Intimate love — 28 October 2003
Can being loved make you better looking?

“How do you keep looking so good?”, he asked.
” I am a well loved woman”, she replied.
Is there a relationship between being in a loving relationship and looking well?

First it must be stated that no aspect of appearance can be solely attributed to one factor. We know that genes determine many aspects of our bodies from the color of our eyes to an early onset of wrinkles.

Nutrition affects our health and skin radiance. Dermatologists tell us that we need to protect our skin from the sun’s ultra violet rays, and cosmetologists aid women in skin care products. We also know that smoking and heavy alcohol use contribute to early wrinkles and skin tissue deterioration. And a daily exercise routine is strongly advised for a healthy body and mind.

Does it therefore, mean that if we are lucky with our genes, eat right, avoid smoking and excess alcohol, exercise, stay out of the sun and treat our skin well, that we will look good? Certainly these are important elements of a healthy appearance. However, our mental and emotional states are also very important to a healthy look.

We have ample evidence that certain emotions such as; negativity, anger, anxiety, depression, fear are highly correlated to health risks.
Research findings tell us that optimistic people live on the average seven years longer than do people who are either pessimistic or neutral about their lives. We have been told for years that a positive outlook improves the possibilities of a better life.

Studies also found that anger, anxiety, stress and depression contribute to heart disease. People who are highly anger–prone are found to be nearly 3 times as likely to have a heart attack, and highly anxious individuals exhibited greater thickening of the arterial walls and were more often in need of repeated angioplasty, compared to those who were less anxious. Depression increased the risk of a heart attack more than fourfold.

Not only do our internal organs respond to our emotions, but even more so, our faces reveal them. In helping children develop social skills we teach kindergartners to identify feelings from simple pictures. Facial expressions and body language have always been part of our communication system.

In the last twenty-five years researchers Ekman and Friesen developed a Facial Action Coding System that associates each of the facial muscles to a particular emotion. They also incorporate voice, gestures and content of speech to identify people’s feelings. Their system aided by computers and observers is used to identify emotions among couples in marital and other research. Those who are expert in this coding system can recognize another person’s emotion even prior to the individual’s awareness.

Though few people are experts in this coding technique, most of us can identify emotions in facial and body language. When you know someone well, it is not difficult to observe certain moods even prior to any discussion.

We also know what people in love look like: they are happy, excited, optimistic, open, and joyous. Once the “in love” state passes, those people who move to a secure, affirming and loving connection, may also have the look of peace and contentment.
When couples are at odds with each other, they are stressed. They may fight, feel anger, feel unloved and alone. While these emotions are active, the facial features and body language of the hurt or angry person change.

Chronically bitter people tend to have the curves of their lips, eyes and chin pulled downward. Angry people may clench their jaws, tighten their shoulders, press their upper body forward and appear ready for a fight. Overwhelmed people may have their eyes more widely open, and their posture slightly bent forward. Every intense, prolonged emotional state ultimately produces a physical and facial state corresponding to that feeling.

People, who are in loving relationships, get validated, appreciated, encouraged, respected and loved. That enables them to be relaxed, secure and confident. I have observed over the years that those feelings translated to their bodies create the image of a people who “look good”.

Loved people are also more likely to take better care of themselves. They may eat better, exercise, use their minds creatively and have more fun. They have the security of their partners’ love.

Perfect features and bodies do not necessarily create good looks. People who are loved and love themselves are more likely to feel and be seen as attractive individuals.

To help yourself look even better:

® Cultivate a loving relationship where you give and receive the security of love.

® When you feel anger, hurt, resentments etc. deal with the situation to quickly resolve these feelings.
® Develop and maintain optimistic views about life.
® Follow the health routine; eat right, exercise, avoid smoking, etc.
® Above all- SMILE. Relaxing your facial muscles helps you look and feel good.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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