It’s science: Getting dressed for the day can make you feel happier (even if you’re WFH)

In a phenomenon called enclothed cognition, your clothes may cover your body, but they also infiltrate your brain, putting you into a different psychological state.

benefits of getting dressed

It's noon and the day is well on its way. But I'm not.

I'm feeling sluggish and a little down so I shamble off for another cup of coffee in the hope that it will spark some motivation. Walking by my closet mirror, I catch sight of myself—still in my rumpled jammies, slippers and robe, hair everywhere and traces of yesterday's make-up still on my face—and I look like the end of the day, instead of the beginning. And I think, maybe what I really need is not another cup of joe, but a makeover instead? That seems too far from reach at the moment, and I decide the next best thing might be to get dressed.

Social psychologists say that clothing is an extension of the self and that by actually getting dressed, you create a shift in your mindset that can improve how you feel.

In this new working from home era, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get dressed when you don't feel like it and all you plan to do today is stay indoors, take meetings and be a mama to littles. But day after day, this uniform can take its toll on your psyche.

Your mind takes note of what you're wearing. In a phenomenon called enclothed cognition, your clothes may cover your body, but they also infiltrate your brain, putting you into a different psychological state—meaning, your outfit can affect how you think and behave. This is in part because of how they look and feel on your skin and what they mean to you, but also because you are actually going through the physical process of getting dressed.

This concept belongs to the theory of embodied cognition, which says that your body's actions (like getting dressed) affect your mind (how you feel) just as much as your mind influences what your body does.

"We think not just with our brains but with our bodies," explains Dr. Adam D. Galinsky, a psychologist and professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. So, by just getting dressed (yes, even another pair of leggings and a cozy shirt), you can change your mind.

And what you wear has power. Studies have shown clothing can be used as a coping mechanism to overcome depressed feelings and also has the power to change a bad mood. By choosing what to wear and then getting dressed, you exercise an element of control in your life that helps you deal with your environment. And favorite outfits have even more power to generate a better mood.

So, getting out of jammies might make you:

  • Feel happier
  • Feel more in control
  • Be prepared for the day
  • Feel better about yourself

Bottom line: I can't always control what happens during the day, but I can control what I wear. By choosing an outfit that I love because it is cozy and I feel good in it, I start to feel better. Empowered, now I'm ready for anything.

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