Did your mood drop with the leaves?

An multicolored forest floor on Michigan State Universitiy’s campus. Photo: Brian Bienkowski

Many people slide into depression as days get shorter and colder.

That may be even worse this year for people who live or travel in the Great Lakes region where joyously colored leaves are dropping faster than usual.

“Everything is moving faster this year,” said Michelle Begnoche, communications specialist at Pure Michigan, the state’s travel and tourism organization.

Leaf color can influence people’s moods, said Kendra Cherry, a psychosocial therapist and psychology expert for About.com.

“When people talk about how different seasons make them feel, they often refer to the colors seen in nature,” Cherry said.

“Researchers have found that colors can cause a range of reactions, from a sense of calm to feelings of excitement,” she said. “Less color in the environment could potentially cause people to feel less positively.”

People have different reactions to different colors, she said. Fall colors are among those that make people feel warm and welcomed.

“We react on multiple levels of association with colors — there are social or culture levels as well as personal relationships with particular colors,” said Leslie Harrington, executive director of the Color Association of The United States, an independent color trend forecasting and color consulting service.

Several factors influence how people feel about colors, Harrington said. They can have certain associations with color, such as red making their hearts race or yellow having a positive association simply because it was the color of their beloved grandmother’s kitchen.

“You also have an innate reaction to color,” she said. “For example, when you look at red, it does increase your heart rate. It is a stimulating color.”

Researchers have found that warmer or cooler colors can affect how people feel, Cherry said.

“Red and orange are what are known as warm colors, and people generally find them more inviting as well as lively,” she said. “Green is a color most strongly associated with nature, so people often describe it as invoking a sense of renewal, energy, and peace.”

The yellows, gold and reds of fall foliage calls to mind feelings of excitement, but also coziness and warmth, she said.

People who are cold prefer warm colors like red and yellow, while people who are hot prefer cool colors like blue and green., according to color psychology research by Allen Whitfield, a professor from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.

But if you want your dose of fall color, you’d better get moving fast.

“You can still see some nice pockets of color in the southwestern Ontario,” said Jack Lynch, travel promotion officer from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sports.

But in northwestern Ontario the fall color season has been winding down after strong winds and even early season snow showers in the region, according to the Ontario Travel Information Centre.

It is the same situation in the United States.

Foliagenetwork.com collects data from foliage spotters all over the U.S.  It says leaves in Michigan and Wisconsin peaked at the beginning of October. Leaves have begun to drop a lot in Wisconsin, whose dropping level has been defined as “high” after mid October.

With the decreasing temperature and sunshine time, loss of green, orange and red in the environment could potentially cause people to feel bad.

Some people are disappointed because of this year’s limited fall color season, Lynch said. “Normally it is the best time of the year. People can almost see colors changing throughout these 3-4 weeks with cool weather and gorgeous colors. But now colors are already fading.”

Fall colors mean a lot to people in the Great Lakes region, Lynch said. “Those colors are awesome. You have yellow or golden from hedge maples, reddish-orange from crimson king maples, purplish-red from Kousa dogwood, bright red from Pepperidge.”

For an update on nearby status of color, see: Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sports or the Foliage Network in the U.S.

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