8 ways to find true inner beauty from natural beauty expert Carla Oates
When you feel happy and content, you exude a type of radiance and beauty that no amount of cosmetics can replicate. When you feel happier, you also tend not to sweat the small stuff so much, including the few more kilos on the hips or the new wrinkles on the face. So how can you get more of this inner beauty elixir, happiness?
Spending time with happy people makes you feel happier and also makes you more likely to be happy in the future.
People often think that the acquisition of certain things — more money, the perfect partner, a better job, bigger house or new car — will make them happier. But Harvard psychologist and author of The New York Timesbestseller Stumbling On Happiness, Dan Gilbert, says our brains constantly misjudge what really makes us happy. Studies have in fact shown it’s the little things that make the biggest difference to how you feel and function.
Being happy is a lot like exercise. It takes discipline and daily effort. If you do the work, though, you reap the rewards. Happiness is not an emotion that just magically happens; it’s a state of mind you can create. Here are some ways to start cultivating your own self-renewable supply.
1. Be busy, but not overwhelmed
Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning. In Japanese, it’s called ikigai. Hindus call it dharma. Knowing our purpose and feeling needed helps us connect with our communities. Sometimes, however, we say yes to doing more than we can manage and studies show that people who are time-pressured report feeling less happy. So prioritise things that matter most to you. And, wherever you can, practise saying no to the things you say yes to out of obligation.
2. Move as often as you can
It may feel like a challenge while you’re doing it, but a runner’s high is real. Exercise releases feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins that trigger positive feelings and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which calms the nervous system.
Countless studies have proven that exercise makes us feel better, reduces tension, boosts energy and improves body image. Aim for at least 150 minutes a week or five 30-minute sessions. Or, squeeze in 10-minute bursts whenever you can. Every little bit counts.
3. See your friends in real life
Humans are hardwired for social connection. While online likes and followers may flush the reward centre of your brain with the addictive neurochemical dopamine, connecting with your loved ones in real life produces the stress-reducing bonding chemical oxytocin.
Face-to-face conversation and physical contact are powerful mind-body medicines that lower blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels, boost immunity, relieve pain and anxiety and make us happier. Screens and virtual relationships are no substitute for seeing your favourite people in the flesh.
4. Choose happy friends
It’s been proven that happiness is contagious. Spending time with happy people makes you feel happier and also makes you more likely to be happy in the future. You wouldn’t sit next to a smoker and deliberately breathe in their second-hand smoke, so don’t hang out with negative people and soak up their bad vibes, either. Seek out friends with a positive outlook and bask in their sunny disposition.
5. Be kind and generous
Studies have shown that, when we give to others, we produce oxytocin, also known as “a helper’s high”. People who volunteer are happier, healthier and less likely to suffer from depression. One study found spending money on others even makes us feel happier than spending it on ourselves.
The father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, says there are three types of lives: pleasant, engaged and meaningful. While a pleasant, pampered life may sound most appealing, engaging in service to others and doing meaningful work will deliver more lasting happiness.
6. The link between food and mood
The good bacteria that live in the gut produce many of the neurotransmitters that affect your moods, including 80-90 per cent of the happy hormone serotonin. To make key neurochemicals, we need a diet rich in wholefoods including complex carbohydrates (from whole grains and starchy vegies), amino acids (mostly from lean protein), antioxidants and phytonutrients (from plant foods), vitamins, minerals such as folate (found in leafy greens and legumes) and essential fatty acids (from oily fish, nuts and extra-virgin olive oil).
The microbes in the gut are also responsible for keeping your gut in balance. Incorporate lacto-fermented, probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi into your diet and eat foods rich in prebiotics and soluble fibre as they feed the “good” bugs that live in your digestive system and keep it robust and healthy. Avoiding sugary, processed foods and food substances that are hard to digest such as unfermented dairy and gluten can also help keep your gut happy.
7. Sleep yourself happy
Feeling tired can make you irritable and impatient. Sleep deprivation also increases your stress levels and depression risk and lowers libido. Conversely, getting seven to nine hours’ rest a night boosts immunity, productivity, motivation and memory and helps stabilise your emotions.
One study found that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience repetitive negative thoughts. Another study found sleep-deprived people are worse at gauging subtle emotions in others, making them less able to empathise and get along with them.
Practising good sleep hygiene requires discipline and practice. Aim to switch off all electronic devices at least one hour before bed, try not to eat right before bed and avoid drinking alcohol at least three to four hours prior, as it can disrupt your deep REM sleep. Meditation, a soothing lavender soak and sedative herbal teas such as passionflower and lemon balm can all be helpful for a better beauty sleep.
8. Practise gratitude
Keeping a gratitude journal sounds time-consuming but it’s been shown to lower pain levels, stress hormones and blood pressure, boost motivation and optimism and improve your sleep, moods and life satisfaction. Start by writing down three things you are grateful for each night. Show your gratitude to others by sending them a card or giving them a call to say thank you. Or, simply spend time outdoors and take the time to appreciate the beauty of nature whenever you can.
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