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By Greta Boris

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Seven Ways Your Brain Can Make You More Beautiful


Seven Ways Your Brain Can Make You More Beautiful As American women we are taught to focus (may I say obsess?) on a very narrow definition of beauty that is propagated primarily by the fashion industry and Hollywood. However, we have all Am I obsessed? encountered people that at first glance exhibited all the current trends in pleasing appearance, and yet, there was something decidedly unattractive about them. The reverse is true as well. I’ve seen men buzzing around a woman like bees around the hive, while the other women present scratched their heads. What is beauty? According to Webster’s it is, “The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” Beauty is a complex thing then. It isn’t a single quality, like skinny thighs or big blue eyes, that make us beautiful. Those of us concerned with our appearance tend to dissect ourselves like a high school, biology project and wonder why the result is carnage. When I was in my twenties, the company I was

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working for sent the sales staff (we were all women) to modeling school for a special class in achieving an attractive, professional appearance. It was eye opening for me. The first thing the instructors did was to assess each of us on a variety of attributes. Up to this point, I had always assumed that because I didn’t have a perfect nose, my hair lacked body and I had occasional breakouts on my face, I was out of luck when it came to being beautiful. What I learned in this class, however, is that super models and Hollywood actresses have issues, too! The key is to accentuate your advantages and minimize, or change, those things that are less than perfect. I also learned that beauty is about the entire package. It is about how you walk, how you talk, how you interact, and maybe most importantly, how you perceive yourself. Makeup, the right clothes and hairstyle don’t hurt your cause any either. In this article, I’d like to take a look at the multitude of things that combine to create the impression of beauty. I say impression because that’s really what it is. There is no objective standard of beauty, despite what the media would have you believe. It truly is in the eye, actually in the brain, of the beholder. The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. It is responsible for muscle control, controlling the other organs of the body, the senses, and in some mysterious way, it is where our mind, our intelligence and our personality reside. Not only does our own brain have great power to make us more beautiful, but the way we effect the senses of those around us is decoded by their brains as “pretty” or “not.”

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Apply Intelligence Let’s start with the most obvious way to use your brain to make yourself more attractive. Use some common sense. Women who insist on trying to dramatically alter their appearance, copy their style from an inappropriate role model, or pretend they are from a different generation will look foolish. It’s a strange thing, but sometimes seemingly intelligent women will throw their brains out the window when it comes to their appearance. Use your intelligence to research and understand what look will work best for you. If you have an hour glass figure, you can’t dress like a pre-teen. If you have an athletic build, you may be Don’t be drunk lost in loose clothing. You can’t keep wearing what you wore and dumb. in college when you’re in your thirties and forties just because it still fits. I love the show What Not to Wear. If you can’t afford an image consultant, watch Stacy and Clinton and learn from other’s mistakes. When it comes to hair and makeup, if you’re really in the dark about what to do, get some help from an expert. It’s not that expensive. In fact, sometimes the makeup counters in department stores have makeup artists who know what they’re doing and they’ll help you for free. The pressure may be on to buy some product, but, hey we all need product. Find a really good hairstylist and have them show you a style that works for your face shape. Don’t insist on wearing your hair the way your favorite actress wears hers even though she is petite, has a round, cherubic face, and you are tall

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and square jawed. If your hair is curly, don’t try to force it straight. If it’s straight, oh well. Embrace your God given attributes and make the most of what you have. As we age there are many products and services available to help us maintain smoother skin and a more youthful appearance. Again, do your homework before you purchase. Living in Orange County, California, I see horrific examples of plastic surgery and aesthetic service junkies who don’t know when to say when. Neglecting yourself isn’t the answer, either. It’s about balance. Finally, remember foolish women are only attractive to men looking for a good time, then the drunker and dumber they are the better. Silly women ruin a pleasant visual appearance as soon as they open their mouths. Be thoughtful. Be interesting. Read and stay up on current events. If you can converse intelligently, you will be perceived as more attractive.

