So here is the next blog of Grey Door Therapy Clinic.
By the time you read this we may be able to meet our family and friends face to face, we may be back at work, we may be shopping in a ‘normal’ way, we may be able to walk past strangers without walking into the road to avoid them or duck into a driveway until they have passed OR we may still be in some kind of lockdown and practising social distancing or worse social isolation.
The internet is loaded with advice on how to keep safe, keep well, keep sane, keep busy, keep relaxing, keep whatever. The majority from very well informed and well meaning people who want to help others get through this extremely weird time we find ourselves living through. So without a doubt I am wanting everyone to stay as safe and as healthy as possible but this blog is about something that although we perhaps instinctively know - perhaps not something that is discussed very much.
The way we dress. Especially the way we are dressing during this time and the impact it may possibly have on us.
I suppose being a therapist for these many years now I am curious about this aspect of lockdown - the clothes we wear, the make up we put on, the perfume/aftershave we apply. The name given to the study of this very phenomena is Enclothed Cognition (Adam Galinski)
Enclothed Cognition is a study that ‘captures the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer's psychological processes’ - i.e. what we wear can impact on the way we think and behave and possibly improve or conversely be detrimental to our emotional state along with our levels of performance.
Molecular biologists say that humans invented clothing at least 100,000 years ago which was when the body lice that lived in the seams of clothing genetically separated from the head lice that lived on hairs. One would guess this clothing originated as a protection from the cold or perhaps from the sun - I’m thinking animal fur for cold weather and large leaves on our heads for shade which of course would vary upon where in the world you were living.
As time went on clothing styles changed according to perhaps religion, genders, age groups and professions and as the fashion houses will testify one large purpose of clothing is how we are looked at or thought about by others. However how does what we wear affect us as human beings. How is lockdown influencing our clothes and what impact could it be having?
So since March 23rd when I returned from a trip to Dubai to visit my daughter I have worn leggings or jeans or shorts, t-shorts or sweatshirts, soft (no-underwire) bras, mismatched underwear, flip flops or trainers and absolutely no makeup (except SP50) and no perfume or manicured polished nails. My pedicure was a Shellac pedicure so the top half of my toenails are painted and the bottom half is au natural! I wash my hair when it becomes a health hazard and then when I do I drag it up into a rough bun on the top of my head. Most importantly for me I haven’t worn earrings! I do shower every day but that is a habit like cleaning my teeth. All this casual - or it is careless - look despite seeing some clients via Skype or Zoom. What on earth is going on?
Is the nature of lockdown such that there is a miasma of helplessness and out of controlness that manifests as ‘can’t be bothered’? Is it such that when we are under a threat and we have to adjust to sets of unfamiliar rules, we just don’t have the inclination or head space to bother with how we are presented to the outside world? When I have spoken to friends and family about this I have discovered that I am not alone in this behaviour. So I guess there is the aspect of wanting to dress for others and to present a certain image to the world and then there is the question of what is ‘down’ dressing having on my psyche?
Am I actually in a low mood and this is being expressed by the clothes I wear? Or are the clothes I am continually choosing to wear every day influencing my mood?
In her book ‘Mind What You Wear” Karen Pine talks about the link between women’s moods and their choice of clothes and how she discovered that women are more likely to wear jeans when they are feeling low or depressed. There has also been recent research linking stress and the narrowing of their world resulting in them not wearing as much as 90% of their wardrobe.
There is also the question of the difference between men and women and the impact of the clothes they wear on themselves and the concern of what others may think. It has been discovered that men are more concerned with the functionality of the clothes they wear and not on the impact of their choice of clothes on others and so therefore the correlation of their clothes and their mood would not be so dramatic as for women. In fact a study by Barbara Fredrickson in the 1990’s ‘found that women who were given a maths test performed worse when wearing a swimsuit than in a sweater, although men’s scores were unaffected by their clothing.’ She goes on to say ‘the researchers attributed the women’s poorer maths performance in a swimsuit to the fact that self-objectification consumes mental resources. When her body is on display, a woman is concerned about others evaluating it, while the men in this study were less affected by this and could keep their minds on the sums.’ So if we as women are not being exposed to the outside world are we not either self objectifying or feeling judged by others outside the home?
