The other day I posted about my color adventure in London: getting my colors analyzed. I’m doing everything I can think of to feed my obsession with color. I’m trying to follow that interest anywhere it leads, as a way to get myself to do the novel and challenging things that I know boost happiness.
In the process, I had a such an interesting conversation with Melissa Nicholson that I asked her to do an interview. She’s the founder of Kettlewell, a clothing company that makes clothes based on color analysis, and that reflects her own conviction that color can be a major driver of happiness, energy, and self-presentation.
She had many fascinating observations and insights into the subject of color — and also happiness, habits, and self-knowledge. For one thing, she has “perfect pitch” for color — she can look at a color, and later in the day, exactly recall its hue. I can’t imagine having that kind of memory for color.
(She’s British, as you will see from her spelling of color.)
Gretchen: What’s a simple habit or activity that consistently makes you happier?
Melissa: Getting everyone together and dining with friends and family. It could be a Sunday roast at home or dinner out at a new restaurant. Nothing makes me happier.
Gretchen: What’s something you know now about building healthy habits or happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
Melissa: When I was younger I was quite sensitive and easily hurt. Nowadays I don’t worry so much about what people think. I try to find the strengths in people, accept them for who they are, and work with them rather than have expectations that just can’t be met. I find you get a better response from people that way.
Gretchen: Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?
Melissa: I tend to replay situations in my head – conversations I’ve had with people, things that have been said. I can be quite overenthusiastic and worry that, on reflection, I’ve shared too much.
Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)
Melissa: I start each day with 15 minutes of Pilates. It started after a bout of pneumonia to help with my breathing, and it has now become a part of my daily routine, making me more focused and ready to face the day. I also make sure I drink a large glass of water as soon as I wake up. It’s one of the easiest, quickest things you can do for your health.
Gretchen: Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?
Melissa: When I was ill I discovered I had an intolerance to wheat, so I resolved to cut it out of my diet. Consequently, I have less bloating and far fewer colds and weight fluctuations.
Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?
Melissa: I’m an Obliger. I like collaboration; I feed off other people. I’m very much a team player.
Gretchen: Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?
Melissa: One cold December day, 15 years ago, I was out clothes shopping in London, trying to find something to wear to a Christmas party, and all I could find was black. Having recently had my colours analysed, I suddenly thought, “I can’t be the only one who wants to wear colour in the wintertime,” and went back and told my husband John that I had an idea for a new business. A year later we had moved the family out of London and set up Kettlewell Colours in the West Country.
Gretchen: Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful? (e.g., I remind myself to “Be Gretchen.”) Or a quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful? Or a particular book that has stayed with you?
Melissa: Coco Chanel once said: “The best colour in the world is the colour that looks good on you.” I stand by that motto. It underpins everything we do at Kettlewell: we provide the colour choice to enable people to discover their true colours.