Mindfulness is a practice that can help you live in the present moment and be more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. It helps you gain a firmer grasp of reality and reduces stress by stripping away some of the chaos and noise that can surround our lives.
All of this is great news for your skin too, as stress is a major contributor to skin problems like acne, rosacea, and even wrinkles. You can chug down as many antioxidants as you want, but if you’re not practicing mindfulness, all of that good work can be undone sooner than you think.
As stress piles up on your mind, clogged pores become more common, oil production increases, and skin becomes more prone to inflammation—not fun at all. But there’s more: Mindfulness has also been linked with better sleep, which is another key factor in keeping your skin looking its best.
Everyone has that wise old aunt that cautions us about the perils of stress and sleep deprivation, and now it seems we have scientific evidence to back up her advice. Past research has revealed that the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)—linked to our stress responses—plays a role in acne development.
When you practice mindfulness, you become better at dealing with stressful situations, which means less stress-related damage for your skin over time.
So how can you get started with mindfulness? Here are four mindfulness habits to inculcate into your daily routine to help keep your skin clear and healthy:
Learn to breathe
This might seem like a no-brainer, but that is in itself the problem. Most of us live our lives breathing without putting any thought into it. We simply breathe in and out without noticing how we’re doing it.
When you take the time to focus on your breath, you can learn to control and slow it down. This is especially helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Slowing down your breath will help to calm your mind and body.
If you’ve taken mediation and yoga classes before, you already know about the practice of mindful breathing. But this isn’t something you have to master in a class or gym. It’s something that can be practiced anywhere, at any time you need it—in line at the store, sitting on your couch, taking a walk outside.
Here’s how you do it: Breathe in slowly through your nose for four seconds, hold that breath in for another count of four, then exhale through your mouth for four seconds, hold that breath out for another count of four, and repeat.
Do this for a few minutes or more each day—or whenever you’re feeling extra stressed and need to take a mindfulness break.
The stillness can be a bit disorienting at first, but just as with your first menstrual period, you’ll find it less and less bothersome over time.
Marvel at the sky
The hustle and bustle of daily life feel comfortable and almost necessary to us, but stopping and taking a moment to look up at the sky can help put things in perspective.
When you’re outside, take time to notice what’s around you: the blue of that clear spring day or those fluffy white clouds drifting by overhead. Maybe it will inspire your next poem or painting. You never know.
This might seem like a simple thing, but it can do wonders for your state of mind and help you to appreciate the world around you.
Look at your surroundings with fresh eyes—as if seeing them for the first time—and take in all their beauty without judgment or analysis. It’s not something we’re taught to do as children, but it’s a skill that can be learned.
This exercise is easy to practice every day: When you wake up in the morning and look out your window or when you’re outside walking around. Appreciating nature makes us more aware of our surroundings, which is one of the keys to mindfulness.
Meditate while walking
Mindful movement is a great way to stay active while also taking time to be mindful. While you may not have the time or inclination to practice yoga every day, walking—or even running—is something almost everyone can do.
Focus on each step you take and how it feels to move your body. Pay attention to the feel of the earth beneath your feet and how your legs and other parts of your body are feeling as you walk.
Not only will you be improving your mental health while moving around, but you’ll also reap the benefits of physical activity.
Take a mindful shower
Mindfulness and self-care go hand in hand, which is why taking regular showers or baths can be a mindful practice if we allow it to be one.
As you’re getting ready for bed at night, take time to focus on how relaxing it is to stand under the warm water and let it run over your body. Feel the sensation of each drop as you wash yourself clean and breathe in the steamy air around you.
This might seem like a simple thing, but taking time out of your busy day to just focus on how relaxing this activity can be will help calm your mind and body.
If you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes before bed to have a mindful shower and wash away your troubles. You’ll be glad you did.
Mindfulness is something that can be practiced anywhere, at any time you need it. The four mindfulness habits we mentioned can help improve your skin clarity and health. But remember, it’s not just about the skin on our bodies: being more mindful in all aspects of our lives will lead to a happier, healthier, and more balanced you. Try out some or all of these practices and see for yourself how much better life can be when you’re living mindfully.