If you are a woman reading this and are able, perhaps take a look at the men and women around you during this time and do you notice a difference in their mood and gender and the clothes they wear?
What would happen I wonder to my demeanour, my energy or my sense of me if I woke up tomorrow and decided to put on something pretty, wear makeup, apply my favourite perfume and generally ‘bother’ about how I present myself?
Or are there degrees? Inasmuch as I do put lip gloss on to walk my dog every day, as I said I do shower every day, I do brush my - sometimes very unclean - hair and put it up every day and my clothes are clean every day.
Is there a correlation in the degree of not ‘botheredness’ between just how low we feel and just how unkempt our clothes, body and hair are?
Lockdown as we know is having an extremely detrimental effect on those who already have some mental health problems and if you are one and are reading this I am by no means minimising the anguish and pain you are going through by suggesting you put on a brightly coloured jumper and some jewellery and you will feel instantly better. My heart goes out to you if you are suffering even more during this time and I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for you. I do hope you are able to access the help you need and may like to think about this theory of Enclothed Cognition? If you can it may have a positive impact on you? I really don’t know but if you are able it may be worth a try?
There is a school of thought that maintains that formal clothes give us more confidence and are therefore able to alter our thinking and for us in turn to become more adept negotiators or creators and our thinking more conducive to conducting business.
On the other hand it has been discovered that wearing this formal wear is not helpful for socialising and can prevent us from relaxing. In addition our brains associate certain clothes with certain activities - for instance track suits and trainers for the gym or training and pyjamas for bed. So what does these suggestions mean at this time of lockdown for many people. When we have to join in a video conference and we are wearing t-shirts and maybe not much else what is that doing to our thinking capacity?
What if you are on furlough and not working at all? As a result of some research it is suggested that we do get up and shower and although may not get ‘suited and booted’, if that is our normal work wear, at least wear clothes that we would normally go out in - comfortable clothes that make us feel part of the world even though the isolation and social distancing can seem very otherwise.
So I’m wondering if there are a number of elements to this hypothesis of Enclothed Cognition and the situation of COVID-19 that we find ourselves in………
The clothes we wear impacting on our mood and performance.
Our mental health dictating our mood.
The age old patriachal objectification of women and the impact that has.
The self objectification women have and the fear of judgement of others.
Keep safe and happy and healthy folks.
'Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune
without the words
and never stops at all’
‘Blossom by blossom the Spring begins’ – Algernon Charles Swinburne
So here we are in March 2020 and the new decade is galloping along at what seems a break neck speed. I last wrote a blog for our website in September 2018 which I had anticipated would be monthly! Oh how wrong I was! Being new to blogging I had not realised the time I would have to dedicate to it along with co-owning and running Grey Door Therapy Clinic, owning and running my own
TCS Therapy business, being a wife, a mother, a sister, and a grandmother as well as dog owner. Where was my own sense of well-being? What was I prioritising?
So this new blog will hopefully be published every three months. Starting here. Now. It is in print so I guess it has to be? Scary and exciting - which of course are two sides of the same coin. The same hormones are released if you are scared or excited. In both fear and excitement the heart beats faster, the body prepares to act and the hormone cortisol surges. Err – fingers poised above my keyboard, my body is preparing to act……………
In September 2018 I wrote about ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. I don’t think I have adhered to this ‘being’ very well but in addition I haven’t been ‘doing’ the blogs! I wonder why? Is this a case of prioritising? What are mine? Do I acknowledge them? Do they just change without me being aware and I just gaily carry on feeling more stressed and angry? Can I ‘do’ and ‘be’ at the same time?
