Science is definitive on the question: blue is the world's favorite color. Across time and space, more people pick this shade as their personal fave than any other.

That might have to do with blue's pleasing associations (think crystalline seas and clear sunny skies), researchers suggest, but studies also show people probably love how blue makes them feel. In fact, if you want to feel calmer quickly, all you need to do is bathe yourself in blue light, one new study shows.

How to chill out three times quicker

The research is only a preliminary study with just 12 participants but it offered an intriguing peek at how blue light seems to affect our response to stress. The study design was simple. First, the research team stressed out the participants using a standard series of high pressure math challenges that psychologists have used to make study subjects anxious for years. Half the group then chilled out in a room with conventional white light, while the other half was assigned to another identical room with blue light.

The researchers measured objective markers of stress like heart rate and brain activity as  the groups unwound. Did the color of the lighting make a difference when it came to these measurements? It did. Quite a big difference, in fact.

"Blue lighting accelerates the relaxation process after stress in comparison with conventional white lighting," the researchers confidently declared. "The relaxation time decreased by approximately three-fold."

Real world applications

This result isn't a huge shock. In other studies, subjects have reported that they subjectively feel more relaxed more quickly in blue lighting, and some municipalities are even experimenting with using blue lighting on train platforms to calm the agitated and reduce the risk of suicide. But this is among the first studies to rely on objective bodily measurements rather than self-reports of emotions.

The sample size is, of course, still tiny, so more research is needed to confirm these findings, but in the meantime, there's no harm in experimenting with color to hack your body's ability to fight back after stress.

If you're looking to relax after a heated argument or anxiety-inducing day, try chilling out in a blue space or get yourself a lamp with a blue bulb. Or if you're looking to keep your team (or your customers) in a relaxed frame of mind, considering adding more blue to your decor. Science suggests you'll all feel a little more chill when there's more blue around.

Published on: Dec 4, 2017