I’m a fashion psychologist – six easy ways to dress yourself happy and banish any new year blues

RETAIL therapy may sound like nothing more than a silly phrase but scientific research has shown that how you dress can affect your mood.

According to fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell — author of Big Dress Energy: How Fashion Psychology Can Transform Your Wardrobe And Your Confidence — using clothes to make yourself feel better actually works.

Banish your January blues with fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell’s art of dopamine dressingCredit: JKG Photography

She says: “I’ve spent the last ten years analysing scientific studies and conducting research to uncover the true power of clothes.

“Fashion psychology explores the role of clothes in your self-expression, shaping first impressions, influencing your behaviour and so much more.”

Shakaila argues that for many of us the pandemic took the joy out of clothes, with bizarre impulse buys changing our wardrobes for the worse.

Here, she reveals her five mood-boosting fashion psychology do’s and don’ts for you to try.

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WE all attach meanings to clothes. You might associate a suit with power, or trainers with energy.

When wearing these clothes, we subconsciously embody the meanings we’ve attached to them, changing how we think, feel and act.

If you see a style you associate with happiness, you will embody that emotion and feel happy when wearing it.

That happiness stems from the release of a neuro-transmitter called dopamine which causes our brain’s pleasure centres to light up.

Fashion psychology acknowledges that happiness doesn’t look the same for everyone.

For example, certain styles might release dopamine because they remind you of someone you admire, make your body look great, or bring out a side of you that you thought was lost.

But we often don’t know what impact clothes have on us because we’re too rushed to consider it or are too focused on fitting a certain aesthetic.

Embrace dopamine dressing by taking time to uncover the meaning you’re attaching to your clothes and asking yourself: Am I dressed for joy or dressed for distress?

HUMANS are hardwired to be attracted to colour because it gives us a boost of that feel-good chemical dopamine.

Most of us own enough black clothes to dress an entire funeral procession, so one of the easiest ways to embrace change is to inject some colour into your wardrobe.

Science says that colours like yellow keep you feeling alert, strong, and even sexy

Science says that colours like yellow keep you feeling alert, strong, and even sexyCredit: Getty

Colours are split into wavelengths.

Long wave-length colours, such as red, orange and yellow, activate the sympathetic neurons in our nervous system, increasing bodily activity and arousing us.

Colour psychology teaches us that if you want to feel alert, strong and even sexy, these are the colours you want to wear.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have short wavelength colours, such as blue, purple and indigo.

These colours activate parasympathetic neurons in our nervous system, which calm us down.

Studies show that these colours are perfect to wear if you want to be creative, get focused or wind down.

You don’t have to dress like a bag of Skittles to embrace the power of colour.

Start with a few accessories and work your way up.

Dressing for joy also provides you with a sense of control.
Use colour in a mindful way to manage your feelings and ensure that they’re in alignment with the colours you’re wearing.

WE’RE prone to drown our bodies in oversized clothing, such as hoodies, when feeling low, but research suggests we might be taking the wrong approach if we’re looking for a mood boost.

Scientists have discovered that “deep touch pressure” — or a squeezing sensation around the body — has therapeutic effects.

It is the same effect seen in babies swaddled in blankets.

Think of deep touch pressure as a soothing hug that calms down the nervous system.

It enables the switch from sympathetic neurons being activated to parasympathetic being activated.

While the former evokes our fight-or-flight response, the latter enables us to rest and digest.

Try activewear, compression wear and form-fitting clothing.

THE pandemic taught us that our whole world can be turned upside down overnight.

In 2018, my sister passed away from cancer at just 32 years old.

Seize the day - make sure you're not keeping your best outfits just tucked away for the future

Seize the day – make sure you’re not keeping your best outfits just tucked away for the futureCredit: Getty

While combing through her belongings, I was dismayed to discover how many beautiful clothes she owned that had the tags still on them.

We often save these special pieces for future moments or events, but studies suggest that we may be robbing ourselves of some mood-boosting benefits.

Research shows that when we wear our favourite pieces, they help us to control our emotions and make us feel more outgoing.

These special pieces are often more unique than the outfits we wear on a daily basis.

Studies have found that these pieces carry a tension-release dimension as they help us to embody a sense of escapism.

If we experience these great things when wearing our favourites, why save them for a specific day that may not even come?

ONE thing we all share — no matter our style, age, gender or ethnicity — is a love of nostalgia.

The reason we always think of the old days as “good” is that nostalgia-inducing activities make people experience higher self-esteem and feel less lonely, more optimistic, more socially connected and more creative.

It's proven that nostalgia can make you feel good

It’s proven that nostalgia can make you feel goodCredit: Getty

Studies have even found that when people are placed in cold rooms, thinking nostalgic thoughts make them feel warmer.

Looking back at your life through rose-tinted glasses can make you feel good, and wearing your old clothes can make you feel even better.

Clothes are like memory banks. They constitute a powerful tool that can trigger nostalgia, which breeds happiness and lifts your mood.

And to be honest, nothing ever truly goes out of style.

If an outfit gives you the ability to hark back to the good old days, cherish it for a little while longer.

MOST of us only spend between 11 and 30 minutes getting ready in the morning, according to YouGov.

While getting ready, it’s important that we check in with ourselves and ensure that our outfits are projecting and providing the right energy.

You don’t need a style expert with you to figure this out.

All it takes is giving yourself a few minutes to engage in some self-reflection.

Look in the mirror and ask yourself some questions, such as: What is required of me today? How do I want to feel today? What side of me do I want to showcase?

Then determine if what you’re wearing is in alignment with the answers to those questions.

“Look good, feel good” is more than just a cutesy slogan.

We’ve all experienced it at one point, but the hustle and bustle of our daily lives gets us stuck in style ruts, makes us underestimate the power of clothes and even makes us forget what “good” looks like to us.

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It is possible to jog your memory and dress your way into a better frame of mind by being more intentional with your choices and by empowering yourself with psychological know-how.

  • Big Dress Energy: How Fashion Psychology Can Transform Your Wardrobe And Your Confidence (Little Brown, £16.99) is available now.


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