The psychology of colors: How the colors you wear and surround yourself with affect your mood

Depending on where your interests lie, you probably have a level of understanding of the power of colors, whether consciously or subconsciously. 

Makeup, film, marketing, fashion, art, food, history, culture, forensics, nature, politics, etc. In all of those and even in the in-betweens, color has a role. 

And each role affects an outcome, even if we’re unaware of it happening.

The freshness of green in interior design could be the same green that denotes money. In literature, you could be green with envy. 

The poetry in feeling blue could be the same blue of the open seas. The calmness of it. The serenity.

Red is both passion and war. It is birth and death. In marketing and brand design, red incites hunger and urgency. 

Color is everywhere and it affects us even subconsciously. We have, after all, biases attached to certain colors. 

So come on, let’s talk about it. 

Ready to paint the town red?

1) It can make you feel hungry.

The juiciest of apples. The most luscious strawberries. The best slice of pizza you have ever had. French fries fresh off the fryer. Bananas. A cheese pull. 

Speaking of painting the town red, ever wondered why so many restaurants or fast food chains use the color red in their logo and branding? Well, color psychology.

Red makes us pay attention. Red drives urgency. 

Often for fast food chains, red is paired with the color yellow, this is known as the “Ketchup and Mustard Theory.” Fitting, isn’t it?

And while red is known to make us feel hungry, yellow makes us feel happy. And together, the perfect recipe—at least for food businesses. 

Meanwhile, when the color green is used in food-related applications, it makes us think “healthy”, “natural”, or “organic”.  

On the other end of this spectrum, the color blue suppresses appetite. Not only does it not often naturally appear in nature, but it is also associated with food that has gone bad. (Try imagining moldy food!)

2) It can calm and soothe you.

The quiet hours before sunrise. Clear skies and the calmest of seas. A swimming pool. The sky between sunset and darkness. 

Since I left off with blue when it comes to hunger, let’s talk about it in a different context, this time when it comes to calmness. 

The way we associate it with the most serene aspects of nature like the sea and the sky at its gentlest. Blue calms us down. It creates a sense of peace.

Green is also a soothing color, and it’s no wonder so many of us crave to be amongst nature. No wonder so many of us are calm at the sight of verdant greens. 

Additionally, desaturated colors are also easy on the eyes. Colors like pastel pinks, blues, and yellows. Blush, gray, and lilac, too! 

If you’re on the hunt for a bedroom paint color, consider any of the colors in this section.

3) It can help you be productive.

Years ago, I came across this internet “hack” that claimed that using blue ink to make notes helps you retain information. 

Well, it worked for me, but not in a very straightforward manner. It wasn’t so much about the color, but it was more about its relativity. As in, of course, I will notice the blue chunk of text in the middle of all the other mostly-black text. 

Also, as this study from the University of British Columbia suggests, people categorize blue as a trustworthy color. It’s no wonder it’s the world’s most favorite color!

In office spaces or places of work, certain colors can help boost productivity

Blue for efficiency and calm, green for wellbeing. Strategic placements of yellow for creativity and sparse placements of red for pops of color and stimulation. 

4) It can make you happy.

psychology of colors 1 The psychology of colors: How the colors you wear and surround yourself with affect your mood

Sunflowers. The warmth of the sun. The sun. A smiley face. Cheerfulness. Sunshine.

It goes without saying that your favorite color, whichever one that may be, has the highest likelihood of making you happy. 

It doesn’t matter how “gloomy” others think it might be, if you love it, you might like it more to be surrounded by it.

Saying that, it is believed that yellow is the happiest color, alongside other warm colors like red and orange. These are also colors that can feel energizing.

5) It can make you sad. 

A rainy day. Storm clouds rolling in. Roads after a storm. Feeling blue, feeling bleak.  Loss. The cold. 

A lot of people consider gray to be a sad color, it could feel dull and dreary. It could also evoke hopelessness. 

Consider the usage of gray in films, particularly dystopian ones. Either completely devoid of color or even just the desaturated quality of it lends quite a gloomy atmosphere.  

Black could also be a sad and solemn color. In a lot of cultures, it’s closely associated with sadness and mourning

6) It can make you nostalgic.

The gate of your childhood home. Your mom’s favorite flower. The shoes you wore so often that they broke. Your school colors back in high school. The specific shade of lipstick your best friend wore to prom. 

The color of your first love’s shirt when they said goodbye. Your first car with scratches at the side. Happiness long gone. Good times, good times.

Nostalgia can hit you at any time and it could be powerful. Nostalgia can make you miss “the good old days”, can make you miss the younger you.  

Nostalgia can even influence present decisions. It can make you miss people or experiences you can no longer have but would want to again. 

And although scent is the strongest trigger for a memory, color can aid in memory retention as it makes us pay better attention

Anecdotally, I can tell you that I still remember the gold heels I wore to prom. The red of the backpack my mom made for me in 3rd grade. I remember the yellow walls I painted my room with at our old house.

