Skin, Lip and Body Care

Gratitude: The Surprising Anti-Aging Secret

+ Rebecca

Want a new way to look younger?

Here’s one you can try, and it won’t cost you a dime.

Practice gratitude.

It’s true. Studies have found that grateful people experience a number of health benefits-all associated with a more radiant complexion.

We’re getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, which is a time when we come together to express our gratitude for all the blessings we have in life.

I encourage you to use this time as an opportunity to start a daily gratitude journal, or other daily gratitude practice. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for the past several years and am still amazed at the difference it makes in my outlook-and my appearance.

What Science Has Discovered about the Benefits of Gratitude

We now know that it’s not just our cleansing and moisturizing routine that affects how the skin looks. Stress, diet, sleep, medications, health problems, and more can all make a visible difference in our appearance.

That’s why practicing gratitude can actually improve the appearance of skin. When we become more grateful people, a number of physiological changes occur in the body that improve its overall function-and that can’t help but benefit the skin, too.

Here’s what science has shown us so far:

  1. Gratitude helps us manage stress. When we experience stress, the body releases stress hormones that can cause inflammation and age skin. A pair of studies in 2008 found that an attitude of gratitude lowered levels of stress and depression.
  2. Gratitude tames toxic emotions. How do you look when you’re frustrated, angry, irritated, envious, or regretful? Not radiant and beautiful, right? Turns out gratitude helps reduce these toxic emotions. Researcher Robert Emmons has conducted a lot of studies on gratitude and well being, and has found repeatedly that regularly thinking about what you’re grateful for can help you feel a lot better, which of course will show up on your complexion.
  3. Gratitude helps you sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body is naturally stressed, and stress tears down collagen and increases inflammation in the skin. Gratitude can actually help you sleep better. A 2011 study, for example, found that participants who had trouble sleeping because their minds were racing with stimulating thoughts and worries were able to sleep better by spending 15 minutes to write in a gratitude journal before bed.
  4. Gratitude boosts your confidence. What’s more attractive than a confident woman? If you’re not feeling so good about yourself these days, practicing gratitude can help. A 2014 study found that when athlete’s had higher levels of gratitude, they also felt an increased sense of self-esteem.
  5. Gratitude strengthens the immune system. We need an optimally functioning immune system to repair skin damage and regenerate younger-looking skin. Research has linked gratitude with optimism, and optimism with a stronger immune system. A study from the University of Utah, for example, found that participants under stress who were more optimistic maintained a higher number of blood cells that protect the immune system, compared with more pessimistic participants.
  6. Gratitude reduces inflammation. We talked in a previous post about how inflammation is extremely damaging to skin. A recent study found that recognizing and giving thanks for the good things in life not only improved mood and resulted in better sleep, but actually lowered levels of inflammatory markers in the body.

Experts Agree that Gratefulness = Beauty

That feeling grateful can bring out your own inner beauty is an idea supported by a number of experts across various fields. Musician and Naad yoga teacher Dev Suroop Kaur says, “radiant beauty is the presence of a satisfying quality that shines forth from a person or thing-the true, shining essence of something coming through.”

Holocaust survivor and 109-year old Alice Herz-Sommer told an interviewer that the secret for feeling good at her age was “optimism, and looking for the good. Life is beautiful. To be happy. To admire. To thank. Thankful that we are living. Wherever you look is beauty.”

Beauty stylist Shannon Shakaya Leone agrees, stating, “Gratitude is a beauty elixir and a life secret that beautiful women know. Focus on your gratitude, and you will create beauty and bliss chemicals all throughout your body.”

7 Gratitude-Boosting Activities

How can you boost your daily feelings of gratitude? Try these seven methods.

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Leave a notebook by your bed, and every night, before you go to sleep, write down at least five things you were grateful for that day.
  2. Write more thank-you notes. Taking time to thank someone for what they did for you benefits you as much as it does them. Not only do you nurture the relationship, but it helps you feel again the good feelings you felt when the person helped you. Try to make a habit of sending at least one a week, even if it’s just a sticky note you leave on someone’s desk, computer, or door.
  3. Share a happiness update. Tell others, through an email, conversation, blog post, social media, whatever you like, what you’re happy about. Could be something as simple as a sunset, time with a pet, a nice meal, a cherished phone conversation, recent accomplishment, etc.
  4. Be grateful first thing. When you wake up in the morning, take a moment to feel grateful. Maybe it’s for the fact that you woke up and have another day to enjoy, or the fact that you can still share your life with your loved ones, or that you have a job to go to, or a roof over your head. Find something to be glad for to start your day, and you’ll enjoy the benefits all day long.
  5. Practice “switching.” This is a fun skill to learn. Let’s say you’re stuck in traffic. Normally that would be something you’d see as a negative. Practice switching it around as something to be grateful for. Maybe you have a few more minutes to listen to your favorite music or an audio book. Maybe you can take several deep breaths and use the time to reflect. Whenever you catch yourself criticizing something, see how you can switch it around.
  6. Give more compliments. Look around you. What do you see that makes you happy? Maybe a coworker is wearing a colorful scarf. Compliment her on it. Maybe your barista made your latte just perfectly-let them know. The more compliments you give, the more you’re noticing the good things in life.
  7. Celebrate more. We so often let the good things that happen to us slide by without much notice. Try to celebrate more. Get friends together to share your accomplishments, or just some good news. Take yourself out for a nice walk or afternoon movie to congratulate yourself on a job well done. Organize a lunch to celebrate a friend’s new job or new home. Surprise someone at the office with a quick celebration of something besides a birthday. Find ways to celebrate the many things in life we have to be grateful for.

Do you practice gratitude on a daily basis? Please share any ideas you have.

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