Have snow – need colour!

A couple of days ago, we had our very first snow-storm of this winter. Even though the forecast “Snowmageddon” never actually happened, the snow kept falling, daylight never seemed to seep through entirely.

Grey and dreary.

Snow doesn’t really bother me. I was born to snow. Where I grew up, there’d be years when we felt the presence of snow all 12 months of the year: the last snow melting only at the middle of June; sudden cold-spells drizzling the near-by mountains with powder in July; and the first real snowfall of a new cold season the last week of August. I even know how to enjoy the snow when I finally get my butt off the computer chair and venture out in the cold.

So it’s not the snow in itself.

But looking at myself in the mirror in Mid-winter makes me yearn for light and colour, and white and grey simply don’t do it for me. I wouldn’t call it depression, it’s rather abstinence from vibrant colours. Even the best laid make-up can’t cover up this fact.

In language we have codified the relationship between colour and our emotional states. We are “green with envy” and we  “feel blue”? We see the world through “rose colored glasses”?

On a physical level it has been shown that the effect of exposure to pure red light is stimulating. There is an increase in heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. Red light has an exciting effect on the nervous system, especially the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.

On the other hand, exposure to pure blue light has the opposite effect: lowering of the heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure with especial effect on the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system.

Our physical reactions to colours must have been discovered in different cultures, and with different application.

The Egyptians and Chinese, practiced chromotherapy, or using colors to heal. I see examples around me the Chromotherapy is still selling well today as a holistic or alternative treatment.

Now, I’m a sceptic at heart, and would object to anyone claiming universal effects of colour that colours have different meanings in different cultures. They’re even divided in different ways linguistically (a colour that to me is clearly light green, is always azzurro- or light blue- to my husband). So I don’t really believe that painting my kitchen walls orange will invigorate me enough to overlook my cold feet and slushy sidewalks. I even laugh at the different colour-confidential shows on TV, and at people who believe that the colours they choose will make a permanent change in their lives.

However, on Wednesday night I realized that colours do have an effect, and that lack of colour is not  a good thing.

Completely uninspired, as I started cooking dinner, I decided that the main ingredients should be leek and cauliflower – veggies that had been waiting in my fridge for 3-4 days. The leeks were made into one of the staples in our household, leek-risotto. The cauliflower got steamed and then made au gratin in the oven. Both dishes were both wholesome, seasonal and didn’t taste too bad.

But as I set the table I realized my mistake:

The stunning lack of colour made us lose interest in the whole meal.

Conversation died down and all 4 of us felt the weight of winter.

Too late did I realize why, and even putting a small bowl of baby carrots on the table at that point was useless.

Come to think of it, some of the traditional meals from my childhood: fish-balls in a white sauce with potatoes on the side; rice porridge; steamed cabbage, they all must have contributed to seasonal depressions almost as much as the inevitable lack of sunlight.

So as of yesterday, I’ve made a conscious decision to bring colour into every meal. Even if it may not have therapeutic effects, the kitchen table will look much better when we sit down to eat.


~ by Hege on February 4, 2011.

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