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The Power of Dopamine Dressing

You may have noticed that I am staying on the topic of decorating for the past few posts of my Rewiring for Creativity series. That pattern continues for this entry, because the word decorate can apply to a lot of different things so I am introducing the possibilities in stages. 😅

Today I am here to share about another way I encouraged shifts—through clothing and accessories—using the science behind "dopamine dressing".

Dopamine dressing was considered a fashion trend a few years ago. The theory was that if you dressed in "fun" or "bright" colors, you would feel automatically happier. That certainly can work for some people, but the thing that is often overlooked in blanket claims like that is the power of individual belief.

What happens if I have strong dislike for the color yellow for whatever reason and am not someone who automatically associates it with something pleasant, like sunshine or sunflowers? What if I have past negative imprinting or beliefs around that color or bright colors in general?

Those kinds of beliefs would work with the brain's negativity bias to dilute the ability of wearing bright colors to magically shift my mood. My brain may be wired for the opposite, which would signal that some rewiring around associations or shifting negative beliefs may be needed to experience things more optimally or as an average person who is otherwise neutral or indifferent emotionally to the color (or stimuli).

This is why I alerted to the importance of belief in the happiness neurochemicals infographic I made recently and why I felt the need to create it after so many others have circulated the internet.

Happiness Neurochemicals Infographic by Brain Gardening

For the activities or behaviors under the neurochemical dopamine, I have to enjoy doing those things to experience the benefit of the dopamine release. This discussion of dopamine dressing is not about any trends or claims of wearing a certain color to boost your mood. Instead, it's about mindfully curating items that you personally enjoy and have positive associations with (or beliefs) so that you can use that neurochemistry to enhance your experience. Here's what this might look like: ⬇️

Let's say I admire the superheroes or characters I see in Marvel movies (or DC if you prefer). When I watch the movies, I may experience mirror neurons and feel a great sense of pride and heroism. If comics are not in your interest, similar can be said for sports teams. Maybe watching your favorite team fills you with a similar sense of pride and community.

As I go about my own life, if I feel myself lacking pride, confidence, or strength, something simple I might do to shift that mental state is to make a visual connection between myself and those characters or players. This can be accomplished simply by wearing a T-shirt, jersey, or hat. That physical gap between the two is narrowed, and embodiment of those associations may be more tangible. Similar can be said for dressing up in "fancy" clothing or wearing a costume. The shift in appearance can facilitate a neuroplastic shift!

🧠 Did you know that 65 percent of the world considers themselves visual learners? According to the Visual Teaching Alliance, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. We can use this to our advantage by prompting shifts in our mental/emotional states through visual tools, including the clothing we choose to wear.

If you're already part of the brain retraining community, chances are you are aware of the profound impact of our word choice and how affirmations can benefit the practice. So what happens if you combine the concept of embodiment through clothing and the visual cues of positive affirmations? Well, that's exactly what inspired me to create a line of T-shirts for promoting growth mindset. I've been wearing them myself and consider them like little notes from my higher self when I look down or catch my reflection. It's been a quick and easy way to support and strengthen those new neural pathways. Not to mention the messages can also be of encouragement to those around you!

Is dopamine dressing already a tool in your brain retraining toolbox? I'd love to hear your experience(s) in the comments! ⬇️

If you are interested in learning more about the science behind "dopamine dressing" or "enclothed cognition" as it is more commonly referred to among researchers, here are some resources for further reading:

  • A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that ‘confidence levels and ability to complete tasks could increase’ when when participants wore clothing that was perceived as inspirational or symbolic.

  • Similar results were seen in a 2015 study published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science, which revealed that the outfits we select can have a direct impact on how we think and make decisions.

Until next time! 🙂

Next blog topic: Elevating your surroundings to elevate your mood.

About the Series:

Every other Wednesday, I give more insight on tools I used to heal from chronic health issues, anxiety, and tap back into my creative self as part of my Rewiring for Creativity series.

The series began last year with a general overview of how creativity can be used to promote neuroplasticity. I discussed the creative and neuroplastic benefits of doodling, as well as offered some examples on how music and dance supported my creative pursuits and rewiring journey. Most recently, I discussed how Photography helped me build new association and overcome certain phobias. Earlier this month, I introduced the topic of decorating by discussing my transformation and use of an off-limits space in my home using rainbows! I also shared the benefits I found from gardening.


About Alina

Alina is a multidisciplinary artist who used brain retraining coupled with creative pursuits to recover from a lifetime of chronic illness. Her healing journey has inspired her to create Brain Gardening, an online resource featuring resilience tools that are rooted in science and cultivated through the arts.

Brain Gardening takes neuroplasticity research and presents it through a designer lens using simple language and interactive materials, while reflecting the deep insight of Alina's personal experience navigating the journey herself. Through this platform for healing, Alina will be creating and curating evidence-based resources for cultivating wellness through neuroplasticity that can be incorporated into an existing self-care practice or serve as an introduction to neural retraining techniques.

Subscribe to the mailing list at Brain Gardening to stay informed as new offerings emerge.

If you're on Instagram, follow @braingardening where you can find Alina's "Mindful Moments in Nature" every Monday and "Ask Alina" where you can submit your own brain retraining questions for answers on her monthly IGTV series.

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1 Comment

Emily Silver
Emily Silver
May 03, 2021

Hey neat article Alina. I love dressing in bright colors and fun prints. I decided long ago that colors brought me joy, especially fun socks (haha thanks to the scary spice from the spice girls for inspiration in 5th grade). I’m glad you discuss the concept of our core beliefs creating the dose or not with colors. I realized I am the opposite then described, I find beiges, blacks, whites and brown “boring and life less”. I know see this as an old belief from childhood and I can switch my vocabulary and view to these colors are sharp, elegant and beautiful. Since all colors really are just that. Colors, its my belief that gives them those descriptions and feelings.

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