Smile and be happy Maybe you can’t turn on the happiness tap and get that feeling to flow whenever you want to, but you can use your brain to plaster a smile on your face. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a researcher who specializes in happiness at the University of California, Riverside did an interesting study. She injected botox into the frown lines of women who were depressed. The women could no longer make the same grimace they had been making and, lo and behold, this sent a message to their brains that they were happier. They experienced an

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improvement in their mood. When you smile, positive messages are sent to your brain and your happiness meter goes up. Your diet affects your mood as well. People who greatly restrict their carbohydrates may find the serotonin levels in their brain dropping, which can cause depression. It’s hard to smile when Eat chocolate. you’re down. Things that boost serotonin are: a healthy diet with enough complex carbohydrates, chocolate, exercise, and sunlight. The supplements 5-HTP and St. John’s Wart can also help. So what does happiness have to do with beauty? Lots, apparently. Forgive me if you’ve heard me talk about this before but I think it bears repeating. Several studies have been done that link the appearance of happiness with the perception of attractiveness. In one study, subjects were shown pictures of people smiling, a control group was shown the same people with frowns. The smilers were consistently rated as more attractive than the non-smilers. Finally, happiness and optimism lead to better health, which always improves your appearance The Nose Knows The limbic system is the emotion and memory center of the brain. Your nose is directly connected to it and that’s why smells trigger such strong emotional responses and vivid memories. As you are introduced to new smells, your brain makes an association between the odor and the circumstances. This is why so many smells trigger childhood memories. Childhood

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is the time when you make most of your first connections between odors and your environment. Smell, emotion, and memory are so closely connected that if a particular smell is present during highly upsetting circumstances, you will have a negative emotional response whenever you come in contact with that odor in the future.

Sniff...sniff... anyone out there?

All this being said, you have to be careful what kind of perfume you wear. People have very different responses to the same smell. My husband, for instance, absolutely detests certain popular perfumes, which will remain nameless. He dislikes them to the point of actually feeling angry with, or repulsed by, the women who wear them. On the other hand, he likes the smell of skunk. That smell reminds him of summer trips to Wisconsin to visit his grandmother. Needless to say, I’m willing to give up some popular perfumes, but I draw the line at wearing Ode de Skunk. Smells that are supposed to attract most men are: vanilla, lavender, frankincense, myrrh, and cinnamon. Cinnamon is said to mimic human pheromones and, actually, be an aphrodisiac. Pheromones are a mysterious chemical emitted by all animals to attract a mate. Pheromones are imperceptible to our normal sense of smell but the nose picks them up and sends signals to the brain that someone interesting is in the area. Higher levels of pheromones can make people more attractive to the opposite sex. According to the Pheromone Information Library, higher levels of testosterone, thought of as a male hormone, equals higher pheromone output in males and females.

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So, how do you increase your testosterone? Exercise is important in two ways. It helps to eliminate toxins from the body so the pheromones aren’t masked by toxic odor and it helps to increase your testosterone levels. Also, DHEA and Zinc supplements are said to help. Some suggest that you eliminate soap when bathing so you don’t wash the pheromones from your skin. My thinking on this is, find the balance. Stinky people aren’t attractive! In fact, body odor conjures up some pretty bad memories for me. Ears to Beauty Most of us have seen My Fair Lady and watched the transformation of Liza Doolittle from a screeching, unappealing cockney into a “real lady” who all the men found irresistible. Yes, Liza got a makeover: new clothes and hair style, but the real difference The rain in Spain... maker was the change in her speech. According to a variety of experts, the impression of physical attractiveness is directly affected by a pleasing voice. People tend to bundle both auditory and visual impressions into a single unit in their brains. Louder (but not too loud), more resonant voices are perceived to be more attractive. Contrary to the breathy, baby talk that we often associate with a “sexy” voice, people who speak more quickly, have fewer pauses and a more dynamic delivery are found to be more appealing to both the opposite and the same sex. There are some things about your body that you can’t control but your voice and manner of speaking are not among them.

