We're all looking for balance these days. Juggling work, life, and taking care of ourselves is a full-time job that can very often sap our energy, enthusiasm, and health. I have experienced this struggle in my own life and see this every day with patients, too, who seek me out for help in achieving this balance.
I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that achieving balance is possible—without having to book a month-long yoga retreat or overhaul your entire life. This is why I wrote my new book, Mindful Beauty. It's a modern-day guide to living in mindful balance using simple tips—which don't take a lot of effort—to revamp your daily habits. The end result of achieving this balance is inner calm, vibrant health, and outer radiance.
As I talk about in Mindful Beauty, this balance can be summed up in what Ayurveda (the holistic healing system that originated in India over five thousand years ago) calls ojas ("oh-jus"). Pure beauty, says Ayurveda, is clear, glowing skin, silky hair, happy eyes, youthfulness, and even a pleasant smell. This is the result of inner and outer happiness and health. Ojas is considered the "sap of life," true inner and outer beauty and health that radiates from a relaxed, peaceful state. This state of balance is a result of finding peace in your life, but it's also a result of a nourishing diet, regular mindful movement, and restful sleep. That's what I want to talk about here: exactly how to manifest outer health, beauty and radiance, and an inner calm for longevity and true inner and outer beauty. Below are five ways to get started.
- Find a way to connect with your inner you every single day. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking time to nourish your soul. We eat three-plus meals a day to feed our body, but what are we doing every day to feed our soul? A soul-nourishing "diet" is as important to our balance as food is. While once-a-week yoga or meditation is great, we must begin to incorporate soul-nourishing habits every single day. When I explain this to my patients, they immediately think they have to meditate for thirty minutes every day and explain why they don't have time for it. But you don't need thirty minutes and you don't even need to formally "meditate." I do meditation at my desk during my lunch break and sometimes it's no more than five minutes. But in that five minutes, I focus on my breathing—which nourishes my inner self—reducing heart rate, lowering stress, and giving me a boost to get through the rest of the day. You can also practice walking meditation in your workplace, home, or even the grocery store. (See more about this later.) There are plenty of meditations in Mindful Beauty that you can do, too, if you want help getting started. A simple morning moment of gratitude—being thankful for things that are going right in your life—is sometimes all it takes, too. There's been research that shows that having a sense of awe and gratitude for things in our lives can lower levels of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a precursor to disease—which is why keeping levels low in the body is so important. Nourishing our inner selves is a key part of living a healthy life today: when we feed our soul, we strengthen our physical being, too.
- Eat plenty of plant-based foods. When you eat a diet closer to the Earth, as the Mediterranean cultures do, your body responds with more energy, better sleep, and healthier, more radiant skin. Why? These foods—like fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes and beans, and whole grains—have more key nutrients like fiber, vitamins B and C, and calcium that the body needs to thrive. This doesn't mean you have go vegan or vegetarian. In fact, I recommend that patients eat lean meat like poultry regularly and limiting red meat. Fish is also important as part of this Mediterranean-style of eating. This step doesn't have to be overwhelming: simply adding one or two plant-based food to every meal and snack during the day is a good way to start. For example, with breakfast, add an orange or grapefruit; with lunch, add a side salad or greens to your sandwich; with dinner, be sure that half your plate is plant based. A handful of almonds or walnuts as a mid-day snack is another option. Once you start adding these foods to your diet regularly, you'll find that you want to experiment more with plant-based recipes (I offer a few of my family's favorites in Mindful Beauty). You'll notice that these simple changes will result in you feeling more vibrant physically, and also feeling better mentally: you'll be more energetic, more confident, and more invigorated to take charge of your life.
- Move with mindful intention. When I suggest to my patients that they exercise regularly, so many of them explain that they already go to the gym for a sweat-inducing bout of cardio. As I tell them: there's more to movement, however, than just working up a sweat. So many people today are on their phones—either talking or listening to music—or watching TV while they're exercising. While this definitely helps pass the time, I also suggest shutting off your devices once or twice a week and, instead, focusing on your breathing. That is mindful movement. While a good cardio workout is important for heart health and overall physical health—as well as reducing anxiety and boosting mood—mindful movement achieves balance on a deeper level: you're working out your body while nurturing your inner you. Our brain waves shift from the analytical beta waves (that are important for getting our to-do lists done) to calmer alpha waves (which are important for feeding our soul and our daydream states). One of my favorite ways to move with mindful intention is simply walking outdoors with my phone silenced. Walking meditation, or "forest bathing" as it's been called, makes us more mindful in the present moment and sustains elevated states of this mindfulness the rest of the day when we're not walking. Yoga, swimming, running, biking, and really any form of exercise can achieve this elevated state of mindfulness as long as we're focused on our breathing and the rhythm of our bodies and not our devices.
- Create a night-time sleep ritual that works for your life. Developing a ritual at least an hour before bed every night will ease you into sleep, helping you to fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. So many people have trouble sleeping today and I attribute so much of this to the digital world that surrounds us 24-7. From a scientific standpoint, our devices emit something called blue light, which has been shown in numerous studies to interfere with the production at night of the sleep hormone melatonin, particularly if you use your devices too close to bedtime. When darkness falls, our body's natural reaction is to produce melatonin, which makes us feel sleepy. But in our modern world—where we're doing work at night on our computers, checking social media late into the night, watching TV, or texting—our bodies aren't producing the amounts of melatonin we need to get to sleep and stay asleep. So my advice to patients is always: shut off your devices at least one hour before bed. Give your body time to produce melatonin and to ease into sleep. Other bedtime rituals can include five or ten minutes of meditation, calming yoga asanas (like shavasana or legs up the wall), reading quietly from a physical book (i.e., not an e-reader), or just sitting quietly drinking a cup of herbal tea. In Mindful Beauty, I also include crystal and bedroom feng shui tips that may help with sleep. What works for each person, however, is different. The important thing is to find a ritual that works for your schedule and start to incorporate it every night. You'll notice that you feel calmer overall—all day long—and sleep better. A good night's sleep is so critical to better health, both mental and physical, and overall radiance. You can have a strong inner you, but without sleep, you can't have a strong outer you and overall balance.
- Develop a consistent skin-care regimen. The skin is the largest organ in the body and needs regular care. Eating a nutrient-rich diet feeds the skin from the inside, as does moving regularly (this boosts circulation, which provides skin cells with much-need oxygen). Drinking enough water is also important; it keeps the skin hydrated and radiant. Just as establishing good habits in other aspects of your life keeps you in balance from the inside, though, so too does creating a consistent skin-care regimen keep your skin in balance from the outside. Washing skin twice daily, exfoliating (to get rid of dulling dead skin cells), and hydrating skin are basic steps that everyone should incorporate every day. I give many more details in Mindful Beauty, particularly about what to look for when choosing products, but starting here is an important first step. If you're experiencing skin problems like eczema or acne, I recommend that you see your dermatologist, but I also recommend putting into practice the steps that I recommend here and, in more detail, in Mindful Beauty. The skin is usually one of the first places to exhibit signs of imbalance in the body. Helping to get the body back into balance typically has a positive effect on skin conditions, as so many of my patients have experienced. This is why, as an osteopathic board-certified dermatologist (one of only several hundred in the country), I incorporate Mindful Beauty strategies into each one of my patient sessions.
Something important to remember: each of us is unique and beautiful—even though we sometimes don't feel this way. Manifesting beauty and uniqueness comes so much easier once we nourish ourselves from the inside out. These strategies and so many more in Mindful Beauty can help. Wishing you a soul- and body-nourishing journey to your best self!