By the roadside cafe, I remember the warm orange of the street lamps as I talk to the boy I once loved. The light hit the side of his face just right, I remember the gray of his shirt. The deep blue of the sky.

And it takes me back. And I can hear my heart breaking all over again. 

7) It can make you feel on edge. 

Red is the color that commands the most attention. Warning labels, safety signs, stop signs, and red flags. It’s the color of blood and violence.

Our brains are hard-wired to pay attention to it. 

It can make you feel hostile and on edge. It can make you feel agitated. It can feel like danger. 

And while yellow is associated with happiness, it’s also used in applications that denote caution. Like the yellow in traffic lights or hazard signs.

8) It can make you biased. 

psychology of colors 2 The psychology of colors: How the colors you wear and surround yourself with affect your mood

Now, this isn’t much about the use of a single color but more about the biases we have attached to them.

For example, our favorite colors. Mine is yellow so I tend to purchase items of that same color, if not that, I buy products that would look good with yellow. 

And how about your favorite sports teams? Your political party? Your favorite celebrity’s favorite color? The color of your country’s flag?

Heck, even Hogwarts Houses have a clear separation of house colors—red, green, yellow, and blue!

These are color affiliations that we have absorbed into our personalities and have knowingly or unknowingly shaped our opinions. 

Adding to that, color psychology in marketing can influence 85% of consumers’ purchasing decisions

As previously mentioned, red can signal urgency and command power. Brands and companies like Marvel, Coca-Cola, CNN, H&M, Target, and many more.

And again, blue is a trustworthy color. Makes sense for car manufacturer Ford to use it, doesn’t it? How about Pfizer, P&G, Oral-B, and Nestle for health and wellness? 

For tech, there’s Dell, Paypal, Meta, Venmo, IBM, HP, Intel, and many more. For finance, there’s Visa and American Express, and that’s only two of the many others that utilize this trustworthy color in this sector.

Happiness-inducing and optimistic yellow can be found in brands like McDonald’s, Bumble, and Snapchat. 

Pink is closely associated with femininity and friendship, brands like Barbie, Avon, and Cosmopolitan have this color in center stage.  

Color psychology can also be found in packaging. Biases over neutral and sleek packaging—like white, cream, or black—can make a product feel more premium.

9) It can boost your confidence. 

And last but definitely not least, what colors we wear can affect our confidence, even without us realizing it.

Of course, it’s a given that we have our favorite colors. Colors that we love regardless of their aesthetic value. Colors that make us happy regardless of fashion rules. 

However, we might also have colors that we love to wear because it makes us look good. For example, I love wearing certain shades of red, both in fashion and beauty. It makes me feel powerful and bold.

Navy blue is also a color I love wearing as it makes me feel polished and put together without looking so solemn. Dark green is also a favorite of mine to don. 

These aren’t necessarily my favorite colors, just colors I love to wear.

You might have those, too! Perhaps you don’t really like magenta, but you look amazing in it. Or that sage green is not your first choice in personal items, but it makes your skin tone look great.

My friends, I’m talking about color theory. If you’re familiar with the beauty side of the internet, you probably have heard of this term a lot, especially in recent years. 

Another color-related trend that has surfaced on the fashion side of the internet is Season Colors Analysis, this is where you can get analyzed for what colors best suit your skin tone, hair color, and eye color. 

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t wear whatever color you want, but this just shows you which colors make you look dazzling. 

Based on self-analysis, my color is Deep Autumn. It’s characterized by dark, warm, and rich colors of fall. This is great for me since I already wear a lot of dark reds, navy, and dark green. 

Pastel colors, however, wash me out. 

You might have those colors, too. Have you noticed that there are times you wear a certain color and you just look splotchy and sickly? 

Saying all this, your “power color” doesn’t necessarily need to mean it’s the color that you look best in, it just needs to be the color that you FEEL best in. 

To end

The colors we choose to wear and surround ourselves with have both direct and indirect impacts on us.

It could be due to cultural biases we have grown up with or personal affiliations we have accumulated throughout the years. Even our interests can change the way we see and interact with color.

Color may be seen and interacted with differently by someone who paints versus someone who does branding for businesses. Color usage in fashion will be different compared to its usage in food safety. 

What colors mean in films might be more symbolic and subjective, Wes Anderson’s usage of the color pink might mean differently from Greta Gerwig’s. 

In the same breath, the usage of red in the movie “Her” might mean the same yearning in the movie “In The Mood For Love.” 

Lastly, our emotional attachment to different colors adds even more depth and nuance to how we see this dizzyingly vivid world.  

Picture of Michelle Marie Manese

Michelle Marie Manese

M Manese is a part-time creative writer, illustrator, and full-time fangirl hoping to find her way within the Content space. She makes art here: @michellemmanese

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