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Anyone can learn to speak with a more modulated tone, emphasis and clarity. You could take voice lessons and learn to sing. Singing is just really complicated talking; it’s all about breath control, pronunciation, modulating volume and tone. If singing is too much for you, you could record your voice and practice adjusting the things you hear that are unpleasant to you, download some speech exercises, or just relax a little. A nervous, tight voice is not pleasant. Changing your auditory loveliness can be done. Just ask Liza. Charm the Socks off Them Notice I didn’t say pants? That’s a whole other topic. Don’t confuse overtly flirtatious behavior with charm. Charming people have a magical way of attracting others, male and female, and creating an aura of beauty around themselves. Sometimes charming people don’t look particularly lovely in photographs, but in person they are irresistible. What makes a person charming? They make others feel really good. They raise serotonin and dopamine levels in the brains of the people they are around. They are the chocolate of human beings. Charming people have a way of paying you a complement that I want to be makes you smile for weeks, chocolate! sometimes years, after they say it. When my Texas grandfather told me I looked “fine” in his charming Southern way, I would prance out of the room feeling like Scarlett O’Hara. I still feel beautiful when I think about it, and Grandpa Mac has been gone for many years.

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“Charming people have a good sense of humor and can laugh at themselves, but don’t mock other people ”

The thing about charm is that it has to be genuine. Some people are born with it, like big, blue eyes and skinny thighs, others are raised to it, i.e. many Southerners, but still others acquire it after understanding its value. To be charming you must be confident, yet apparently, sincerely interested in others. You must be secure enough to put the spotlight on someone else and their achievements. You must be empathetic, yet remain calm. You must have a strong enough sense of self to be able to encourage others. Charming people have a good sense of humor and can laugh at themselves, but don’t mock other people. They want to include others, make others feel good, and they are very perceptive about the effect that they are having. In other words if you want to become charming, get over yourself. Self acceptance often comes first, but then you must put your heart and soul into sincerely understanding and caring for others. Unfortunately, charm can take a lot of soul searching and introspection to acquire. It’s the self-acceptance that often trips us up. If we are always comparing ourselves to others and coming up short in our own eyes, it is difficult to be truly supportive. Perhaps applying all the methods of creating beauty that you are learning here can help. Perhaps your problems are deeper and you need a professional. If people pick up a sense of desperation or people-pleasing in your compliments, they won’t be interpreted as charming.

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On the other hand, if you spend too much time looking within you run the risk of becoming self-centered. We all know people who talk about themselves, their therapy, their new job, their children, etc. ad nauseum. They are NOT charming. People with natural charm are the only ones that can get away with being self-centered and charming at the same time because they have an innate sense of how they are being perceived by those around them. They know how to put on a really convincing act. These people can turn the charm off and on as a way to manipulate others. They must move from social circle to social circle, however, because once people are on to them, their charm fades. I always opt for altruistic charm, whether it’s innate or learned. That is the kind of charm that creates lasting, deep relationships and a great reputation. If you are likable and a good person, that is an excellent testimonial and, I would argue, truly beautiful. Something in the Way She Moves Studies show that usually the first thing a person notices about another is not their face, but the way they move. Our brains assess many things such as age, sex, health and social status merely by the way someone walks across a room. Graceful people are more attractive. Grace suggests health, strength and vitality which are all qualities we look for in a mate. The brain learns how to control the body’s muscles as we grow. This is one reason why preteen years are often called the “awkward” years. When children

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go through sudden growth spurts, their brains cannot keep up with the minute mathematical calculations that it has to make. So preteens stumble, bump into things, and look uncoordinated when they run, dance and do sports. Have you ever picked up an object you thought was much heavier than it actually was and almost thrown it across the room? That’s because your brain calculated the weight of the object based on a previous experience, but it was wrong. In the area of grace and coordination, practice makes perfect. The more Google “Runway Classes” you do something the better your brain gets at controlling the body through the movement. This is why athletes practice their sport, musicians their instruments, and singers their vocalizes. Unfortunately, in this age of technology a lot of us have great manual dexterity and very little physical coordination. This is a source of insecurity for many. I don’t know if it’s true, but I read that if a woman says she likes to dance in a personal ad, she will get very few responses. This isn’t because men don’t like to watch a coordinated woman dance, on the contrary, many pay for it. Again, that’s another topic, but I believe it’s because the men are selfconscious about their dancing skills and feel they may be called on to participate. By and large, we don’t raise dancing men in America. If you are a person who feels that grace is not your strength, don’t despair, it is a learned trait. You can improve your coordination a number of ways. Take up a sport, take a dance class, play Dance, Dance,

