We all worry about how we look, including the appearance of our skin, so maybe telling you to stop worrying is easier said than done. But not worrying about how your skin looks can actually make your skin look better. It’s true — the look of our skin is tied to our emotions. The most dramatic example of an emotional event turning into a physical one is what happens when we’re embarrassed. Our skin turns hot and red. Not quite as dramatic — but still evident over time — is what happens to our skin when we worry. Anxiety puts the body under stress, and blood and nutrients make a beeline to the places that need it most — the heart, lungs and muscles — says Allison T. Vidimos, RPh, MD, chair of the Department of Dermatology at the Cleveland Clinic. Unfortunately, the other organs — including the skin — get the short shrift on nutrient-rich blood. Over time this can leave the skin looking sallow, dull and ragged. Of course, issues that cause great amounts of worry — like job loss, illness or high everyday stress — are going to cause more damage.
Even worse, how you think about what you look like affects what you actually look like. When you see people walking down the street smiling and laughing — no matter how old their chronological age, you think they look young, right? Their skin glows, their eyes sparkle and they just have an aura of youth surrounding them. So while it’s true that none of us can stop the aging process completely, we can work on feeling better about ourselves, which in turn can make us appear younger.
Here are a few tips to help you retrain your mind to focus a little less on the bags and sags:
- Write down three new activities you’d like to try this year. Whether it’s biking up a mountain, learning how to swim, joining a book club or taking a French class, it helps you to understand that although your skin may be sagging, your body and mind are still fully functional.
- Update the way you see yourself. “With age comes wisdom and experience,” says Marci Fox, PhD, a psychologist in Boca Raton, Florida, and the author of Think Confident, Be Confident: A Four-Step Program to Eliminate Doubt and Achieve Lifelong Self-Esteem. Perhaps you do have some wrinkles, but when you didn’t have those you also didn’t have the vice president title at your job, financial independence or a big group of friends you’ve known for 20 years.
- Think about people you admire and respect. What’s going through your mind when you reflect on Maya Angelou — her crow’s-feet or her poetry? “When you look at women you admire, you’re not focusing on the imperfections on their faces because you’re focused on other things,” Dr. Fox says. Try to do that more often with yourself.
- Banish negative thoughts about your body. Try this trick: Whenever you catch yourself obsessing over your age spots, stop where you are and close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to the count of five. While you’re breathing out, picture the negative thought as words in your head, then imagine the words floating up to the sky, into the clouds. This helps you actively let go of the thoughts so you don’t spend time dwelling on them.