Some colors evoke certain feelings. Whether it’s reaching for your favorite LBD for an important event or swiping on that perfect shade of red lipstick to feel like you own the room, a specific hue can completely change your mood.
But it turns out the colors you’re drawn to might be benefiting your body in other key healthy ways, says Dr. Jingduan Yang, a fifth-generation practitioner of Chinese medicine and a respected authority in the world of integrative medicine.
In his new book Facing East, Dr. Jingduan Yang joins forces with style icon, wellness advocate, and his patient Norma Kamali, to discuss methods for preserving your vitality, health, and beauty. Which, if you’ve seen the energetic 70-year-old Kamali bopping around her Midtown Manhattan flagship store or out-pulsing you at Physique 57, you’d sign right up.
Your relationship to color, and why you’re drawn to deep turquoise blue or brilliant yellow or your signature red lipstick, plays a mega role in this.
“Chinese medicine teaches that various colors reflect the energies of light that correlate with different human organs, supporting the organs’ function,” explains Dr. Yang. “The color red stimulates the energy of the heart, which helps facilitates blood circulation and improve facial complexion,” amping up those (good) nerves and giving your face a glow, he says.
As a fashion designer, Kamali says “color is the most challenging part of a collection. While I may be personally inspired by something, it also has to match the temperament and energy of the time, and how people react to the color in order for it to reach my audience.”
So how can you use color therapy to deal with the blues, a bout of anxiety, or a get over a spat with your sister? Scroll down to find out how certain colors impact you—and how to have them work to your advantage.
Cyan, a mix of green and blue, stimulates the energy of the liver, Dr. Yang says, which helps improve digestion and sleep, nurture nails and vision, and calm down anger and resentment.
Kamali likens this to why we feel so good when we’re eating our greens: “Colorful food is a big yes. It makes you feel good.”
Dr. Yang’s adds that “Using green in your life rids those feelings of anger, and instead you will find yourself feeling hopeful and you will look radiant in the color of new growth. Cyan rejuvenates you after the harsh effects of winter.” Excellent timing.
Red stimulates the energy of the heart, says Dr. Yang, which helps facilitates blood circulation, improve your complexion, clears the mind, and can help reduce depression.
Kamali loves the impact of a bold statement lip or slinky red dress. “Red is this heart energy,” she says. “It’s powerful, it pulsates. We put that on because we want to present ourselves in that way.” Word.
Yellow stimulates the energy of the spleen, says Dr. Yang, which affects more than you’d know. It can improve digestion and metabolism, enhance thinking and reasoning ability, nurtures muscles (noted), and reduces worries and obsession.
In his book, Dr. Yang further explains that”yellow is the color of the earth when it lies fallow, its straw ground cover cultivating healthy soil for a future harvest.” So even if your work doesn’t put you anywhere near the soil, you can think of yellow as a rejuvenating, yet peaceful, color that can help calm and prepare for what’s to come.
White stimulates energy of the lungs, which helps improve breathing, nurtures skin, and reduces sadness and grief. Similarly, Dr. Yang compares it to “the color of shining metal when it is pure and well-polished.” Think doctors offices, modern homes, museums… In other words, white conveys an image of cleanliness and purity.
It also can lend to the creative mind, proven true by Kamali herself. “I love white all over my home and office,” she says. “It’s a blank slate that I can always fill, color in, and then take everything off and start fresh when I need to. But, for those clean, white moments it allows me to clear my mind and allow it to open up to new ideas.”
According to Dr. Yang, black stimulates energy of the kidney, which helps improve memory and concentration, enhance sexual function and reproductivity, nurture hair growth, reduce fear, and increase your willpower.
Dr. Yang and Kamali spend quite a bit of time discussing the raven hue—it is the official color of stylish, confident New Yorkers, right? “Black is this energy that we feel we need in certain situations: In fashion the LBD is the solution to whatever situation warrants that ‘perfect dress.’ In NYC everyone wears it because you need strength to power through the city,” explains Kamali. So black helps with concentration and willpower? We knew there was a reason we loved working out in it.
Looking to amp up the colors in your wardrobe? Check out our picks for this year’s hottest fitness fashion styles so far. Or check out the pairs of leggings that we deem the little black dress of yoga pants.