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Revolution on your Wii, anything that requires you to begin to move your body in a coordinated manner. Do something that sounds fun to you. I, for instance, am terrible at games like tennis, soccer and racquetball. I don’t have good depth perception. I am good at dancing, however. You might die a thousand deaths before you’d take a Zumba class, but you’re a natural on the soccer field. It doesn’t matter what kind of physical activity you chose as long as it challenges your coordination and requires a certain fitness level. Walking, for example, is probably not going to increase your gracefulness unless you take a runway class. Healthy body, Healthy Brain, More Beauty There is no getting around it, healthy people are more attractive. Did you know that according to Dr. Daniel Amen, a brain specialist, the brain actually shrinks and loses function if we become overweight? It is really a vicious circle because poor brain functioning can make it much harder to lose weight. The brain controls our appetites. A healthy brain will stimulate our body to require the nutrients it needs. An unhealthy brain will cause a myriad of destructive eating behaviors. The fix is the same for the brain as it is for the rest of the body. We have to eat better, exercise, drink lots of water and get adequate rest. When I work with weight management clients, I usually begin with what they should be eating instead of what they shouldn’t be eating. Sometimes if you can get the right nutrients in for a few weeks, it will give you the strength you need to begin to remove the foods that are harmful. Start with eating as many fresh non-

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starchy vegetables as you can in a day: crunchy salads with lots of variety and color, steamed, grilled or stir fried vegetables with spices and herbs. After a few weeks of this, you may find you’re strong enough to begin to eliminate processed foods, chemicals and the “wicked whites” from your diet. The wicked whites are: white sugar, white flour, white rice, and you should limit white potatoes. Next is adding exercise. Not only will exercise make you more graceful, as already discussed, but it will increase blood flow to the brain which will help you with self-control when it comes to eating. Exercise also burns calories, increases your metabolism, assists in hormone balance, makes your skin more lovely, improves your posture and helps you to sleep at night. There is no getting around it, exercise is key to health and beauty. Drinking lots of clean water is better for your complexion than expensive face creams. There is nothing that will improve your skin like a healthy lifestyle and lots of water. Water is also essential for good brain functioning. According to some studies, a 10% decrease in memory, attention and concentration has already occurred as soon as thirst is felt. Chronic dehydration, which many Americans experience, will often be interpreted by the brain as hunger and is another reason for over eating. Yawn...

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Sleep and rest are, also, essential components of a healthy life. Your body repairs itself, metabolizes fat, restocks its fuel sources and tries to work out


your worries when you sleep. Have you ever woken up in the morning with the solution to a problem that was completely escaping you the day before? Your brain is free to work out complex issues when it isn’t distracted by processing all the information that assaults it as you move through your day.

“Fatigue will sabotage all your efforts to make a healthy lifestyle change.”

Lack of sleep has a terrible effect on the brain and on eating habits. Fatigue will sabotage all your efforts to make a healthy lifestyle change. Impulse control and the body’s ability to metabolize sugar are both triggered by sleep deprivation and lead to weight gain. When you’re tired, exercise is the last thing you want to do. Studies have shown a direct link between obesity and poor sleeping habits. There are natural sleep aids that can help you sleep such as melatonin and L-theanine. Of course, healthy eating and exercise will help as well. All these components work together to make a healthier you. You can’t leave out any one of them and expect the others to compensate. That is not to say that life doesn’t come in cycles. There are times you may be exercising more, but your eating habits are a little shaky. Or, maybe you’re travelling and become sleep deprived, but you’ve been faithful to healthy eating habits. If you need help with this lifestyle transition, my book The Wine and Chocolate Workout (available on Amazon) will lead you into good habits in a steady, relatively painless and progressive manner.

