Can Wearing Certain Colors Affect Your Mood?
Do you have a favorite color you like to wear? For me, it's pink. You normally won't see me step out of my house without something pink on my being—whether that's a purse, lipstick, or a dress. I always feel happier and more confident when decked in pink, which is why I do it.
Enter: color psychology. According to this theory, wearing certain colors can actually boost your mood.
Now, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to color psychology. The way colors affect people has to do with their individual experiences and perceptions. While there is statistical evidence to show that colors like red are typically viewed as "powerful" and "attractive," this doesn't apply to everyone. In other words, your color psychology is completely unique to you.
To get a better understanding of color psychology, we spoke with some psychologists about how colors can affect your mood and how you can go about adding color psychology into your life.
Evolutionary and biological principles have a role in color psychology
Like the basis of many things in society, color psychology has roots in evolution.
"In both animals and humans, red can indicate the release of hormones associated with aggression and serve as a signal of dominance to others," says Jennifer Hettema, PhD, senior clinical director at LifeStance Health. "In fact, many studies have documented a 'red effect' whereby athletes or teams that wear red seem to have a slight advantage when compared to other colors." Using this principle of color psychology, wearing a color like red might be able to benefit you during times when you need an extra boost of confidence, whether it's during a big work presentation or on a first date.
From a more psychological standpoint, humans are impacted by a concept called enclothed cognition. "This theory is grounded in the idea that our clothes can impact our feelings and behaviors, and therefore the colors that we wear can influence our mood," says Lee Chambers, an environmental psychologist based in the United Kingdom.
People's personal experiences also determine how they experience color
There are more common colors people tend to gravitate towards when they want to evoke certain feelings: strong and powerful (red, black, deep purple), fun and playful (orange, yellow, bright green), and sad (gray). But more often than not, colors are going to have different meanings to people based on their own lives and experiences.
"Our personal affinity for certain colors may be closely tied to our cultural and/or life experiences, so your experience may not fall into the typical norms of 'red makes me feel strong' and 'blue makes me feel calm,'" says Bethany Cook, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist.
From our personal experiences, associations can be made between certain colors if a person has had a powerful or repeated experience with it, says Hettema. "For example, repeated hospitalizations where the medical staff all wear a certain shade of blue, that color may come to yield negative feelings such as fear or anxiety."
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if someone had positive experiences with someone with pink hair, they might have an affinity towards pink and have positive feelings associated with it.
Personally speaking, my favorite color is probably pink because my favorite princess had a pink dress and my favorite childhood doll wore bright pink lipstick. Having positive associations with things in your childhood will likely transfer over into adulthood.
How to Add Color Psychology Into Your Life
The beautiful thing about color psychology is that it's something that can be explored and is ever-changing. One easy step to recognize which colors boost your mood and which ones don't is simple: observe colors.
When going about your day, take note of which colors catch your eye and what feelings they bring up. Whether it's a painting or an outfit, start by becoming more mindful of what you gravitate to, depending on your mood and how you're looking to feel.
"Look at drawings, go to an art museum, and immerse yourself in colors. Go to a store and try on a variety of colors, picking ones you wouldn't normally choose. Look in the mirror and see how you feel in each look," Cook says. "Once you have an awareness of your own bias for colors, ask yourself what you 'need' for the day when you wake in the morning: strength, calm, patience, or energy. From there, choose your outfit according to the colors that represent those feelings."
Once you have an idea of what colors boost your mood, keep track of them. One way to do this is with a personal color guide. "Creating a personal color guide for yourself is an activity that can help you start to build a color-driven wardrobe that supports and encourages you when you get dressed, no matter where your mood is at the time," Chambers says.
Yes, wearing certain colors can boost your mood. If you're curious as to which colors that may be, there's no one specific answer, since this varies depending on one's personal experiences, perceptions, and preferences. The best way to figure out which colors boost your mood is by playing with them. Let your inner child explore and find what sparks joy and positive feelings. Once you determine which colors boost your mood, use that information and incorporate it into your outfit choices. If that color is pink, add a pink shirt or purse to your ensemble. If it's green, add a green cardigan or a pair of socks. No matter how big or small, incorporating elements of color psychology into your wardrobe can have a positive impact on your mood if you take the time to figure out what works for you.