I am thinking that our wonderful Cognitive Behavioural Therapist –
Dheeresh Turnbull – would say I could ‘be’ and ‘do’. However I’m wondering one of the many, many ways to obtain a sense of well-being is perhaps what I prioritise.
‘When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.” — Herophilus.
So I guess health is a major priority? Not just physical health but emotional and mental health – an holistic sense of good health. Giving your whole body and mind the nourishment it needs and the respect it deserves – care of self. You are your whole body and it’s important to attend to self care in a way that is right for you. Be it exercise of any sort, any spiritual practices or indeed having a good belly laugh. And of course healthy food, lots of water and plenty of good, sound sleep.
I love walking, especially with my dog and I get the most pleasure from walking by the sea. Whether it be raining and blowing a hooley, warm and sunny, sun coming up or the sun going down. This gives me a real sense of being in the world. I also absolutely benefit from meditation or a body massage. For me they seem to compliment each other and doing them on a regular basis seems to maintain my optimum self. However do what you know is right for you, what feels good, what feels beneficial.
‘The best thing to hold onto in life is each other’ – Audrey Hepburn
Nuturing relationships and being a part of is definitely a priority for me. In 1938 during the Great Depression, scientists began tracking the health of 268 Harvard sophomores where they hoped the longitudinal study would reveal clues to leading healthy and happy lives. This study went on for eighty years and of the original Harvard cohort were eventual President John F. Kennedy and longtime Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. The scientists eventually expanded their research to include the men’s offspring, 456 Boston inner-city residents and over ten years ago the wives of the participants were included.
Robert Waldinger, director of the study, a psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School says “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,”
These relationships can consist of friends, family, co-workers, or members of your community. Relationships are the primary source of purpose and meaning and Robert Waldinger adds “…those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives than social class, IQ, or even genes.”
So I guess let’s get out there to our family, our friends and the community and relate.
‘Do anything but let it produce joy’ Walt Whitman
The fabulous therapist Brene Brown says “a critically important component of wholehearted living is play. Play is as essential to our health and functioning as rest”. How many of us actually play and have real fun – in the here and now as children do. When you watch children at play they are so in the now. They run, they scream, they laugh, they get dirty, they are spontaneous, imaginative, and willing to take more risks than us adults. When was the last time you laughed so much you ached? At Grey Door we consider laughter such an important component of well-being and good health that we are mooting laughter workshops. Watch this space! Laughter reduces pain, increases job performance, connects people emotionally, and improves the flow of oxygen to the heart and brain. It is said that laughter is the best medicine, reducing pain and allowing us to tolerate discomfort.
‘Security is not a gadget, it’s a state of mind’ – Eleanor Everet
The word security means the state of being free from danger or threat so as Humpty Dumpty (or the egg) said in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass published in 1872, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." I’m thinking that security means different things to different people – a safe and secure home, money in the bank, feeling safe in the world, a regular job, being loved. However maybe ensuring all of the above is part of your life is the way to a sense of security? For me a sense of security is definitely enhanced by all of the above.
‘The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson
So for me personal development has been and continues to be a major priority in my life. Through my professional growth and training I have learnt so much and know that there is still so much to learn. Again like most of the priorities of life they can vary from person to person but stepping outside your comfort zone and expanding your horizons can undoubtedly develop you as a human being. Be that academic learning, travel, personal exploration or anything that stretches you as a person. Take a look at our Newsletter to read about Kayti and her trip to the Amazon jungle. If that is not stepping outside your comfort zone and expanding your horizons forgive me if I don’t know what is!
So ……priorities. Priorities in your life? I would suggest that your diary, calender, or whatever you use never lies. It will tell you where your priorities lie and if you say this is family and you continually don’t leave work until gone 7.00pm or after the children have gone to bed then you are kidding yourself. Spending time at the gym or running and having a taut, honed body but an agitated mind is not the definition of good health. Where you spend your time is where your tenets are.
