Hair: Fabio Nogueira. Make-up: Ruby Hammer. Styling: Holly Elgeti. Dress, Stine Goya, Jewellery, AlIghieri

Hair: Fabio Nogueira. Make-up: Ruby Hammer. Styling: Holly Elgeti. Dress, Stine Goya, Jewellery, AlIghieri

Hair: Fabio Nogueira. Make-up: Ruby Hammer. Styling: Holly Elgeti. Dress, Stine Goya, Jewellery, AlIghieri

As I grow older, there are two overriding qualities that I look for in clothing: bright colours and pockets. The colours are because I wasted years seeking to disappear in a palette of blacks, greys and neutrals, believing these were chic rather than what they actually were: appallingly conventional. 

The allure of pockets should be self-explanatory: they are highly practical and solve the issue of what to do with your hands when talking to someone in the corridor at work.

So when I recently saw my friend Belinda sporting a vibrant yellow skirt with one capacious pocket, I gave an audible exclamation of delight.

‘I love your skirt,’ I said.

Belinda told me she’d bought it in a designer sale. At full price, it would have been a luxury beyond reasonable means, but as it had been discounted, she decided to go for it.

‘And now that you’ve complimented me, I can take £5 off the price tag.’

‘I’m sorry, what?’

‘I’ve decided that every compliment I’m given translates to £5 off what I spent.’

Instead of cost per wear, Belinda had invented an alternative ‘cost per compliment’ system.

There were rules: compliments from the same person more than once on the same occasion didn’t count. Each compliment had to be sincere. But what I loved about The Belinda Compliments Scale was the sheer positivity. It was a way of assessing something’s worth because of what it gave you (pleasure), rather than wringing your hands over what it had taken away (money).

It strikes me as a sensible way to live: focusing on what we have rather than what we don’t. Much has been written about the lasting effects of practising gratitude. One 2016 study, conducted at Berkeley University, divided 293 adults seeking mental health counselling into three groups. The first wrote letters of gratitude for three weeks. The second were asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings on negative experiences. The final group didn’t write anything.

Those who wrote letters reported significantly better mental health 12 weeks after the exercise. It was partly because the practice had unshackled them from toxic emotions, and encouraged them to reframe negativity in a productive way.

Three months after that, the participants were given an fMRI scan. Those who had written gratitude letters showed greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for memory and decision-making. The researchers concluded that revisiting a memory of gratitude could make you more sensitive to the experience in the future, which in turn could contribute to longer-lasting improved mental health. (Simply put, if you’ve experienced something pleasurable, you’re more likely to recognise it and categorise it as a good thing.)

It turns out that thinking positively is not a superficial question of skirts with pockets: it actually helps rewire the brain. Of course, we live in a world where terrible things happen – a global pandemic, for instance. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by the challenges we have faced recently but we can also find meaning in them. Every challenge teaches us something important if we allow it to.

So the next time I think about whether to buy a skirt or how I feel about life, I’m going to remember The Belinda Compliments Scale and focus on the good that could come from what I’m going through.

It really was a lovely skirt, by the way. I hope she reads this and takes another £5 off.

 This week I’m…

Adorning my ears with these Cohesion earrings from Completedworks: gorgeous mini sculptures in each lobe. 

Wearing Teva Original Universal Sandals in white. Don’t knock ’em until you’ve tried ’em. So comfortable and surprisingly cool. 

Spritzing Coqui Coqui eau de cologne in Tabaco. Inspired by freshly picked tobacco leaves and peppered with tart notes of citrus: delightful and exotic.

Source: Elizabeth Day for You Magazine