Today I want to dive into another wacky weird thought tangent I’ve been exploring – color and light and what I call your “visual diet”.
It’s well documented how colours have an effect on us. It’s why all of the fast food companies use red, it’s why certain stores have pink or light color hues, it’s why green and money go together and yellow with sunshine and smiles.
Ripple this out to a larger scale, I like to think that what we visually see, our visual surroundings on a day to day basis, can actually have a huge impact on our emotions as well as larger mental and physical well being.
The eyes are the gateway to the brain. After all, the eyes are extensions of the brain. The eyes are processing trillions of bits of information every second. Taking in a variety of different things and piecing it all together to build a picture of the world.
What you see sends messages to the brain of how to feel. Thus, our visual field, is largely connected to what we’re thinking and feeling.
Not only that, it actually acts as a regulation system overall for our mood and emotions.
For example, Dr. Andrew Huberman talks about how sunlight 2x a day has anti-depressive effects through regulating sleep, hunger, mood and more – and on the contrary – how light between 11pm-4am can have an adverse effect on all of these processes.
How does it work? In a nutshell it has to do with the ratios of blue/yellow light, and how those are different in the morning vs night, and how that sends signals to your brain for certain regulatory processes.
Therefore light/color, when we see it, in which quantities, can have dramatic effects on our waking state of consciousness and more importantly – our overall health.
Ever since seeing this video from Andrew I’ve been making sure that I get a nice dose of the sun early in the morning, and then once again in the late afternoon.
During that time something interesting has also happened – I started paying more attention to the sky. Staring at the clouds. Seeing the different shades of blue and yellow in the sky. Especially the sunsets! The SPECTRUM of colours that I would see. Purples and pinks and oranges that were just delicious.
That wide variety of colours got me thinking. These colours have got to be AMAZING for my brain. I started thinking of the colors like vitamin C, E, etc. and how seeing each color would be like getting a dose of a vitamin I was lacking in. A color I wasn’t seeing that now I’m nourished by.
Then as I would walk home, I paid more attention to all of the colors around me. Equally the green of the trees. The various shades and nuances of greens. The beige of the sand. The dirt on the ground.
All of this then got me thinking about the diversity of colours that I see in a given day. The color diet that I am visually consuming. Am I getting enough variety, enough of the right colours at the right times of day? Both in the form of light, as well as actual colours I am seeing?
Equally in my living space, how much lighting is there? What type of colours and visual stimuli do I have for myself? Do I have art? Is my space visually bland or is it exciting? Equally what type of views do I have available to me? What are my windows looking out at?
What about day on day? How much variety do I get? Am I looking at the same things every day in terms of same house same scenery outside same spaces? Or am I getting novelty in the physical spaces that I enter into?
I like to look at al of these as encompassing my visual diet. Day to day, the quantity/quality/variety of colours and light that I allow into my system, and then how those lights and colours in turn affect my mood and energy levels.
I think we can all fundamentally resonate with this at a basic level. Cloudy rainy days have a certain grey color to them that creates a sense of being lazy. Bright sunny days fill us with energy and excitement. Sunsets leave you feeling peaceful. Equally looking out onto a mountain horizon or walking around a forest have dramatic effects on our moods.
Speaking of horizons – did you know that looking out at a wide horizon slows down brain waves and will get you into a parasympathetic dominant physiological state?
Yep! Like I said before – the eyes are directly connected to the brain which connects to the central nervous system. When we focus in on small details using what is called “foveal” vision, it triggers the sympathetic nervous system (stress). On the contrary, a wide open peripheral stare will activate the parasympathetic nervous system (calm).
AKA – Looking up into the sky, out into the ocean, out onto a horizon of some kind – will calm you down and is good for regulating stress responses.
Think about it for a second though – Wide peripheral glance = open. Open to information. When we open our glance we are able to take in more colours and light that can have a healing and curing effect on us.
I also find it interesting to note that what do most psychedelics do? Open up your pupils and make colors more vibrant and vivid!
Recently with all of the research coming out around the healing powers of psychedelics and plant medicines, could the underlying mechanism be how it changes our ability to see and connect with color and light?
Where I’m going in this long meandering exploration of light and color is that I find it interesting that in the same way we think about our diet in terms of the food that we eat, or our information diet in the information that we read/take in on a daily basis, to our exercise routine and taking care of physical movement – we don’t think about our visual diet! Feeding ourselves colors in the form of time outside in nature or viewing art. Feeding yourself natural sunlight and new places to visually feast on.
Perhaps as well one of the tools that we can use in the healing and recovery journey can be that of using color. Even better – That maybe, just maybe, color and light therapy could be used as a peak performance tool to create heightened states of creativity, or better recovery, or more intense focus.
Who knows? But for now I’ve been emphasising a diverse visual diet with lots of sunrises and sunsets and staring at the clouds and time in nature to give myself a varied set of colours on a daily basis. At home I’m more conscious of my living spaces and the art I have around and equally seek out more art online. I’m more conscious of the visual stimuli I’m taking in and how that can be affecting my mental and physical well being. I’m consuming a healthy visual diet 😉
How about you? What does your visual diet look like? Do you get much time outside? Stare up at the sky/clouds at all? Stare at the same walls in the same place every day? Get enough art and visual beauty?
Let me know what you think and if you resonate or think I’m insane!!!!
Thanks for reading 🙂