Where do your prorities lie and are they in line with your belief system?
If you found this post interesting and thought provoking please do share it and watch out for my next blog in June!
“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are October’s” (L.M. Montgomery)
And isn’t that just about right? Just look around you at the colours of the trees and the sunshine and the beautiful skies. There is something about the essence of Autumn that lifts your heart and sings to your soul. Looking around and breathing in the sights and sounds actually has a positive impact on our brains and wellbeing. Being able to be in the moment and totally absorb ourselves in our senses takes our brains away from thinking about the one hundred and one things we must/could/should do - we cannot think and connect to our senses at the same time. Our brains can’t do it. Giving ourselves up to just being relaxes our entire body - from our feet to the top of our heads.
Talking of heads, I would guess that if you are reading this you have access to some sort of technological device. The device that enables us to download or access information, speak and/or see friends, lovers, partners, relatives or even strangers in a heartbeat. All very well and all very good. The problem is your head is down and your spine is tensing and you have cut yourself off from you. I am wondering how many of you reading this actually have the TV on, your iPad close by and are scrolling through messages and perhaps Facebook on your phone all at the same time - well not really at the same time, just quickly one after the other? Madness? Or just the desire to be ‘in the loop’, ‘know what’s going on’, ‘keeping in touch”? Sound familiar? And a little tense maybe?
We are living in the 21st century and this is our life. Like it or not it’s really difficult not to be techno in one way or another - it is what it is.
Yes it is what it is and sometimes we need to just forget about the chaos of life and recalibrate ourselves. To get back in touch with our bodies, to just be, to relieve the tension in our neck and/or spine, to absorb ourselves in feeling totally relaxed, to give ourselves up to some time for us.
Here at Grey Door is the place where our experienced and highly professional practitioners can treat a particular problematic area or can ease the 21st century from your body.
Massage has had a possitive effect on every medical condition we've looked at.
Tiffany Field, Ph. D.
30 days hath September. .... and so the saying goes on. It is three years since the inception of Grey Door Therapy Clinic and so more than time to begin the Grey Door monthly blog!
When I was walking on the Sussex Downs with Coco - my little dog - this morning I was struck again how busy my life is and how I just don’t take enough time to ‘stop and stare...’. Even as I was walking at a speed of knots I was thinking about client work and the Clinic generally - how to therapeutically challenge a certain client, what I need to do to encourage courage in another etc. and then other ways to improve the running of the beautiful clinic on Blatchington Road and so on. Then my thoughts turned to family and home and all the wonderful ups and the sometimes not so wonderful downs.
I had to make a concerted effort to stop and just look around me. Then when I did, Wow, how wonderful was that. The undulating curves of the grasslands, the zigzag of the paths, the dividing hedgerows, the tiny specks of sheep grazing in the distance, the light fluffy clouds skudding across a clear blue sky and the only sound was that of delightful birdsong. Guess what? I was smiling - yes smiling at just being and not thinking and certainly not doing. I actually felt my body relax and loosen.
Now I know not everyone has the time to walk on the Downs but I am guessing that we could all just slow down, take a look around and take some time out to just ‘be’ rather than always ‘do’.
I have a great book on my bookshelf at the clinic called “In Praise of Slow ” by Carl Honore. This book is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace but looking at striking a balance between fast and slow in a culture where faster equates to better. We seem to be in a zeitgeist where resting seems to be an anathema and in the words of Brene Brown “we must learn to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self worth”.
Just one of our wonderful therapists at Grey Door is Dheeresh Turnbull who runs courses on Mindfulness which is of course another great way of learning to slow down.
September is the gateway to Autumn. In the words of John Keats - ‘the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. I somehow think of September as the start of something new - I guess it’s having many years of school age children and September was the time of new pencil cases, new school bags, new uniform, new classroom and sometimes a whole new school.
How about it being a new start of slowing down for you and ‘being’ rather than doing?
See you soon
Director and Psychotherapist