Research Shows That the Clothes You Wear Actually Change the Way You Perform

If you’ve ever watched the rehearsal process of a play, then you know just how powerful clothes are. Even in the very early stages of a project, professional actors will come to practice in certain clothing pieces that make them feel more like their character. Perhaps it’s an old pair of shoes, a long and heavy skirt, or a bandana that helps them get just the right swagger, grace, or edge.

A few weeks later, when they’re closer to opening, they’ll have an actual dress rehearsal with their real costumes. It’s pretty amazing to see how the right clothes bring the performances up to a whole new level and transform the actor into the character! As business professionals, we can actually learn a lot from this.

Like it or not, your clothes and presentation communicate volumes about you as a person. The question is not whether you care about fashion, it’s more about what you’re communicating intentionally or unconsciously through your fashion choices. Just as the actor in the right costume moves and speaks differently, so does the everyday person.

Your clothes tell a story about you. If you want to show that your work is clean, sharp, and to the point, you need to dress in clean lines, sharp creases, and (yes) points on your shoes and tie. Even the way you wear your glasses speaks volumes about you and your work!

What Do the Details Show?

Research shows that you can tell a lot about someone’s personality, politics, status, age and income just from looking at a photo of their shoes.

Did you ever notice that when President Barack Obama addressed a crowd of working class Americans, he would speak with no jacket and his sleeves rolled up? That silently and instantly communicated to the audience that he too was a hard worker.

You might remember when a 44 page dress code published by Swiss bank UBS went viral. The obsessive stipulations detailed everything from the sensible (“If you wear a watch, it suggests reliability and that punctuality is of great concern to you”) to the downright invasive (employees were instructed on how to shower and apply lotion, how to wear their underwear, and told not to eat garlic during the week).

They may have been control freaks, but UBS got one thing right: every detail about your presentation communicates something.

When you’re dressing or grooming, consider what it says about you and whether it’s in line with the message you want to communicate. There’s no right or wrong. It’s all about context. A tie can make you look reliable and rooted in tradition. This might be important at an investment firm, where clients want to know that you’re serious about stewarding their capital. But it can also come off as stuffy and resistant to change, which may be inappropriate for a tech startup.

Your Clothing Impacts Your Thinking

Of course, dressing smart is also important for your confidence and sense of self-empowerment. But your style does more than just send messages, to your mind or to others. New research shows it actually impacts how you think. Professional dress, one study found, increases abstract thinking and gives people a broader perspective. So that tie might actually be switching on your creativity button.

“The formality of clothing might not only influence the way others perceive a person, and how people perceive themselves, but could influence decision making in important ways through its influence on processing style,” the study says.

Professional attire creates social distance. When we are more socially distant, we tend to think in more distant, abstract terms. In socially distant settings we address people by their title, for instance, rather than the more intimate first name.

“Even after controlling for socioeconomic status, students wearing more formal clothing showed stronger inclinations towards abstract processing.”

Thin-Slicing

Usually we process visual details instantaneously through a process called thin-slicing. That’s when the brain makes millisecond judgements based on new stimulus. It often happens without us even knowing. We might just get a feeling that we don’t trust someone, or that someone else is steady and reliable. We might not even know why.

That gut feeling, commonly called intuition or a first impression, is really part of the very fast-paced mental process of thin-slicing. It’s how we continually judge books by their covers, all day, every day.

So choose your personal presentation with care. Presentation includes not only your clothes, but your accessories, hairstyle, fragrance, posture, body language, tone of voice, and the level of energy with which you move and speak. Think of the person that you need to be in any particular situation. Then dress, groom, and accessorize in a way that helps you mentally step into that personality.

Are you marching in there to get things done? Put on something red, roll up your sleeves and speak in a commanding voice. Are you making social connections at a gala event? Go for suave, but not workplace formal. Dress to feel attractive. Speak in a smooth tone, and let one shoulder relax.

If you’re loafing around on a long weekend with half a box of pizza, you can probably get away with breaking out the frumpy comfortables.

Taking intentional command of how you dress and present is a good step in empowering yourself, accomplishing your goals, and living a more lucid life at the helm of your decisions. So pay attention! Remember, all the world’s a stage.

Vitamin D: Recent research uncovers new benefits

As much of the world experiences a record-breaking heat wave, this Spotlight turns its attention to vitamin D, the so-called sunshine vitamin. Here, we inspect the latest research.
Tropical sun
The “sunshine vitamin” has a range of surprising benefits.
Vitamin D is a hot topic currently, with a raft of studies proclaiming its benefits for a variety of serious conditions.

Conversely, other recent studies have been more cautious, questioning its perceived usefulness for treating some illnesses.

Vitamin D is a nutrient that is synthesized in our skin when it is exposed to sunlight, and it is also present in some foods.

Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D, but in the winter months, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend topping up vitamin D levels by eating vitamin D-containing foods each day. These include oily fish, fortified milk, beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified breakfast cereals.

What does vitamin D do?
Scientists know that vitamin D is essential for many aspects of maintaining good health and that deficiency is linked with problems for both physical and mental health.

