Friday, July 7, 2017

Natty Beauty

When I was young, I always liked Maybelline's slogan, "maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Mabelline." I'm not sure what particularly struck me about the line but I suppose I found it humorous because, as a youngster with no access to the cosmetic world, I believed (and still do) that all beauty was natural. As I've aged, my understanding of beauty has remained consistent on the surface (no pun intended) although, with experience, has become informed by deeper knowledge. At its core, I believe that beauty is the result of our individual choices, growing and shrinking with the amount of freedom we allow in our lives. However, when I was younger, my perception of beauty was much less corny (if just as natural) relying mostly on one's physical features (read: buck teeth and big ears). But while beauty may be the result of nature or nurture, it can often be hindered or helped by the foods we eat and habits we take on. Either way, it'll never be reached by some off-brand of cosmetics.

Maybellene, why can't you be true?

When I reached my 20's and actually began to consider "beauty" (a consideration I quickly dropped) I found myself drawn to the more foundational elements of the topic, learning more about routines of exfoliation and washing as opposed to color and contour. As such, I found myself reading the very beginning pages of Bobbi Brown's Beauty and/or becoming intrigued by Scarlet O'hara's method of pinching her cheeks to bring color to her face. And of course, new trends which rely on natural methods of healthy eating and/or general happiness have broken into the beauty world culminating in books such as Bobbi Brown Beauty from the Inside Out: Makeup, Wellness, Confidence, a tome which begins with a chapter on "beauty food". Indeed, while I've found there are a few natural methods for allowing our hair to literally shine (read: Hair and There), there are a few natural routes to better skin (and a better life). Enjoy!

Less Stress: If beauty can be seen as the manifestation of our inner well-being, it's no surprise that stress can do a number on our skin. Prompting the release of cortisol, "stress can... throw off the other hormones in [the] body and cause breakouts on your face," according to the highest authority on beauty, Cosmopolitan Magazine. But what can we do to stress less? Of course, there are the large-scale choices which can help or hinder our happiness as adults but our smaller decisions of what we eat and how we play and even how we breathe can have a significant effect on the stress we encounter in our daily lives. Ergo, a few lessons in stress reduction...

Eating Fatty: Just as we make choices as adults which seismically shift us towards or away from happiness, the foods we eat each day can truly calibrate the needle of our body towards health or harm. While our bodies need key nutrients, they're often lacking in foods of convenience and/or alcohol (both which I consume often). While "foods of convenience" like chips, beef jerky or whatever can be high in saturated and/or trans-fats, they don't always carry the good fat our bodies need.

There are so-called "bad fats" like the ones above and then there are good fats. In a way, fats (of all types) can be rather comforting. There are the cheesy comfort foods we crave in the winter, there is the laughing Buddah who seems so content with his large belly and there are the fat babies whose cuteness seems to be in direct correlation with the number of folds on their arms. But good fats, those of the polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and omega-3 varieties, can actually bring emotional comfort in that the vitamins they carry can help develop our neurotransmitters and, "help calm and maintain a healthy nervous system," according to Dr. Andrew Weil. So whether you're making guacamole from avocados, eating a handful of walnuts or simply frying eggs for breakfast (or making the "double-happiness" avocado egg cups below) you're giving your brain a (mood) boost.

Breathing Exercises: It's no secret that exercise is beneficial for the brain but breathing exercises can be good too! I've wanted to write about breathing exercises for awhile but never spotted a adequate opportunity to do so. The first time I learned of breathing exercises (aside from my father's relentless harping on meditation) came on a trip to China... a land that, without much religious reference, gives you a certain spiritual vibe. There were seniors doing tai-chi in the park, an array of DIY head massages and, during the course of a particularly nauseating bus ride... a lesson in breathing exercises. Below are a few videos which will showcase breathing exercises for anxiety and sleep respectively because...

Pranyama deep breathing.

Breathing for sleep.

Sleep: I stopped taking naps when I was two, claiming they were boring and a waste of time. But as I age, while I still hate the idea of going to bed, I can at least recognize its many benefits. Within study upon study, the benefits of sleep are countless. With sleep deprivation linked to heart disease and obesity and better moods linked to adequate sleep, it's little secret that sleep is linked to health. And health (and happiness), in my opinion, are the true road to beauty.

So, while beauty comes in many forms, it's usually the culmination of a few practices which are key for all humans. Besides adding things externally, it's often what we add (and don't add) internally which results in how we feel about ourselves. And when it comes to beauty, whose opinion really matters but our own?

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