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Happy Thoughts, Happy Skin

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Wellness Spotlight: Stress Relievers for Glowing Skin

You’re celebrating the end of a successful day at work with a well-earned bubble bath infused with rose bath salts and a glass of champagne when you get a text from your boss that says she wants to have a talk with you the next morning. You immediately start wondering what she has to say – is a promotion on its way, or is this the end of your career at the company? There is no end to the possibilities our minds can cook up.

In our evolutionary past where any potential threat could have had the consequence of becoming an animal’s dinner, our minds learned to assume the worst to keep us safe. However, in the less dangerous modern context where we are much less likely to be eaten, our negativity bias can be problematic. Research suggests that people who largely focus on the negative aspects of life tend to report lower well-being and can even be predisposed to anxiety, triggering high levels of stress.

Over an extended period of time, high stress levels can wear our bodies out. We don’t just mean fatigue and insomnia, though these outcomes can also seriously hamper well-being and prevent us from being able to feel and give our best. Chronic stress can manifest as skin ailments (think acne, wrinkles, dullness, dryness or oiliness), defeating the purpose of the loving treatment we give ourselves through good diet, exercise, and skin rituals. Our body’s stress response is mediated by the hormone called cortisol. In a perpetual high-stress state, a high level of cortisol induces a process called glycation that damages collagen, engendering wrinkles and dullness. Sounds gruesome, right? So, how do we occlude this cascade of skin disasters offset by our thoughts?

Positive Psychology scholars have extensively studied the efficacy of journaling interventions in not only stress management, but also improving everyday happiness and well-being. By focusing attention on the lighter, more positive side of life, these interventions counterbalance our tendencies to focus on threats and the negative side of life. As a result, they can help manage the chronic stress response that causes dermal wear and tear. Try out some expert-recommended activities below.

Ultimately, there are many things going on in our lives, but we have the power to shape the way we perceive our experiences. While reframing our experiences in a positive light can be challenging, these interventions, coupled with our personal motivation to take care of ourselves, empower us make positive changes in our lives.

    Three Good Things   Each night, write down three good things that happened in your day. These could be as simple as treating yourself to the aavrani ritual, to as big as getting engaged. This intervention focuses attention towards what’s going right in your life.

    Gratitude Letter or Gratitude Visit   Pick someone in your life who has been especially kind to you but may not have received an acknowledgement from you. Write a letter to them, communicating your gratitude for their kindness. You can either send them the letter or visit and read it out to them in person. This intervention strengthens relationships and imparts positive emotions, both of which have been found to reduce stress.

    Create a Positive Portfolio   Choose a positive emotion that you would like to cultivate more of (e.g., joy, serenity, hope, pride, love, awe, etc). Collect items such as photographs, songs, letters, poems, books, cards, and other such objects that make you feel the selected emotions.

    Curate a physical portfolio of these items and spend about 5-10 minutes with it every few days. Keep adding material to this portfolio or make another one for a different positive emotion. This intervention focuses attention on pleasant memories and helps cultivate positive emotions that may reduce stress.

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    13 comments

    • maheem on

      Wow I love this so much! Wellness is important indeed and i like that you not only talked about it on a high-level but also incorporated tactic to implement theories into a healthy positive practice

    • juli12 on

      very very original content in this blog post. i’m surprised at the ideas in the 2nd half – i actually haven’t heard of the positive portfolio or the gratitude letter/visit, and both are amazing ideas!!!!

    • queenie on

      THE POSITIVE PORTFOLIO IS such AN ORIGINAL IDEA. im gonna try it when i get home! exciting stuff

    • sneha on

      omg I love this! i just watched a tedtalk about three good things and this gave me that extra push to actually start it! I’m so excited

    • polly on

      i did the gratitude thing! my therapist recommended it to me, and it has made me a much happier and more satisfied person. <3


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