Perhaps most notably, vitamin D helps to regulate the levels of calcium in our bodies, strengthening our bones and preventing bone-weakening conditions, such as osteoporosis.

Increasingly though, studies are also suggesting that vitamin D might have protective benefits against heart failure, diabetes, cancer, respiratory tract infections, autoimmune disease, and even hair loss.

A surprisingly large number of people have insufficient levels of vitamin D. For instance, according to one study, more than 40 percent of adults in the United States are deficient. Because of its prevalence, it is important to determine what the public health implications of this epidemic might be.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency can vary between individuals, but they typically include pain in the joints, muscles, or bones; fatigue; breathing problems; and low mood or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Below, we run through a number of intriguing recent studies that investigate associations between vitamin D and an assortment of illnesses.

Vitamin D and heart failure
Several studies have suggested that vitamin D could offer protective benefits against cardiovascular illness, but scientists have yet to pinpoint what mechanisms are driving this association.

Recently, though, Medical News Today reported on a study that used a mouse model to investigate how a type of vitamin D, called 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, affects heart cells. In particular, the researchers looked at the cells responsible for developing scar tissue following a heart attack, called cardiac colony-forming unit fibroblasts (cCFU-Fs).

cCFU-Fs are an important area of study because, when heart tissue is scarred, the heart has a harder time pumping blood, which can lead to heart failure.

The researchers behind the study found that vitamin D inhibited the action of cCFU-Fs, which prevented scar tissue from building around the hearts of the mice in the study, potentially preventing blockages in the cardiovascular system.

“With further study,” wrote the authors, “vitamin D could prove to be an exciting, low-cost addition to current treatments, and we hope to progress these findings into clinical trials for humans.”

Vitamin D and cancer
Breast cancer and bowel cancer have both been linked with cases of vitamin D deficiency in recent studies. One of these analyzed data from two randomized clinical trials and a prospective cohort study.

The researchers found that high levels of vitamin D were inversely associated with risk of breast cancer among women who were cancer-free at baseline.

Pink ribbon blue background
Studies suggest that vitamin D impacts breast cancer risk.
According to the study results, the higher the levels of vitamin D, the lower the risk of breast cancer.

This relationship remained significant even after the results were adjusted for confounding factors, such as age, body mass index (BMI), intake of calcium supplements, and smoking habits.

Although a link between vitamin D deficiency and colorectal cancer has previously been reported, not all studies have been able to replicate these findings. A new, large-scale study attempted to settle this by drawing on data from three continents, including 5,700 colorectal cancer cases and 7,100 controls.

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The researchers calculated that people whose levels of vitamin D fall below those specified in the current guidelines have a 31 percent increased risk of developing bowel cancer. By contrast, those with vitamin D levels above the current recommended levels were 22 percent less likely to develop this cancer.

Vitamin D and belly fat
Another recent study examined a previously observed link between obesity and lower levels of vitamin D, focusing in particular on how different types of body fat might interact with vitamin D.

The study authors reported that having excess belly fat was linked with lower levels of vitamin D:

“[T]he strong relationship between increasing amounts of abdominal fat and lower levels of vitamin D suggests that individuals with larger waistlines are at a greater risk of developing deficiency and should consider having their vitamin D levels checked.”

However, the study was not able to prove whether a deficiency in vitamin D causes fat to be stored around the belly, or if having belly fat somehow contributes to a deficiency in vitamin D. The researchers say that future studies will attempt to determine cause and effect in this relationship.

Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s disease
A systematic review from researchers in Australia recently attempted to settle the debate surrounding vitamin D’s ability to protect against Alzheimer’s. The systematic review analyzed more than 70 studies looking at the association.

They concluded that there was no significant association between vitamin D deficiency and risk of Alzheimer’s.

Intriguingly, the authors did suggest that — based on their systematic review — there may be an association between exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays and protection against multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s, but that this may be independent of vitamin D production.

The authors said that further studies would be needed to confirm these links and identify the mechanism responsible for such associations.

Vitamin D and chronic pain
Over the years, some scientists have theorized that low levels of vitamin D might cause or worsen chronic pain.

So, in 2015, a group of scientists set out to collate existing evidence to examine the relationship.

Woman in pain
Could vitamin D ease chronic pain?
The resulting Cochrane review, updated in 2015, explains that:

“Observational and circumstantial evidence suggests that there may be a role for vitamin D deficiency in the etiology of chronic painful conditions.” The team scrutinized the findings from a number of studies.

Following the analysis, they concluded that the available scientific evidence is not strong enough to support a connection between vitamin D deficiency and chronic pain.

The authors write, “Based on this evidence, a large beneficial effect of vitamin D across different chronic painful conditions is unlikely. Whether vitamin D can have beneficial effects in specific chronic painful conditions needs further investigation.”

So, as ever, more work will be needed to finally close the lid on this interaction.

We hope this article has enhanced your understanding of the latest scientific thinking around this fascinating chemical. Please remember, however, that over-exposure to sunlight — especially the hot, midday sun — can result in skin damage and increase risk of skin cancer.

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