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What does the color green mean in psychology?

The color green evokes a wide range of meanings and associations in psychology. From symbolizing nature, growth, and renewal to representing safety, luck, and prosperity, the color green has deep roots in human culture and psychology.

The Fundamentals of Color Psychology

Color psychology examines how different colors affect human behavior, mood, and thinking. Research has shown that color can influence our emotions, perceptions, and behaviors in profound ways, often without us even realizing it. Understanding the psychology behind different colors can provide insight into their cultural meanings and impact.

When it comes to green, there are a few key factors that drive its psychological associations:

  • Green is one of the three additive primary colors along with red and blue.
  • It occupies the center of the color spectrum, creating a sense of balance and harmony.
  • Green has strong connections to the natural world such as plants, trees, and grass.
  • It is considered one of the most restful and relaxing colors for the human eye to perceive.

With these fundamentals in mind, let’s explore the diverse symbolic meanings of the color green.

Green Represents Nature

One of the most ubiquitous associations with the color green is nature. As the dominant color of most plant life like trees, grasses, and shrubs, green is intrinsically linked to the natural landscape and environment.

Seeing the color green sparks recognition of growth, renewal, and blooming vegetation. Researchers have found that exposure to the color green can improve creativity and cognition by creating a natural, peaceful state of mind.

Study Key Findings on Green and Nature
Lichtenfeld et al. (2012) Seeing the color green prior to a creativity test enhanced divergent thinking scores compared to gray.
Lee et al. (2014) Viewing green roof settings decreased heart rate and improved self-reported mood vs. concrete roof settings.

The natural qualities of green explain why it is often used to represent environmentalism, conservation, and sustainability movements. Research clearly demonstrates that exposure to the green hues commonly found in nature have measurable physical and psychological benefits.

Green Represents Growth and Prosperity

Closely tied to its natural symbolism, green also represents growth and prosperity. In agriculture, lush green vegetation indicates healthy, thriving crops. That connection between green, growth, and abundance is reflected in financial terms like “the green” and “greenback” meaning money and wealth.

In advertising and branding, using green is thought to convey a message of growth potential. Green road signs provide direction, symbolizing moving forward. Some companies even use green in logos and branding to subconsciously signal prosperity like John Deere tractors and BP gas stations.

Industry Examples of Green Branding
Financial Money, “Greenback” dollar bills, TD Ameritrade logo
Agriculture John Deere tractors, Nature’s Promise organic branding
Transportation BP gas stations, green traffic lights

Research has uncovered that green can prime people to be more generous and less selfish when presented with financial dilemmas. Exposure to green seems to activate an abundance mindset, allowing people to share more freely and ethically.

Green Symbolizes Luck and Safety

Culturally, green is considered a lucky color and is strongly associated with safety. These meanings have origins in nature, traffic symbols, and even superstition.

In nature, green indicates a source of food and water necessary for survival. Seeing green could signal a safe, lush environment. Today, green lights denote moving safely in traffic. Green is also featured prominently in safety signage such as exit signs.

As a lucky color, green has roots in mythology and folklore. Egyptians wore green eye makeup to honor the god Horus. In the Middle Ages, wearing green was thought to attract fairies. Brides in Western cultures often wear green as a symbol of fertility.

Context Examples of Green as Lucky/Safe
Traffic Green traffic lights, green exit signs
Mythology Egyptian eye makeup for Horus, Medieval fairy folklore
Weddings Green dresses and decorations for fertility

Today, many sports teams such as the Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, and Toronto Raptors wear green uniforms when competing to invoke luck. Researchers have found wearing green in competitive contexts improves performance.

Green Represents Health and Healing

Due to its connections with nature, green is also associated with health and healing. In many cultures, green has historically been used to represent medicine and pharmacies for this reason. Hospital interiors are often green to create a calming atmosphere.

Eating fresh green vegetables provides nutrition and evokes a healthy lifestyle. The “eat your greens” saying encapsulates how the color is linked to a balanced diet. Green juice cleanses have surged in popularity as a way to detox and get nutrients.

There is also evidence that being exposed to the color green may offer genuine physical and mental health benefits. Research has found that seeing green after an intense workout accelerates recovery. Natural green settings also reduce stress and offer cognitive restoration.

Study Key Findings on Green and Health
Hill & Barton (2005) Seeing green after exercise increased strength and decreased fatigue vs. gray.
Wooller et al. (2015) Viewing green urban areas lowered physiological stress indicators vs. built urban settings.

The associations between green, nature, and health likely contribute to why green spaces like parks and gardens are experienced as restorative environments.

Green Represents Calmness and Relaxation

Green is considered one of the most calming, relaxing colors. Its soft hue creates low visual arousal compared to more intense colors like red and yellow. That’s why green is often described as peaceful, gentle, and tranquil.

Research substantiates the psychological calming effects of green. Exposure to green environments has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Simply having a green view out a window improves well-being for workers and students.

Study Key Findings on Green and Relaxation
Kim & Mattson (2002) Hospital patients with green views had lower post-operative anxiety vs. patients with no windows.
Alvarsson et al. (2010) Having a forest view vs. urban view from the office lowered psychological stress.

Green’s restorative qualities may explain why it is used to create comfortable, casual environments. Using green in interior design promotes relaxation in settings like spas, lounges, and waiting rooms.

Green Represents Balance and Harmony

As the midpoint on the color spectrum, green strikes an equal balance between warm and cool temperatures. This means green harmoniously combines the activation of yellow and the calming effects of blue.

Green also balances light and dark, acting as the transition between black and white. The central stability of green creates a satisfying, harmonious feeling. Research finds the balance of green is experienced as emotionally pleasant and controllable.

Study Key Findings on Green and Balance
Kaya & Epps (2004) Green was rated as the most emotionally pleasant color compared to yellow, red, blue, and purple.
Manav (2007) Green achieved optimal scores for balance between warmth/coolness and lightness/darkness.

This balanced energy gives green broad appeal across age, gender, and culture. Green is universally liked and rated positively. Designers frequently use green backgrounds to create visual comfort and harmony.


Green is a multifaceted color that symbolizes nature, growth, prosperity, luck, safety, health, relaxation, and harmony. Its cultural meanings arise from green’s strong ties to the natural world and the positive qualities associated with plants, vegetation, and the environment. While green has diverse symbolic significance across different contexts, its core essence seems to be creating natural, balanced, restorative effects.

Understanding the psychology and meaning behind the color green provides helpful insight for everything from branding and marketing to interior design and improving well-being. Green’s versatility yet fundamentally pleasant nature help explain why it remains one of the most widely beloved colors across cultures.