just might be that your current interior paint color is aggravating your issues. And hey, at under 20 bucks a gallon, paint is a dirt cheap alternative to those scary therapy invoices.

Problem 1: I’m Angry All the Time

Paint Solution:

  • Avoid red at all costs. Though the “bulls are enraged by red” idea is pure myth (bulls are colorblind; it’s just the movement of the matador’s cape that riles them up), red has a proven effect on humans, raising blood pressure and increasing irritability.
  • Instead, opt for light shades of blue and green. These cool tones have a pacifying effect.

Problem 2: I’m an Insomniac

Paint Solution:

  • Avoid fiery tones, including yellow. Bright yellow is an eye irritant that will keep you awake (and annoyed) long into the night.
  • Whichever color you choose, make it subdued. Paint the bedroom in a cool tone. Blue or lavender will help you wind down.

Problem 3: I’m Depressed

Paint Solution:

  • Stay away from brown. Although brown is ubiquitous in the natural world, walls painted this color may cause depression in some people.
  • Also avoid gray, black, and dark blues. These colors will make you feel ungrounded and ill at ease.

Problem 4: I have Obsessive Thoughts

Paint Solution:

  • Paint your home office bright yellow. Have you ever wondered why legal pads are yellow? One theory is that because the color yellow is jarring to the eyes, workers are forced to focus closely on the task at hand.
  • Green also promotes concentration. The color of fertility and nature, green can have a soothing yet energizing effect, perfect for purging your mind of unnecessary thoughts.

Problem 5: I Can’t Stop Eating

Paint Solution:

  • Whatever you do, don’t paint your kitchen red. Red stimulates many body functions, including appetite, which is why it’s so common in restaurants and food marketing.
  • A better choice is blue, a known appetite suppressant. Blue is an unnatural color for food. Can you think of a blue food, other than blueberries? Usually food is only blue if it’s started growing mold, so we humans have evolved with a distaste for the color.

Problem 6: I have No Energy

Paint solution:

  • This time, fiery tones are a good option. Reds and oranges can give you an adrenaline rush, perfect for burning away lethargy.
  • Avoid “passive pink.” Pink has a known tranquilizing effect. Former University of Iowa football coach Hayden Fry (who majored in psychology as an undergraduate) famously painted the visiting locker room pink, either to sap his opponents’ energy or simply mess with their heads.

Problem 7: I’m claustrophobic

Paint solution:

  • Dark colors make rooms seem smaller, which could make you feel trapped.
  • Instead, opt for bright colors and pastels. Eggshell and mint green can create an illusion of space.


Kate Folk is a writer for Movoto. She's from Iowa and now lives in San Francisco. She also writes fiction.

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