Color psychology suggests that different colors can evoke psychological reactions. For example, color is thought to have an impact on our moods and emotions.
How does the color green make you feel? For many people, it has strong associations with nature and immediately brings to mind the lush green of grass, trees, and forests. Green is often described as a refreshing and tranquil color.
Green Color Meaning and Psychology
In color psychology, colors made up of longer wavelengths are considered “arousing, or warm,” whereas colors of shorter wavelengths are “relaxing or cool.”
Green is a cool color because it has shorter wavelengths. While our eyes need to adjust to see colors with longer wavelengths, they don’t need to adjust at all to see cool colors like green.
Green often symbolizes nature and the natural world. It is thought to represent tranquility. Other common associations with the color green are money, good luck, health, envy or jealousy, and environmental awareness. In some cases, green can represent physical illness, such as the phrase “turning green” indicates.
In ancient mythology, green was used to reference the fertility of the earth as well as the fertility of women. Studies have shown that the color green may inspire creativity, too.
It has been found that green can even improve reading ability. In one study, a green light environment improved reading ability in participants, whereas a red light environment reduced reading ability.6
Green Is Calming
Shades of green found in nature may help put us at ease in a new place. For this reason, designers often feature the color green in public spaces like restaurants and hotels.
One study found a “green exercise effect” on participants who exercised indoors while watching a video of outdoor space with a green-colored overlay.
They experienced less mood disturbance and less perceived exertion compared to when they watched the same video with a red overlay or a gray overlay.
Green Is Natural
Green’s calming effects may be due to its associations with nature, which people often feel is relaxing and refreshing. Some researchers think our positive association with green is “hard-wired” in our brains from evolution; early humans knew that green in nature indicates a place where food, water, and shelter can be found.
Since green has such strong ties to nature, we may be more likely to perceive something green as healthy and natural, even when it isn’t.
For instance, one study found that people were more likely to consider a candy bar with a green label as a healthier option than a candy bar with a red label, even when the nutrition of the two bars was identical.
Green Is Motivating
While some find green a relaxing color, others find that it motivates them. One study found that people with a “high need for achievement” more consistently chose the color green over the color red, which was more often chosen by those with a “low need for achievement.”
This might be due to the cultural influence on perceptions of red and green. For instance, the color red is often a warning associated with danger (such as a stoplight), whereas the color green indicates a situation is safe (a green light).
Participants in the study also associated words related to failure with the color red, and words related to success with the color green. This may be another cultural influence at play since green is commonly associated with financial success—even money itself is green.
The color green is also thought to have an impact on our creativity. Research has shown that people’s creativity is likely to increase when they are surrounded by green plants and have access to green views of nature.12
Green Is Optimistic
Color has been found to influence not only our emotions but our memories. One study provided a group of people with a list of emotionally charged words written in different colors.
The members of the group were then asked to recall specific words. They were more likely to recall positive words that were written in green, leading researchers to conclude that green carries more positive emotional connotations. Therefore, the color green might give us an optimism bias when it comes to remembering information.
Green is often associated with Irish culture, St. Patrick’s Day, and good luck. Interestingly, one study found green may really be a good luck charm. Participants who were exposed to the color green experienced increased feelings of hope and decreased fear of failure.
Green Is Envious
For as much as green is associated with positive feelings, it may also indicate jealousy or envy. You’ve probably heard the expression “green with envy.” There are different theories as to where this saying comes from.
Green can also be an indicator of a physical illness, such as when someone’s complexion turns green. Some believe the link between green and illness created the association between green and envy—as in, envy is an illness of its own.