Are you debating if you should wear your fanciest outfits for the festive season? Well, don't think on it for another second, because you absolutely should — even if you'll be staying safe inside and the only people really seeing your looks are online. This year has shown us that although we might not always dress for ourselves, doing so is an easy way to boost your mood. A cute outfit actually has the ability to tell your brain to release tons of happy chemicals that will make you feel as bubbly as your favorite bottle of fizz. "We don't laugh because we are happy, we are happy because we laugh," philosopher William James said — and when it comes to celebrating special events in lockdown, that quote couldn't ring more true.
Rituals and rites of passage are some of the things that make us feel like everything is going to be OK. Milestone events like birthdays, weddings, and graduations make us feel safe, like the chorus of our favorite song, because we can predict how it should be and how it will make us feel. Much like Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's, yearly anniversaries give us the kind of structure that some of us have missed while being in lockdown. These special occasions are so fulfilling because they promise mutual connection, a moment to be with your family and friends and share gratitude for those we love. Milestones also offer the opportunity to take a step back, reflect, recharge, prepare for a transition, and start the next chapter of our lives with optimism.
"Our behavior isn't preordained by our emotional states; rather, we can manipulate our emotional states by our behavior."
Without having many special events this year, it can feel like 2020 kind of cheated us and took away our time. Not being able to embrace those we love has made this year particularly difficult, and while many of us will have to wait until 2021 for that warm, fuzzy feeling, there's still time to create the joy of normality by dressing up for the festive season. Think about it: did festivities even happen if we didn't dress up for the occasion? What's a wedding without a gown, a birthday without a sparkly outfit, or Christmas without a festive jumper? If you still need convincing, POPSUGAR spoke to two leading experts in stress, trauma, and self-esteem to find out why and how a great outfit can be one of the easiest ways to remind ourselves that life is worth celebrating, even if this year hasn't given us much to be excited about.
"The subconscious mind works very powerfully on associations," explained psychologist Dr. Zoë Clews, founder of Zoë Clews & Associates on Harley Street. "If you've spent most of the year in jeans and a hoodie and haven't got particularly great how-on-earth-am-I-going-to-get-through-2020 memories associated with your cabin-fever outfits, then every time you put them back on, it will create some of that same feeling, and the reverse is also true."
"A great outfit can be one of the easiest ways to remind ourselves that life is worth celebrating, even if this year hasn't given us much to be excited about."
Considering Clews's advice, you don't even need a brand-new outfit to encourage all the good vibes that already exist inside you. All you need to do is wear something that you love — even if that means simply giving your comfy clothes a break for a week — and you can easily trick your brain into releasing tons of happy hormones.
Fellow psychologist Dr. Maryhan Baker totally agreed with this method. "Our behavior isn't preordained by our emotional states; rather, we can manipulate our emotional states by our behavior," Baker told us. "This same reasoning can be used to explain the positive uplift in mood we all experience when we get dressed up in our fineries and find our mood almost instantly uplifted."
According to Baker, the brain can't tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined. So when we behave in a way that we are expected to behave when we are happy, then we trick our brain into releasing all the mood-boosting chemicals that result in us actually feeling happy. "If I feel happy when I am in my favorite dress, wearing my best shoes, or feel special because I am looking my best, makeup and all, then the best way to move me from a negative or even neutral emotional state is to dig out that incredible outfit, put on some makeup and heels, and instantly my mood is transformed," Baker said.
There are so many benefits to dressing up for the next couple of weeks, but the most important reason is because you deserve it. Despite everything that 2020 threw at you, you made it through, and that is certainly something that deserves to be celebrated. So before you're tempted to slip into your joggers during the days leading up to 2021, remind yourself of the kind of energy you want to bring into the new year — and choose that dress and the glitter makeup instead!