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More Than Aesthetic Appeal

The effects of aesthetics on your mental and emotional well-being By Bri Williams, ARNP Refined Aesthetics Med Spa, pllc

When I was younger, I remember my grandmother telling me that when we look our best, we feel our best, and when we feel our best, we do our best. For most individuals, the simple act of doing your hair or trimming your mustache can help you to feel more confident and ready to conquer the day. On the flip side, neglecting self-care and lounging in pajamas without a shower all day can result in feelings of low self-worth and esteem. So, what is the science behind the emotions? And is taking pride in your appearance really all that important? Turns out the answer is yes.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, when many were in home isolation and unable to complete their normal self-care routines with hair appointments and spa trips, health care providers began discussing “aesthetic emotions.” This area of psychology examines how an individual’s perceived aesthetic appeal is subjectively felt as either pleasure or displeasure based on whether that individual likes or dislikes their appearance (Menninghaus et al., 2019). Completing activities that make an individual feel more attractive, such as putting on makeup or a nice outfit, can result in a release of feel-good hormones into the bloodstream that carry messages between nerve cells and improve your mood. Dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin are all responsible for feelings of euphoria and happiness and are tightly related to aesthetic emotions. The mental health benefits of positive aesthetic emotions include:

Improved Quality of Life When individuals are free of insecurities that once made them feel self-conscious, their social life and leisure activities can become more enjoyable by allowing them to live without the social anxiety of insecurity. Even something as simple as running into the grocery store with greasy, unwashed hair versus a fresh blow-out can make the difference between approaching an old friend you haven’t seen in ages rather than dodging out unnoticed. When social interactions can occur uninhibited, quality of life can be improved.

Better Self-Esteem and Confidence Liking what you see in the mirror helps you to feel more confident and comfortable in your skin. Remember the happy hormones we talked about? A surge is released when you are pleased with your reflection. Walking through your day feeling confident can improve productivity, mood, and feelings of well-being.

Renewed Feeling of Youth Looking and feeling younger than your actual age can give you a newfound lease on life. A physical change can alter an individual’s mindset, making them more open to possibilities and opportunities that come their way. Have you ever gotten a fresh haircut that makes you look younger and suddenly you feel unstoppable and ready to take on a challenge that you had been avoiding? Most of us can relate to this on some level, and small acts of self-care that boost your confidence can renew your feeling of youth.

In contrast to feel-good hormones that come with positive feelings about your appearance, the opposite can be true when you feel insecure or dissatisfied with your appearance. Feeling unattractive damages your self-esteem and makes individuals feel genuinely unhappy and less capable.

When the pandemic hit, and I was forced to isolate at home for nearly two months, I quickly found that I no longer did my hair or makeup because I wasn’t going anywhere. I lounged in my sweats all day instead of getting dressed. My grey hair started to grow out. My Botox wore off and my wrinkles returned. All of these things affected my outward appearance, and while I still knew my own self-worth, I became depressed. I felt less productive and didn’t want to socialize with my small circle of safe contacts. I quickly learned that I don’t do my hair and makeup everyday for anyone else. I do it for ME. As soon as I began taking the time every day to look my best, even though I wasn’t leaving my house and no one besides my immediate family was going to see me, my mood improved and my productivity increased. I felt happier. If there are things you can do that make you feel more confident and happier, no matter how big or small, you should do them.

Everyone’s perception of beauty is different, but identifying what makes you feel your most confident and taking pride in your outward appearance can have a profound impact on your emotional well-being and mood. There is no shame in wanting to put your best face forward so you can live your most confident life.

Menninghaus W, Wagner V, Wassiliwizky E, Schindler I, Hanich J, Jacobsen T, Koelsch S. What are aesthetic emotions? Psychol Rev. 2019 Mar;126(2):171-195. doi: 10.1037/rev0000135. PMID: 30802122.

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