Chances are, if you've got a problem, someone's developed a cream, pill or magic potion designed to fix that problem.
When we want to improve the look of our skin, the shine of our hair or the strength of our nails, many of us turn to the beauty aisle first, when really we should be looking at the way we live our lives. More often than not, these issues can be attributed to poor nutrition, lack of exercise and stress.
In fact, statistics show that North Americans now are suffering from more stress-related illnesses than ever before, a reality which is affecting how we age and look on a daily basis. For many of us, there's no miracle cream, no magic potion; we simply need to eat better, get more rest, and find the time to rejuvenate. Recently, I had the opportunity to test this theory out, and below I have outlined three important steps to take to enhance your beauty and health from the inside out, whether you are on holiday or at home.
Part 1: Escape
We all experience it, the moment when we've finally had it, the moment we can hear the straw break the camel's back and when we know we have just had too much and need to escape. So instead of soldiering on as I usually would, I escaped. I went on leave from my "day job" and my business. I slept-in daily. I went snowshoeing. I watched funny movies, meditated, and did yoga. I read books for fun and spent time with friends and family.
And although I also escaped to a Mayan healing retreat for one week during my hiatus, most of this sojourn was spent at home. The great thing about an escape is that it doesn't have to be long, it just has to allow us the time to deviate from our normal routine and get a break from our responsibilities.
Part 2: Go Within
Believe it or not, we look better and our bodies are healthier when we take the time to go within to find some peace. For me, that meant going to Mexico to learn about a Mayan tradition called the Temazcal, or sweat lodge. A combination of mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical purification, the sweat lodge gave me the chance to release some of the stress I had been carrying for a long time. It also gave me the opportunity to go within and reflect on what is most important to me and how I wanted to lead my life when I returned home. I came out feeling and looking more rejuvenated than ever.
For you, going within could mean doing a yoga class, walking your dog or even participating in meditation or a religious routine. Finding some peace within gives us the chance to slow down, which in turn allows our whole nervous system to take a breather. A hectic, fast-paced life overflowing with responsibilities can lead to a constant release of adrenaline which means our system is always running on overdrive-resulting in higher resting heart-rates, higher blood pressure, and the inability to sleep and relax. Combine that with a diet filled with coffee, soda, and fast food, and you can see how we're wreaking havoc on the condition of our skin, hair, and nails, aging us temporarily, or in some cases, permanently.
Part 3: Mayan Chocolate Therapy
Chocolate is on many people's lists of favorite things, but in Mexico I learned that chocolate can have a wonderfully soothing and detoxifying effect on our bodies. Traditionally the Mayan people used the cocoa bean as currency-it was that valuable. The wealthiest of Mayan society drank a bitter drink made of ground cocoa beans and spices such as cinnamon and hot chilies, believing it to have a restorative and healing affect on the body and spirit. Technically it does; the amino acids and antioxidants in chocolate are beneficial to our health, whether ingested or applied topically in body treatments. That's why cocoa beans were also used in beauty treatments and special ceremonies.
Today on the Riviera Maya, you can experience first-hand Mayan remedies and treatments using chocolate, such as body scrubs, body wraps, facial masks, and detoxifying drinks. Slathered head to toe in a custom-made concoction of ground cocoa beans, honey, and spices, I relaxed between banana leaves and warmed sheets on the deck of my cabana by the sea. When I emerged from my cocoon my skin was smooth, silky, and smelled delicious for hours afterwards. It was certainly heavenly.
To re-create my Mayan chocolate experience at home is easy (though you won't get the same view of the Pacific). For a chocolate body scrub, find the best quality unsweetened dark chocolate you can, melt it, add some honey and coarse raw sugar or sea salt. Then jump in the tub (to reduce messiness) and gently coat yourself in the scrub, massaging gently in upward circles to increase circulation and exfoliate your skin. Rinse with a gentle stream of warm water and follow with a good quality natural body butter before you wrap up in a warm robe with a cup of hot cocoa. I guarantee your skin will look and feel better. You can also use this scrub on your face if you use less coarse salt and sugar, as the skin of the face is more delicate and easily scratched.
So whether you are headed for the cottage or staying at home this summer, take my advice: Make some time for yourself to escape, go within and enjoy a decadent organic chocolate treat. Not only will you feel better, but your overall health and beauty will benefit as well.
Image: Nick WB Dawson