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Feel happier just by changing your shirt

By Leatrice Eiseman

It’s true: Changing the colors you wear can actually change your mood — and how others feel about you. When I was first trying to learn about color, there wasn’t much research out there. So I decided to do the studies myself and fill the obvious gap.

At the Center for Color Information and Training, we’ve been conducting word-association color studies for years. We show people a swatch of color and ask them to identify their immediate feelings upon seeing it. In general, warmer tones make people feel happier than cool tones — but that’s not always the case. And even an accessory in the right hue, like a bracelet or a handbag, can boost your mood. This is valuable information.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about colors and mood the next time you’re standing in front of your closet:

Reds: Brick — which has yellow undertones — is more upbeat than cool blue-red. Interestingly, several studies, including one published in the journal Nature, found that athletes win more events when they wear red rather than blue, possibly because of red’s energizing effects.

Oranges and yellows: These hues are universally uplifting — and not just bright dandelion yellows or ice-pop oranges. Even a more muted shade can give you a sunnier outlook. When I’m feeling down, I’ll reach for something peachy: It’s a cheerful, approachable color. 

Blues: This color family isn’t generally associated with happiness. But shades at the warmer end of the spectrum — like periwinkle — can give you an emotional pick-me-up. Wearing azure, in particular, with its connection to the sea and sky, evokes feelings of fantasy and getaway. Plus, it looks good with almost every skin tone.

I never tell people to avoid certain colors entirely, but simply to be aware of their effects on mood. If you have a fabulous gray or black dress, pin on a sunny yellow broach or add a sparkly gold belt. You’ll look happier — and likely feel more cheerful too.


Leatrice Eiseman is the director of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training and the author of seven books on the subject of color.

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