Green in Color Psychology

Research in color psychology suggests that colors evoke psychological reactions, affecting moods and emotions. Sometimes, these reactions are related to the intensity of a color. In other cases, they're the product of experience and cultural influences.

For many people, the color green has strong associations with nature and brings to mind the lush greens of grass, trees, and forests. Green is often described as a refreshing and tranquil color.

Green color psychology
Verywell / Cindy Chung

Green Color Meaning and Psychology

In color psychology, colors made up of long wavelengths are considered "arousing or warm," whereas colors of shorter wavelengths are "relaxing or cool."

As a color with a short wavelength, green is considered cool. Whereas our eyes must adjust to see colors with longer wavelengths, they don't need to adjust at all to see cool colors.

Green typically symbolizes nature and tranquility. Other common associations with the color green are money, luck, health, envy or jealousy, and environmental awareness. Green might also represent physical illness, such as in the phrase "turning green."

In ancient mythology, green represented the fertility of both the earth and of women. Studies have shown that the color green can inspire creativity, too.

The color green can positively affect thinking, relationships, and physical health. Green is also thought to relieve stress and help heal.

Green can even improve reading ability. In one study, a green light environment improved reading ability in participants, whereas a red light environment reduced reading ability.

Green Is Calming

Shades of green in nature can help put us at ease in a new place. For this reason, designers often feature green in public spaces like restaurants and hotels.

One study found a "green exercise effect" on participants who exercised indoors while watching a video of outdoor space with a green overlay. They experienced less mood disturbance and perceived less exertion than when they watched the same video with a red or gray overlay.

Green Is Natural

Green's calming effects might result from its association with nature, which people typically experience as relaxing and refreshing. Some researchers think the positive association with green is hardwired in our brains from evolution: Early humans knew that green in nature indicated a place where they could find food, water, and shelter.

Spending time in natural green environments or even looking at pictures of green scenery in nature has been linked to stress relief, better impulse control, and improved focus.

Because green has such strong ties to nature, we might be more likely to perceive something green as healthy and natural, even when it isn't. For example, one study found that people were more likely to consider a candy bar with a green label as a healthier option than a candy bar with a red label, even when the nutrition of the two bars was identical.

Green Is Motivating

Although some find green a relaxing color, others say it motivates them. One study found that people with a "high need for achievement" more consistently chose the color green over the color red, which was more often chosen by those with a "low need for achievement."

Cultural influence might be at play here. For example, the color red is often used to communicate a warning (such as in a stoplight), whereas the color green indicates safety (a green light).

Study participants also associated words related to failure with the color red, and words related to success with the color green. In the U.S., money itself is green.

Your reaction to the color green is highly personal. Experience, as well as personal and cultural associations, plays a role in how this color makes you feel.

Research also has shown that creativity is likely to increase when people are surrounded by green plants and have access to green views of nature.

Green Is Optimistic

Color influences not only our emotions but also our memories. One study presented people with a list of emotionally charged words written in different colors. They were then asked to recall specific words. They were more likely to recall positive words written in green, leading researchers to theorize that green carries more positive emotional connotations. Thus, the color green might elicit an optimism bias when it comes to remembering information.

In the U.S., green is also often associated with Irish-American culture, St. Patrick's Day, and good luck. Interestingly, one study found green may function as a good luck charm of sorts. Participants exposed to the color green experienced increased feelings of hope and decreased fear of failure.

Green Is Envious

For as much as green is associated with positive feelings, it can also indicate jealousy or envy. You've probably heard the expression "green with envy." The origins of this phrase are unclear.

Green can also indicate physical illness, such as when someone's complexion turns green. The link between green and illness might have created the association between green and envy—as if envy were an illness of its own.

A Word From Verywell

Because the color green is strongly associated with nature, people often describe it as natural, fresh, and restful. However, remember that cultural influences and individual experiences also help shape our reactions to color.

The next time you see the color green, take a moment to consider the emotions and moods that the color evokes for you. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the biblical meaning of the color green?

    The Bible mentions the color green often. Typically, it symbolizes life, fertility, renewal, and resurrection. Green is a mix of yellow (which symbolizes glory and energy) and blue (which relates to God and the heavens).

  • What is the spiritual meaning of the color green?

    In spiritual terms, the color green implies beginnings, new growth, vibrant health, and other ideas connected with life, rebirth, and renewal. If you're noticing green in your environment or dreams, you might be discovering new aspects of yourself, beginning a new phase of life, or undergoing a renewal.

  • What does it mean if my favorite color is green?

    You are likely straightforward but loving. Others' opinions of you matter, as does the search for knowledge and understanding. You tend to value peace, loyalty, and logic.

  • What does it mean if I dream about the color green?

    You might be on the verge of having new experiences, changing your circumstances, learning new skills, or discovering new abilities. In dreams, green also symbolizes wealth and fertility. Generally, dreaming about green is regarded as a positive sign.

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