Nearly 49 years ago, when I first arrived in Hong Kong, one of my most powerful revelations was about pajamas. I arrived dressed for business, blue blazer, grey slacks, white shirt, power tie, highly polished-black lace up shoes. I had been taught that this was how successful people dressed, in suits and formally. Then I discovered something amazing. Many really successful, really rich Chinese businessmen wore pajamas all day!
One definition of pajamas is “a pair of loose pants tied by a drawstring around the waist, worn by both sexes in some Asian countries”.
This taught me a valuable lesson that dress does make the man, but that this dress does not have to be a suit and a tie, especially in hot tropical weather.
Dress codes have relaxed a lot since 1968. There is even a group called “pajama rich,” so rich they can go to a five-star restaurant or sit court-side at the NBA playoffs in their pajamas. They have so much money that they have nothing to prove to anyone.
A health routine more important than money can redefine this phrase. Let’s call it “The Pajama Wealth Routine” because the strange thing is that a striking number of the “Pajama Rich” get totally depressed.
(From research on “Enclothed Cognition” shown below.)
First, why pajamas? Modern connected living has added a new level of never ending stress. We are often stuck with our smart phones checking work email at night, in the day, weekends and even on holidays.
Slowly the lack of a break wears the body down. Down time is a requirement of natural heath. That’s why our language has the word “Re-Creation”. In France, the government recognized this fact and passed a law that gives workers the “right to disconnect” outside of work hours.
Companies have to set up hours, mostly evenings and weekends, when employees are not allowed to send or respond to emails.
The French government said at the time that an intervention was necessary for the health and well-being of their workers.
“All the studies show there is far more work-related stress today than there used to be, and that the stress is constant,” member of parliament, Benoit Hamon, told the BBC. “Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash – like a dog. The texts, the messages, the emails – they colonize the life of the individual to the point where he or she eventually breaks down.”
The French government has science to support this law. Research at the University of British Columbia shows that checking email only three times a day is less stressful than checking continuously. Research at Colorado State University suggests that even the expectation of after-hours emails can have a negative effect on our well-being.
Research from the University of British Columbia published under the title of “Check less to reduce email stress” (1) suggests that easing up on email checking can help reduce psychological stress.
The publication says: “Some of the study’s 124 adults — including students, financial analysts, medical professionals and others — were instructed to limit checking email to three times daily for a week. Others were told to check email as often as they could (which turned out to be about the same number of times that they normally checked their email prior to the study).
“These instructions were then reversed for the participants during a subsequent week. During the study period, participants also answered brief daily surveys, including information about their stress levels.
“Our findings showed that people felt less stressed when they checked their email less often,” says Kostadin Kushlev, the study’s lead author and a PhD candidate at UBC’s Dept. of Psychology.
The Pajama Habit
Here is the simple habit that costs nothing and takes no time, but reduces stress and can help improve health. This tip was given to Merri and me by an Indian doctor many years ago because our business is at home, so we would never really quit work. A house cluttered with business and work can be even worse than after hours emails. The work is always present.
The Three Step Routine
Stress Reduction Step #1: Set a time to quit work and leave the work space, especially if it’s an office at home. Close the door. Get work out off site and out of sight.
Stress Reduction Step #2: Turn off all communication, relating to work, email as well as phone.
Stress Reduction Step #3: Change your clothes! This is an immensely powerful health ritual which tells your body it is Time to Relax and Re-Create.
Whatever Merri and I are wearing, each evening when we are home, we change into soft, relaxing, all cotton pajama-like clothing.
Flannel is my particular re-creation clothing fabric of choice for what it’s worth. Every person should choose what works for them, but when I put flannel on, in the evening or to go out, my body gets the message. “This is NOT work”, even if I am going our to split logs or catch fish.
These efforts were not work because…
my flannel shirts told my body this fact.
What you wear changes the way you think to such a degree that there is even a word for it, “Enclothed Cognition”.
An article at Brainfodder.org entitled “Enclothed Cognition“ (2) explains how researchers have identified a series of psychological changes that occur when we wear certain clothes.
The article says: “Science says that the clothes we wear affect our behavior, attitudes, personality, mood, confidence, and even the way we interact with others. This is “Enclothed Cognition”.
There are examples of the influence of seven different types of clothing.
#1: Formal office wear and structured clothes put us in the right frame of mind to conduct business.
#2: Casual and relaxed dress codes at work help us become more friendly and creative.
#3: Gym clothes and active wear can make it more likely that we will actually exercise.
#4: Uniforms can make people more conscious of their duties and encourage them to pay more attention to their jobs.
#5: Luxury clothes can make us less likely to be helpful and more inclined to social climb.
#6: Wearing brightly colored clothes brightens us and affects how we cope on days when we are depressed, anxious and stressed.
#7: Even our underwear affects the way we feel about ourselves.
Pajama Business for Pajama Wealth
One great way to reduce stress is to be your own boss in a business that fulfills the purpose you have chosen to live. The health benefit of the business is magnified when you can choose how and when you dress.