Go Past the Surface
We love a quick fix — life’s bandaids for personal improvement. When it comes to our appearance, we are particularly susceptible to purchasing magical potions or a wonder-garment things that promise to miracles and change us into the most beauty and attractive. But in reality, these are just heavily marketed faux-panaceas which the only noticeable effect they have is on your finances.
Fortunately, many of the most effective, scientifically-proven ways to boost your appearance aren’t things you buy or wear, and most cost little things. Sometimes the effect comes when using nothing. Yes, yes, you read it right – NOTHING! However, like all good things in life, they aren’t completely “free”: they do require habitual consciousness and mindful discipline. Here are six ways to improve your look and the way you feel, while powerfully transforming the way you’re perceived by others.
Getting dressed is not everything. Adjusting your posture not only transforms the way a garment drapes on you, but also affects the emotional response of people around you. A study made at University of Pennsylvania found that subtle changes in your posture can alter your perceived emotion, while other studies indicate that emotions like happiness and anger are heavily communicated through posture alone — without ever opening our mouths. The fact that good posture also makes you look taller, thinner, healthier and more confident are some serious reasons to stand up straight. So go ahead, make the first step and improve your posture!
Unfortunately, good posture does not come naturally for most of us (especially for those of us who are stuck at a desk most of the day). Take action now and control your posture: Deliberately align yourself in the mirror; your head should be over your shoulders, lining up your ears, shoulders and hips; pull your belly in and be sure your lower back is slightly curved. Over time, you can move yourself toward more effortless posture by doing regular core-strengthening exercises. Don’t forget that your body is interconnected and the seemingly simple act of standing straight engages many of your muscles.
A Yale study aimed to test how hairstyles and lengths affect perceived intelligence and wealth. The study took the same face and overlaid it with different hair styles. The findings were quite amazing we may say, indicated that women with short-to-medium length hair are generally perceived as intelligent and good-natured (and guess what: those without any hair were seen as the most intelligent), while those with more feminine styles, like long hair, were perceived as less intelligent. On the other hand, the ones from the long-hair category are also seen as the sexiest and most affluent. Further complicating the issue, researchers at the University of Queensland found that blondes earn 6 percent more.
Furthermore, before you ask your stylist for a bleached blonde pixie, remember that what looks good on us (and how a particular haircut is viewed) changes as we age. Certain cuts are more flattering for aging faces that others. A collarbone-length cut can be versatile and soften your face more than certain shorter styles. Subtle layers can also add character and work with your hair’s natural wave (making it low-fuss). And if you do go for longer lengths, bangs can add an element of polish and precision to counteract the femininity of your long locks.
If you’re not motivated by health, try vanity: We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, but maybe you don’t know how good they are when used as beauty products. A study found that participants who ate more fruits and vegetables for just six weeks increased red and yellow skin tones (needless to say, those who worsened their diets grew paler). Another study showed that fruits and vegetables can be considered as one of the most powerful defenses against skin aging.
Skin is the mirror that reflects inner-health and degrees of aging. And while there’s no shame in our hard-earned laugh lines and other character-building facial lines, looking healthy is always appealing. Eating whole fruits and vegetables is most beneficial, but if you’re a busy person or always on-the-go, enjoy the current green juice craze and make a bottle of veggies part of your daily routine. (They can be pricey, but think on the long term as they’re cheaper than Botox!)
And guess what, it’s not just fruits and vegetables that give your skin a visual boost. Other supplements have been scientifically linked with healthier skin, as well: Collagen reduces facial lines, green tea polyphenols decrease inflammation and redness, pycnogenol increases hydration and elasticity, and fish oil eases eczema.
After how many lost nights we’ve all stared in the mirror after a sleepless night and lamented our dark circles? Studies are proving that lack of sleep affects skin function and aging, with poor sleepers showing increased signs of aging and less resilience from environmental stress factors. Poor sleepers are also more likely to have a higher body mass index (BMI).
And beyond its impact on our looks, sleep also radically affects our performance. So it’s no wonder Arianna Huffington has become the spokesperson for a good night’s sleep, shunning the pride that too often circulates around sleep-deprivation, and instead extolling the virtues of sleep: namely, increased productivity and a happiness boost.
You can take control by practicing good sleep hygiene and “hacking” your own sleep. Maybe you have heard many advices like that, but they are really true. Therefore, before bed avoid caffeine, sugar and large meals; dim the lights (including computer monitors) and sleep in a dark room; turn off technology or put it in airplane mode; and get plenty of exercise and daylight earlier in the day — and if you’re feeling more adventurous, try a sleep induction mat. Trust us, bedtime rituals calm your mind and pave the way for quality sleep and a better tomorrow.
You can be all dressed up and looking good, but you’re never fully dressed without a smile. Nonetheless, it pays to paint one on, even if it doesn’t feel genuine: Researchers have found that even forced smiles increase happiness, lower stress levels and diminish pain. The way we feel and radiate emotions goes beyond our brains and is not only reflected by our bodies, but also induced by them. One study found that Botox recipients who were not able to frown reported feeling happier than those who did not receive the injections. (However, they did not report feeling more attractive, indicating that the spike in happiness was not induced by the aesthetic changes.)
Telling yourself to smile may seem trite, but its presence or absence has subtle-yet-significant social and personal consequences. According to psychologist and smile expert Marianne LaFrance, smiles facilitate social connection, minimize conflict and enhance first impressions.
A smile can help you in the workplace, as well: Smiles indicate positivity and openness, and individuals with those traits tend to cope better with challenges, thereby communicating confidence and professionalism. When complications arise or you find yourself in a challenging situation, flash a grin and watch the effect it has. Remember this even if you aren’t feeling particularly attractive one day: convince every day yourself to smile anyway, and boost your own self-confidence while improving the way others view you.