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The obvious and not-so-obvious connection between health and beauty

(As it turns out, beauty is in fact more than skin deep. Much more.)

The connection between health and beauty is intuitive. On some level, we all understand that living a healthy lifestyle improves our appearance, and that the health of our skin is an indicator of our overall health. But, what many of us don’t realize is that the connection between beauty and health is just as strong.

First: The Obvious

Food, water, stress management, and sleep are more important than cosmetics and skincare products. Properly managing these four key ingredients will not only have us looking and feeling our best, but also improve our health in ways we can’t see. Now, you probably already know all of this, but let’s take a quick refresher before jumping in to the not-so-obvious:

Food

Sugar, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and even dairy all can cause inflammation of our body’s tissues. Breakouts in our skin are just one symptom of the destructive nature of these substances in our bodies. They can often wreak havoc in our digestive tract and other body systems as well.

The best solution is to eat more fresh whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, especially green vegetables that contain nutrients and antioxidants that fight systemic inflammation. For a little more information about this read this article from St. John’s health.

Water

This is perhaps the most obvious ingredient to being our most beautiful. After all, our bodies are composed of somewhere around 60% water! Staying hydrated allows nutrients to more easily reach our cells. It also reduces our skin’s natural defense mechanism – oil production – which helps to clear up our skin.

How much water should we drink? The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that, for people living in a temperate environment, an adequate daily fluid intake is about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters, or 125 oz) of water for men and about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters, or 91 oz) of water a day for women. That water can come from multiple sources such as juices and the like, but you’re not getting it from diuretic drinks such as soft drinks and coffee. In fact, those drinks actually dehydrate you. So, be careful about what you reach for in the fridge.

Fun Fact: The daily recommended water intake may not sound like much, but one study found that the average adult in the US only drank 39 oz per day. That’s less than half!

Stress Management and Exercise

When we’re stressed our endocrine system releases cortisol, a hormone that causes inflammation, which can manifest in our skin as acne, eczema, and other disorders. Everyone manages stress differently. Exercise is one good way to do it.

Regularly exercising improves our vascular system and blood circulation which can increase cell turnover (replacement of dead cells with new ones), and improve skin tone by delivering more oxygen to our cells.

Other ways to manage stress include meditation, yoga, walking, and stress-free activities such as reading a book or just spending some time outside.

Sleep

Sleep gives our bodies a chance to heal. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s guidelines, adults should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. And, just one night of less than seven hours of sleep can increase dark circles, puffiness, and wrinkles. Check out this article for more information about that.

The Not-So-Obvious

So, we know being healthy helps us look our best. But guess what… looking our best also helps us be healthier. As it turns out, taking a few moments to put on make-up, get our hair and nails done, or care for our skin may actually add years to our lives.

Looking Our Best = Living Healthier and Longer

When we look good, we feel good. That’s a no brainer. But, there’s a growing body of scientific evidence that we’re not just feeling healthier because we look good; we actually are healthier.

The psychological experience of feeling good about ourselves is known as subjective well being (SWB) and has been shown to have significant long- and short-term health benefits. When we have SWB, we tend to eat and sleep better, go to doctors more often, have increased immunity, and generally take better care of ourselves.

Studies have shown that SWB can even extend our longevity, adding up to seven and a half years to our lives. When we take care of our skin, when we look our most beautiful we enhance our SWB, which in turn promotes other self-care behaviors. Over time, this thought>action cycle leads to personal habits that can impact our overall well-being. For example, when we have a positive attitude, we tend to smile more, walk taller, have a confident stride and make more direct eye contact. We make time for ourselves. We exercise, take baths, get manis and pedis, and as a result, we feel and look more relaxed. Greater confidence and relaxation fuels a positive sense of self, which reinforces SWB.

Positive behaviors and attitudes also lead to more satisfying interpersonal experiences. Compliments about how we look are called affirmative feedback. This reinforces our positive self image and the desire to continue to take care of ourselves.

Are you beginning to see the connection? The habits we form are part of what’s called a cognitive-behavior loop, (a habit forming tool actually used by cognitive behavior therapists). When we develop this cognitive-behavior loop, it keeps the beauty-health connection going: self-care and relaxation > positive attitude > improved health > increased attractiveness > affirmative feedback > reinforcement for self-care and relaxation > and repeat. This feedback cycle leads to long-term well being, goodness, and a healthier us that results from all that goodness.

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