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Can Wearing Bright Colors Actually Boost Your Mood?

If I had a dime for everytime someone told me I had an “RBF” (resting b*tch face), I would be a rich woman. But it’s the real world and I am just a girl with an RBF and no dimes. It also does not help my naturally furrowed brows that I love to wear dark colors. I feel the most comfortable in blacks, grays and browns. My all-time favorite is dark blue. I can’t explain why I am drawn to dark colors aside from the reason that I “just like them.”

As I have been living my life, coddled in blacks, grays, browns and blues, I discovered the term “dopamine dressing.” Dopamine dressing  is a theory that claims that wearing certain colors can elevate your mood. It sounds like a good deal, if you ask me, to be able to pop on some yellow or red to find instant happiness. I may be able to forgo my beloved dark colors for some of this happiness, but is it too good to be true? 

Science does not strongly back dopamine dressing. However, psychologist Kate Nightingale states that, “when you put some color on, your brain automatically activates all of your subconscious associations with it and if your current emotional states is considerably different to these associations, your brain will slowly start to adjust your mood.”  These associations are based on personal memories with each color.  Oftentimes, however, the brain associates colors such as red with feelings of excitement or arousal. 

Fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell shares that while, “there are some interpretations of colors that are universal… cold colors like blue induce feelings of calmness and creativity.”  At the same time, “happiness is too subjective an experience to be pinned down to one colour.” Dark colors to me, may be just as happiness-inducing as bright ones for you. 

The subjectiveness of happiness is key for dopamine dressing. Confidence is not one-color-fits-all, meaning that you define your own confidence boosting wardrobe. Happiness-inducing colors are totally dependent on you and your own associations. This does not mean that you can’t push yourself out of your fashion comfort zone. Forbes-Bell recommends adding “ more of your favourite colours into your wardrobe – the colours that remind you of a happier time, a place or a person…”

How to find your “dopamine” outfits:

  1. Take some time to reflect on your happiest memories: the beach, the woods, home, etc.
  2. Think about the colors associated with those places or people and incorporate them into your wardrobe.

Those dark colors will not leave me without a fight, but they may not have to.  Vogue’s manager of creative development, Alexandra Gurvitch, shares that black is similarly her safe space and her “persona.”  While looking for other colors may be enticing and something we want to do, she, “[keeps] coming back to it.” Additionally, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Valerie Steele, agrees that, “black is not just a mourning color.” Black is multifaceted and multi “mooded,” as it can evoke feelings of intelligence, authority and artisticness.  

Dopamine dressing is a tool. It’s wild to think that the colors we wear can have such an impact on our mood.  However, it is not just bright colors that have these strong positive impacts. Be mindful of the colors you wear, why you wear them and how they make you feel. Some days you may just need to evoke certain memories or feelings more than others. At the end of the day, if you are confident and happy, you are successfully “dopamine dressing.”

I am a first year student studying political science. My two loves are cooking and being outside. I love my two pets Winnie, a chocolate lab, and Craig, a beta fish. When I am not studying in my room, you will probably find me outside playing tennis, walking, or doing yoga. I am originally from State College, PA. <3
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