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How to dress to lift your mood

How to dress to lift your mood

For many of us, Zoom catch-ups, home workouts, and culinary experiments have become the easiest way to ward off bad vibes during lockdown. And whilst keeping busy with new hobbies is a great way to pass the time and feel productive when there’s not much to do, it’s simple changes to your daily routine that can make the biggest difference to your general wellbeing. 

One easy way to lift your mood is with what you put on in the morning. We can all agree that lie-ins and cosy loungewear are some of the highlights of working from home, but getting up, selecting an outfit to wear each day, and upholding a regular morning routine can have long-term positive effects on your mood.

It’s actually (kind of) science

Cognitive psychologists Hajo Adam's and Adam Galinsky’s theory of enclothed cognition highlights the effect of clothing on our cognitive processes. In simple terms, our thoughts are based on physical experiences, which could be connected to what we are wearing and the symbolic meaning that those items hold. For example, a doctor’s coat might make someone feel more professional and focused on the task they’ve been assigned. 

Studies in enclothed cognition show that clothing can also affect how we interact with others and with the world around us, enhance our psychological state, and improve our performance when carrying out tasks, all of which will go some way to lifting our mood. 

Use this theory to your advantage

We know our appearance affects the way others perceive us, but it’s easier to ignore how it affects the way we think of ourselves. The paradox is that many of us feel guilty about spending time thinking about our clothing in case we seem shallow or too focused on appearance, which can lead to us not putting in the effort and therefore not feeling our best.

When getting dressed, think about how the pieces you’re choosing make you feel, and whether that’s a mood you want to take into the day. For example, if a leather jacket makes you feel rebellious, it might not be the best item for enhancing your focus or productivity. Instead, look to something that you associate with professionalism, like leather brogues or a crisp Oxford shirt. In the same vein, items that you associate with good times, like your favourite party shirt, are likely to lift your mood and put you in good spirits. 

The other benefit of considering your mindset when getting dressed is that it gives this otherwise mundane daily task a purpose, and could even make it more fun. Turn ‘how do I want to feel today?’ into your morning mantra, and use it to pick the pieces that strike the right mood. 

Embrace patterns and colour

It’s also been proven that colour can influence our mood, so incorporate this into the way you dress. For example, putting on a yellow sweater on a day when you’re not feeling too cheerful might help you feel happier. So think of bright colours and bold prints as an easy pick-me-up. 

Reflect your personality

The clothes we wear can make us feel powerful, lazy, or cheerful, but they also make us feel like ourselves. Dressing in a way that reflects your personality will help you feel confident and comfortable, and you won’t be distracted by what you’re wearing as you go about your day.

If you prefer streetwear or casual clothing, lockdown is your time. If you feel best in a three-piece suit, getting dressed up just to send emails or binge Netflix isn’t going to give you the boost you need. Under these strange circumstances, think about the casual clothes you feel best in, or even the kinds of loungewear that make you feel a little more put-together, like a chore jacket and relaxed trousers rather than sweats and an old hoodie, which will likely dampen your mood.

Get comfy

Not just literally, but in terms of what makes you feel comfortable. You’ve probably heard the theories about dressing to ‘power up’ in smart clothes (known as the Psychology of Fashion), but it’s actually harder to relax in stiff, formal clothing as we tend to feel less open, and generally perform better socially in more casual outfits. In fact, casual dress codes have been proven to increase productivity and creativity, as clothes that are too constricting can be distracting. Choosing comfy clothes will allow you to focus your energy on the task at hand.

Similarly, it’s believed that if you dress in gym clothes, you’re more likely to be motivated to exercise as you have reduced the excuses not to, considering getting dressed for the occasion is half the battle. So if you dress in clothes that make you feel good, you’ve reduced any excuse not to lift your mood.

Words: Ella White
Illustration: Darren Shaddick