As you all know by now, Color War is here!!! The anticipation (by the faculty) and the surprise (by the students) was palpable. The run to Party City last night to get the team colors is a yearly tradition loved or dreaded by parents. Our middle schoolers arrived here this morning donning the color they were assigned.
But, color can impact our overall lives, aside from this three day battle. We draw with color. Coloring used to be just for kids. In 2013, a Scottish illustrator, Johanna Brasford, came out with her first adult coloring book. They initially printed 13,000 copies. Today their worldwide sales is 13 million. U.S. sales of coloring books in the United States, says Sarah Begley in Time Magazine, have jumped from 1 million in 2014 to 12 million in 2015. Why are adults suddenly coloring?
Anecdotally, it has been seen to reduce anxiety and increase mindfulness. Dr. Nikki Martinez says that even the psychologist Dr. Carl Jung, founder of the school of analytical psychology, used to recommend coloring to his patients as a way to access their subconscious and new “self- knowledge.” Some see it as an alternative to meditation and a relaxation technique used to achieve calm. “It can help the individual focus on the act of coloring intricate pictures for hours on end, vs. focusing on intrusive and troubling thoughts.”
Martinez also notes that coloring helps with anxiety and stress as it calms down our amygdalas- the part of the brain that controls our fight or flight response, keeping us in a “heightened state of worry, panic and hyper-vigilance when it is active.” Coloring actually turns that response down and allows the brain go rest and relax. Coloring also brings us back to simpler times of our childhood when we did not have so many responsibilities and we “could do something because we wanted to, for the pure joy of it.” She also notes the intellectual benefits of coloring as it utilizes the areas of the brain responsible for focus, concentration, problem solving and organizational skills.
Begley describes her own experience coloring as she got lost in the act. “In a world that’s constantly interrupted by the beeping and buzzing of notifications, I found myself getting pleasantly lost in the intricacy of the ornate pages.”
Color also affects our state of mind in another way. Color has been found to impact one’s mood. Chromology is the study of the psychology of color and is used in advertising, decoration and in fashion. Different emotions and even physical reactions have been found to be triggered by colors. Red, for example, has been found to increase pulse, heart rate,and appetite and raises blood pressure. It is active and aggressive. (I once mentioned in a shiur I gave that it is interesting to note that Eisav was “red”and ate a red soup. What was the color trying to convey?) If one recalls the movie Inside Out, Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness were each different colors.
Lindsey Gurson, in her article, “Color Has A Powerful Effect On Behavior, Researchers Assert,” shares that “When children under detention at the San Bernardino County Probation Department in California become violent, they are put in an 8-foot by 4-foot cell with one distinctive feature - it is bubble gum pink. The children tend to relax, stop yelling and banging and often fall asleep within 10 minutes, said Paul E. Boccumini, director of clinical services for the department.” In a study in Edmonton, Alberta, of interest to us as educators, “the walls of the schoolroom were changed from orange and white to royal and light blue. A gray carpet was installed in place of an orange rug. Finally, the fluorescent lights and diffuser panels were replaced with full-spectrum lighting. As a result, Professor Wohlfarth reported, the children's mean systolic blood pressure dropped from 120 to 100, or nearly 17 percent, The children were also better behaved and more attentive and less fidgety and aggressive, according to the teachers and independent observers. When the room was returned to its original design, however, the readings gradually increased and the children once again became rowdy, he said.”
We apparently parent by color as well. I actually came across a website called Family Colorworks where each member of the family discovers his/her “natural color” and what it represents about their interaction style and their “needs, values, motives, stressors, and stress behaviors.” (I know nothing about this website and am in no way recommending it). Then you choose what color your parent with- blue, green, orange or gold. For example, blue parents “value relationships, communication and understanding and their biggest stressor is conflict. They are intuitive, communicative and sensitive. I focus on others’ needs. I seek for balance. I enjoy nature, spiritual things, friends and family. I say, ‘I feel’ a lot and tend to use touch to communicate…”
In Judaism we know that color also has meaning. In Sotah 17a, Rabbi Meir asks regarding the color techelet , "Why was the color blue chosen from all the other colors? Because the blue resembles the sea, the sea resembles the sky, and the sky resembles the Throne of Glory.” There is something about color that inspires us.
So, as we engage in color war, we are trying to relay many lessons to our children, as we hope they learn something from the experience. One color lesson we relay to them is “Sometimes you have to see people as a crayon. They may not be your favorite color, but you need them to complete the picture.” Color war is a lesson in working with others and making it work, even when the other may not be your particular friend.
As parents, let us remember to pay attention to the spectrum of colors in our lives and to take some time to just color.
Sixth Grade -Students discussed placing themselves in the role of teacher. If you were teacher, how would you expect students to act?
Seventh Grade- The boys focused on a unit on foul language and the importance of watching what one says. The girls discussed social exclusion and gossip- forms of bullying.
Eighth Grade- Student reflected on the “post holiday blues” that often stem from the materialism of the “holiday season.” How does materialism affect us?