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Does Wearing Bright Colors make you happier? (Op-Ed)

Do you know that scene in Gravity Falls where the gnome is just throwing up rainbows? Half the time, I’m sure that is what people think of my clothes. You either love what I am wearing, or you hate it, and there is no in-between. 


I prioritize my mental health a lot, and others should too. It is very important to take care of your mental and physical health. When you feel at your best, it is easier to accomplish the things you want to do in life. I always feel the happiest when my nails are painted a bright yellow, and my outfit is well thought out and colorful. 

In 2012 a study from the University of Hertfordshire investigated the idea of dopamine dressing. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term dopamine dressing, it is to dress with the priority to release dopamine, otherwise known as the “happy drug.” In the study, they made participants wear clothes that had symbolic meaning to them.  Soon after, their perceived confidence increased. 

Colors can be recognized as a universal language, and many societies can agree that certain colors evoke specific feelings. For instance, the use of blue and green promotes calmness and quietness, while other shades, such as bright yellow and orange, help you feel energized. Maybe this is why I am always drinking coffee and wearing yellow; who knows? Another great example is in the United States, the bride normally wears a white dress on her wedding day, symbolizing purity and innocence. Whereas in Chinese cultures, white is the color of mourning.

If you are looking to feel a little extra confident for a date or a big speech, red is the way to go.

“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.”

From a more smarty-pants psychological standpoint, humans are impacted by this concept called 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.

For some reason, yellow and blue together remind me of Disney World, and growing up, I loved Disney princesses and Tinker-bell, and I still do, don’t get me wrong, but it consumed a huge part of my childhood. I took lots of piano lessons when I was younger and was known in my town for being the little girl that has all of these fancy fairytale dresses, and I would wear them according to what Disney song I was performing at the concert, silly little fun fact about me. 

In comparison, my younger brother likes to wear green because it reminds him of being surrounded by nature.  So I think that dressing with memories when you are in a rough patch of life can be extremely helpful to get yourself out of that rut and to get to a better place. Having positive associations with things in your childhood will more than likely transfer over into your adulthood. 

(Img Disney, Princess, and The Frog ) 

There are more common colors that people tend to lean towards when they want to feel a certain way, or they do feel a certain way. Most people gravitate to wear red, black, or deep purple to feel strong and powerful. To feel fun, playful, and energized, most people wear orange, yellow, or bright green; sadness tends to be grey. But more often than not, colors are going to have a different meaning to each person based on their own lives and experiences. 

The final verdict is that yes, certain colors can boost your mood and make you feel happier. While I can tell you that certain clothes can help release dopamine, I can’t tell you exactly what to wear to be happy. Unfortunately, this is not a one size fits all. I wrote an article a few days ago about “sparking joy” and linked Marie Kondo’s book, but basically, you have to find something that speaks to you or “sparks joy”. 

Everyone’s color or outfit that helps to release dopamine is going to be different. I recommend going to an art gallery and seeing what colors speak to you, what color your favorite song reminds you of,  or even a favorite place that you’ve been to. Some things you can ask yourself are, does this color remind me of someone or something happy in my life? Do I feel confident and comfortable wearing this? Do I feel like “me” in this? 


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