Certain colors can have surprisingly transformative effects on our emotions, lifting us up when we’re down and soothing our senses when we’re stressed. We can’t control the colors around us when we’re out and about, of course—but we can carry our “color therapy” with us all day by making the right wardrobe selections.
I spoke with clinical psychologist Holly Parker, PhD, of Harvard University to find out how we can use clothing in various hues to our advantage. Her tips…
To enhance energy: Wear red. By ramping up your autonomic nervous system and causing your heart rate and blood pressure to rise, red makes you feel more alert and excited, Dr. Parker said. In that sense, wearing red is similar to caffeine—but unlike a mega-mug of coffee, it won’t give you the jitters or send you running repeatedly to the bathroom.
Plan ahead to stay alert. Choose a garment that’s cherry-colored, tomato-tinted or fire-engine red whenever you know that you have an extensive list of errands to complete…will be facing extra hours at the office…or need to stay wide awake during a long drive.
To boost confidence and creativity: Go green. In a Turkish study of color, green ranked as the most confidence-inspiring. Dr. Parker explained that this hue appears to simultaneously ease anxiety and stress while stimulating the mind and sparking creative energy.
What if you’re prone to anxiety but don’t want to wear green clothing every day? You could slip a bracelet made of green stones or beads around your wrist. Or carry a small green handkerchief in your purse or pocket, Dr. Parker suggested. Take it out and look at it for a minute or two when you need to tap into the power of green.
To calm down: Turn to blue. Blue is the hue that soothes the autonomic nervous system, slowing your heart rate and lowering your blood pressure. This reduces physical arousal and promotes a sense of calmness, Dr. Parker said.
When you start feeling overwhelmed (for instance, by your hectic schedule), pull on a soothing blue sweater or wrap an azure scarf around your neck. If you just received some upsetting news and don’t have a blue garment on hand, change the background color of your computer’s wallpaper…or just gaze skyward for a few minutes until you feel more tranquil.