The Power of Green

Published on Sunday 12th May

I recently said in a post that the colour green is known to be calming which is one of reasons that we're so attracted to houseplants, green spaces, woodlands and so on. This prompted a friend of mine to do some more research about the power of green. Her name is Tanya, and here's what she unearthed.

There is a reason that the expression “seeing red “is shorthand for feeling anger and stress.  It is the most emotive of colors - said to inspire passions and appetites, both good and bad. Restaurant walls were traditionally crimson, and everybody knows the flirty power of the little red dress. Green, on the other hand, has the effect of calming the eye and - by extension - the nervous system.

Doctors in Japan often prescribe “nature therapy” as part of their treatments for a wide variety of mental and physical ailments. his can take the form of “garden bathing” or “forest bathing” - a set amount of time in nature exposes the lungs and bodies to the positive organic compounds given off by trees and plants. Fresh air, exercise, escaping the pollutants and noise of the city. The positive effects of a long walk in the country are widely known in all cultures!  And just as important: looking at a huge variety of shades of green. 

Relaxing eye muscles almost immediately reduces stress - at least temporarily.  Some equestrian athletes use the science of “soft eyes”.  Relaxing their eyesight (and by result their muscles) onto a distant end goal during races and right before jumps can transmit trust and ease to their horse. If you try to give yourself “soft eyes” right now - relax your gaze and try to unclench deep eye muscles you can feel this effect instantly.

The world of medicine believes in green in many cultures.  Surgeons wear green scrubs so they can have a quick glance at their sleeve during long operations to give their eyes a break. In fact in the 1930s, hospital decorators in the UK and North America began using green walls in recovery wards to influence patient moods and promote associations with nature, growth and recovery.  The tradition has stuck and many hospitals still have green on the lower half of walls at in the sight line of bedridden patients.

Color therapists recommend dark green paints on living and bedroom walls for a restful home. And one reason why guests waiting behind the scenes at tv shows are put in a “green room” is to help work against stage fright. 

Ophthalmology explains the science:   “the eye is constructed such that it is easiest to focus on green light, which is in the middle of the visible colour spectrum and has the strongest receptors”.  But beyond the science is the sheer aesthetic pleasure of green - the colour of renewal and natural beauty. Plants and flowers are a lovely way to bring the power of nature into the home. The decorating trend of layering a huge array of plants in all shapes and sizes around the room - hanging from the ceiling, dangling off shelves and solidly growing out of pots. Big and bold or delicate and exotic - green plant power is moving into the home in an abundant healing, lovely way - and long may it continue.

Image taken at Eltham Palace Gardens.