Gratitude is a wonderful habit to cultivate. Unfortunately, practicing gratitude can sometimes be relegated to one or two days a year—when we’re celebrating Thanksgiving, New Years or other holidays. But what if this was a tradition we partook in daily? Well, the reality is we’d be far better off health-wise if we did so.
Gratitude has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve the overall quality of life as a result. And as you start to feel better, you will look better too. Low-stress levels translate to a vibrant, clear and glowing complexion free of acne, as well as brighter and healthier skin in general. No medications or expensive creams necessary, just a heaping dose of gratitude!
Gratitude Relieves Stress
Gratitude can manifest in a variety of ways. It can be thankfulness for everything you’ve achieved; it can be a reminder not to take present blessings for granted, and it can be an overall feeling of optimism for what the future holds. However you personally experience gratitude, it can reduce stress levels significantly.
Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis, has conducted numerous studies on the power of gratitude and has found that the cultivation of gratitude can lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) by as much as 23% in grateful people. He has also found that gratitude can lower blood pressure, strengthen immunity and improve sleep function. One study also found that over time gratitude leads not only to decreased levels of stress and depression but also “leads to the development of social support during a life transition.” Because major life events can lead to greater feelings of stress, having social support during these transitions is vital in relieving those very feelings.
How Stress Affects Health & Skin
Stress is a major factor in many diseases. Stress even appears to exacerbate various medical conditions, including obesity, acne, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, depression and gastrointestinal issues. Thus, it’s apparent that relieving stress can greatly improve quality of life, especially for those suffering from medical conditions or illnesses that are worsened by stress. When it comes to skin conditions like acne, stress especially has been shown to be a major factor. One study found “a significant association between stress and severity of acne papulopustulosa,” or lesions. Other studies have also corroborated this finding, utilizing university students in high-stress situations as participants and noting that the students with “the greatest increases in stress during examination periods also had the greatest exacerbations in acne severity.”
The link between acne and stress cannot be denied, but the good news is that stress levels can be lowered by the positive thoughts we create when we’re feeling grateful. Practicing gratitude regularly helps to keep stress levels in balance, avoiding the spikes in cortisol, which contributes to acne.
Immunity & Sleep
It’s not just by relieving stress that gratitude helps brighten a complexion. Immunity and sleep also play crucial roles. As previously noted, gratitude has been shown to strengthen immunity. A stronger immune system can help you fight infection and illness with more efficiency, allowing you to feel better faster. It can also prevent you from getting sick in the first place. This is all good news for your skin as well. By strengthening your immune system, gratitude allows existing acne lesions to heal faster. A stronger immune system can further act as a preventative measure against emerging acne.
Gratitude can help you get a good night’s rest, which also has a beneficial effect on your skin. One 2009 study found that those who practice gratitude fall asleep faster and have a better overall quality of sleep as well.  While we sleep, stress levels drop significantly, thereby reducing the possibility of developing acne. Skin cells also regenerate during sleep. As old skin cells are sloughed off and fresh, new skin cells come to take their place, your skin will look rejuvenated, smooth and clear. This natural renewal of skin cells will also make it less likely for pores to become clogged. When pores get clogged, comedones can form, and when comedones get infected, it leads to the formation of acne lesions. A healthy night’s sleep of at least 7 to 8 hours will ensure that your skin is getting all the R & R it needs to be able to heal itself.
Ways To Cultivate Gratitude
- Keep a gratitude journal. A few times a week (or even daily!), jot down things you’re grateful for either in list form or as a more traditional journal entry. Take a moment to write down what you’re thankful for and also explain why you’re grateful for that particular blessing. This will allow you to reflect more deeply on what you’re thankful for
- Do something kind for someone else, or volunteer. Helping others can bring about some healthy perspective, making you realize what you have that others may be lacking. You may also feel grateful for having the ability to give back to a friend, loved one, stranger or the community in general.
- Socialize. Spending time with friends and family can make you feel grateful for having loved ones that you can rely on and who can rely on you in turn. This also relates back to the fact that having proper social support can help alleviate stress
- Write a reminder. When we write down goals, we are more likely to complete them. Write down a promise that you will remember to be grateful every day and place it somewhere, like near your office desk or on your bathroom mirror, where it will catch your eye often.
Photo by Bart Larue