Among the many historical events of 1810, Napoleon quiets his cannons to wed Marie-Louise of Austria, the first steamboat chuffs up the Ohio River, and German artist/politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe publishes the much dismissed Theory of Colours. Okay, that last one might seem obscure, but it paved the way for Color Psychology (i.e., the study of hue as a determinant of human behavior), which only recently has attracted the attention of researchers.
Nearly two centuries after Goethe’s observations, MIT Nutritionist Richard J. Wurtman tells the New York Times, “It seems clear that [color] is the most important environmental input, after food, in controlling bodily function.” Everything from blood pressure to respiration rates, from brain activity to biorhythms—color, it appears, has us wired to silky saturation levels. Who knew pigment could have such an affect?
In fact, so influential is it that “when we’re in a space where the walls are painted in warm colors [reds and oranges], we actually feel that the temperature there is warmer than we do in similar spaces painted cool colors [blues and greens].” Studies show we are drawn to warmer hues because of their energetic magnetism. By contrast, we are calmed by cooler, more mild-mannered hues like Sherwin Williams SW 6210: Window Pane. While some colors slow blink and pat-the-pillow, others smile and snicker. Come on in, they say, can I take your coat?
For many, pigments also encourage certain characteristics. A google search tells us green is linked to balance and creativity. Spirituality and sophistication are hallmarks of violet. Yellow lays claim to joy, optimism, and cheer. Orange traffics in physical comfort. And brown—poor brown—is stoic yet dependable, like nice a pair of chinos.
Yet according Goethe: “...light and darkness, brightness and obscurity, or if a more general expression is preferred, light and its absence, are necessary to the production of colour.... Colour itself is a degree of darkness.” In other words, color is an expression of darkness, a derivative—darkness as godfather of all things visible. Daunting when you think about it.
What Goethe couldn’t know, however, is in the 1930’s another type of pigment would be created, brighter, more vibrant than anything that came before. A brain-child of the Switzer brothers, DayGlo® (a.k.a. fluorescents or neon) harnesses invisible light energy and translates it to the visible spectrum. And as such it appears electrified by its very own little sun. They are colors that stand up and sing: WE ARE HERE AND DEMAND TO BE COUNTED!
In a nutshell, that’s why we wear bright colors for the Runwalk for Mental Health 5K. As Director of Development and Marketing Sandra Seney puts it, “We established the neon theme for our run/walk as a way for community members to publicly show support for mental wellness. By wearing bright colors, we hope to shine a light on mental illness and bring it out of the darkness.”
I do wonder what Johann Wolfgang von Goethe would make of mental health supporters lighting up the night this many years later. Who knows, maybe he’d join in. Or maybe he’d prefer to cheer loudly down by the “Doggy Door.” Although part of me thinks he’d rather sit and watch all those gleaming suns jog by, looking down every so often to pen stigma’s obituary.
 From techopedia.com: Color saturation refers to the intensity of color in an image. In technical terms, it is the expression of the bandwidth of light from a source. When color is fully saturated, the color is considered in purest (truest) version. Primary colors red, blue and yellow are considered truest version color as they are fully saturated.
 Augustin, S. (2015, April 11). The Surprising Effect of Color on Your Mind and Mood. Retrieved April 21, 2017, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/people-places-and-things/201504/the-surprising-effect-color-your-mind-and-mood