Contributor: Lori Bush
It’s no longer a secret; your feelings and thoughts ultimately have a physical impact on your body, including the radiance of your skin. The question we all want answered is this: if the mind can heal the body, can it also rejuvenate it? While today’s answer may not yet be a resounding YES, science is pointing to compelling evidence about how our outlook can affect how we age at the cellular level.
Prior to the start of the new millennium, there were precious few scientific studies about the effects of mindfulness on either physical or emotional health and wellbeing. But in recent years this has changed dramatically, especially with the compelling evidence that meditation and other mindfulness practices can support sustained replication of the trillions of cells that sustain a healthy body.
Why mind over matter matters
Have you ever encountered that easy going person with beautiful skin who claims, “I really don’t have a secret … I’m just soap and water girl.” What?!!
The likelihood is that she is one of those genetically fortunate people who has never struggled with breakouts or sensitive skin so has never worried about her skin. She is probably somebody who does not compare her appearance to others on social media or to magazine models or who spends time examining her skin in a 10 X magnifying mirror (which doesn’t do anybody any favors other than assisting in the plucking of stray eyebrows).
In the long run, lack of intelligent skincare will most probably catch up with our skincare-agnostic friend. However, a big part of her beauty may very well derive from the fact that she does not stress about her appearance.
The long and the short of it is that worry and emotional stress can adversely impact how you feel, how you look, and how well you age. A 2019 survey indicated that feeling bad about appearance is a source of anxiety for over 50% of women in the U.S. Anxiety is a brain health issue that is connected to inflammatory stress and that can affect cellular health and ultimately impact every organ in the human body, including skin.
How stress ages your skin
Stress is not universally bad. And you really can’t control many of the sources of stress anyway. What you can control, to a meaningful extent, is how you respond to stress.
Stress can trigger your brain in a beneficial way, supporting your ability to respond to challenges or react to danger by producing the fight-or-flight hormone needed for survival. However, stress that triggers constant worry or rumination leads to a similar hormonal response, causing a redirection of resources away from skin to support survival mode, even when there is no imminent danger. The result is loss of vibrancy and dullness in the short run and loss of tone and plasticity in the long run.
The chemical impact of stress hormones on appearance can be further compounded by the mechanical phenomenon known as dynamic wrinkles. Your face has 42 wonderful muscles that express your personality and your emotions. Stress can trigger involuntary muscle tension and over time those stress-related facial expressions lead to breakdown of skin’s structural proteins. The result is both fine and deep expression lines, especially across the forehead or between the brows, the glabellar lines often referred to as the “eleven.”
Try a little mindful meditation
If a trip to a monastery to zen out for a few weeks is not in the cards for you, don’t stress; you’re definitely not alone. The very thought of sitting on a cushion and meditating for thirty minutes will dissuade skeptics from this practice. However, you may be surprised to learn that, while major commitment to extreme lifestyle changes are often needed to address serious emotional health issues, for many of us short mindful meditative practices integrated into a daily routine can lead to some happy and healthy benefits. Here are 3 simple practices to bring into your day in ways that can lead to a brighter appearance from the outside in and inside out.
1. Start your day with a 10-minute DIY spa routine. Instead of staying in bed until the last possible minute and racing through your morning routine, give yourself a little extra time … just 1/6th of an hour can make a difference in how well you face the day. Start with a 2-minute cleansing mask while practicing a box breathing meditation. Follow with a Crystal Lymphatic Massage, savoring the sensations of the serum and smooth stone gliding across your face and neck as muscle tension eases, microcirculation is enhanced and toxins are flushed from your skin. If your mind starts to wander and worry, bring it back to the healthfully indulgent sensations on your skin.
2. Break the cycle of stress eating. It may be a cliché, but you are what you eat. You also are HOW you eat. Are you eating in ways that fuel radiant wellbeing, or in ways that sabotage it?
True hunger, like so many other aspects of how we feel and look, is the result of hormones and hormonal triggers. But too often we feed emotional stress or boredom and that triggers the hormonal responses that cause us to reach for foods containing sugar and other simple carbohydrates and trigger undesirable inflammatory processes. Practicing adjustments to when you eat can be beneficial, especially when empowered with foods with the right macronutrient compositions. Foods that are low in sugar and high in plant-based protein and fiber help keep blood sugar levels steady and cravings under control. Keeping convenient forms of the right foods close at hand can steer you clear of foods that trigger inflammatory stress and lead to skin breakouts and dullness.
3. Add a little spice … and a dose of gratitude … to your day. Turmeric, that vividly golden spice, has been a staple in eastern diets for centuries. And today, adaptations of a traditional eastern beverage known as golden milk (although generally not containing any actual dairy ingredient) are making their way from new age obscurity to mainstream western diets as health science is promoting the extensive anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric’s key component, curcumin. To deliver the health benefits of turmeric, a golden milk beverage must contain sufficient levels of curcumin to be classified as a nutritional supplement in the U.S. Fortunately, there are delicious golden milk adaptations that come in packets for easy preparation by simply adding hot water to a blend of the aromatic spices.
Taking a Golden Moment break late day is a great way to decompress and do something good for your body. Add a gratitude practice and you’re integrating something good for your mind as well. An exercise proven to activate the part of your brain that supports happiness and productivity is to intentionally bring to mind three good things that happened in the prior 24 hours. Combining the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric along with the anti-inflammatory benefits of positive headspace may help your restorative sleep patterns among other health and beauty benefits.
Ready, set, breatheLet’s start off with a mindful moment right now, reflecting with gratitude on the ways that life science is unlocking secrets that can help us feel better, look better and live longer. When little stressors push your buttons, pause, breathe and respond with intention. In the moment and in the long run, these little changes may not be so little.