People, Places, and Things

The psychology of design: How to create an environment in which you will thrive

Choose Green!

Seeing green makes us feel good.

In most of North America, at this time of the year, no matter where you look outside something green pops into view. All that green is good for our mental health. Researchers have found that green spaces, inside and out, boost our mood and cognitive performance.

A research team led by Lichtenfeld has identified a link between seeing the color green on surfaces and enhanced creative performance. Their work involved testing how creatively people were thinking when they looked at a range of different greens, so its fine to choose your favorite shade of green for the walls of your home office or wherever you want your creative spark to burn a little brighter.

Using greens inside your home is a relatively safe bet, resale value-wise. As long as you avoid unusual shades that are hard to coordinate with furnishings or neon tints that don’t go with much of anything, your color scheme will probably be popular with perspective buyers. Across the planet, people’s favorite color is generally blue, but green is not far behind on the color popularity meter. Beware using yellow; it’s the most disliked color around. Greens that aren’t very saturated but are bright, like light sage greens, seem like a particularly good choice, seeing them relaxes us.

Seeing natural environments when we’re stuck inside, or visiting natural green spaces outside, helps us restock our cognitive energy levels after they’ve been depleted by the sort of focused work that most knowledge workers do. Natural green is a natural tonic.

Inside green, leafy plants are also good things. Our mood improves and our minds work better when we’re around houseplants.

Green paint and green plants, inside and out, make our world a better place to be. 

Sally Augustin, Ph.D., is a practicing environmental psychologist who studies person-centered design and sensory science.

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