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Putting it All Together Finally, we come down to the secret ingredient of beauty - confidence. The belief that you are, in fact, beautiful. I am a singer. For years I rested on my laurels. I have some natural talent and my mother was a voice teacher, so I didn’t feel I needed lessons. I ended up singing with group that had been studiously trying to improve their vocal skills for years and, all of a sudden, I wasn’t getting the solos. My first reaction was dejection and despair. I felt God had dealt them a better hand than I had been dealt; it was all so unfair. I had a major pity party. My mother helped me to realize that any gift, if it is neglected, will begin to wither. I swallowed my pride and went for lessons. My singing improved dramatically; my self-confidence soared, and I began to get the solos again. I’m not a big believer in mindless mantras. I don’t think that repeating over and over, “I am beautiful. I am beautiful. I am beautiful.” actually helps most women achieve a lasting sense Buy a pencil skirt. of beauty. I’m more of a hands on kind of girl. Affirmations are fine, probably helpful, but sometimes you have to put feet to your faith and take action to prove that you mean what you are saying. I could have repeatedly confessed, “I am a great singer.” but, ultimately, taking some voice lessons and practicing did more for my technique and my confidence. If I believe I have the potential to be beautiful, I’m going to take the time to make the most of that gift. The problem is, most women don’t believe they have that potential. They’ve swallowed a lie.

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Beauty, as we have seen, is more under our control than we’ve been led to believe. Your facial features, height or coloring, the things you can’t change, only make up a small part of what is perceived by others as beauty. Your intelligence, both in applying the tools of the beauty trade and in your conversation; your attitude toward life, your pheromones, your voice, the emotional impact you have on others, the way you move and your health, all play a significant role in the way the world sees you. Beauty is an aura. It is “Beauty is an aura. It’s all about all about your impact on another’s senses. your impact on another’s senses. It is not a single feature.

It’s not a single feature.”

I hope this knowledge has convinced you that you do have the potential to be beautiful or that you already are. To increase your confidence, you may need to work on your voice, your health, or your ability to shimmy out the door in your pencil skirt a little more gracefully, but all those things are do-able. As you work on the areas that have made you despair in the past, real confidence is going to emerge. It won’t be a temporary emotion cooked up by trying to convince yourself that you like the way things are when you don’t. So, thank God for your gifts. Now get up and do something to hone them and strengthen them. Don’t be discouraged by your shortcomings. Everyone has them. Your job is to eliminate or minimize them. Your confidence will grow as you see yourself improve and that, in turn, will make you more beautiful to others. It’s a great cycle instead of a vicious circle. The world needs more beauty, so please use your head and share yours.

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Why VANITY NETWORK MAGAZINE? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a world in which women weren’t catty? Wouldn’t it be great if we supported each other’s efforts, dreams, and talents? What if we actually appreciated all the diversity that existed in the women around us instead of comparing ourselves to see where we fell in the pecking order? Speaking of pecking, what if we knocked that off, too? At Vanity Network we believe: • beauty is to be admired in all of its various forms • what is in the heart eventually makes its way to the face • if women team together, instead of tear each other down, there is nothing we can’t accomplish • paying forward always ends up paying off • healthy is beautiful • pampering ourselves should be a reward for hard work • looking good is fun • and life is best celebrated together

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Who is VANITY NETWORK MAGAZINE? Greta Boris greta@fitnessinsideout.co www.fitnessinsideout.co Greta’s mission is to entice her clients and readers toward greater health by educating, inspiring, appealing to their vanity, and of course, tempting them with wine and chocolate. She believes that healthy is beautiful and that if we were honest we’d admit our primary motivation for taking care of ourselves is to look better. So viva la vanity if it improves your life! She has been a Weight and Lifestyle Management Consultant and Personal Trainer for close to 20 years. For many of those years she worked for the YMCA of America and then started her own coaching and writing business, Fitness Inside Out. Greta has authored and taught several healthy lifestyle curriculums including Fitness for Life - a program for teens, and F.I.T., a weight management program for adults. Her latest book, The Wine and Chocolate Workout – Eat, Drink and Lose Weight, is available on Amazon. Greta is the editor of the new online magazine, Vanity Network, and has done guest writing for The Daniel Plan, at Saddleback Church. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, The Buzz, to receive encouragement and practical health and fitness tips.

Alison Stripling alison@cornerstonecreative.net www.cornerstonecreative.net Alison’s mission is to make her clients look good. Her work involves increasing her client’s online influence and customer relations through email marketing, social media marketing, and website and graphic design. She loves to be creative, fusing new media techniques with fresh, clean design. She is the Chief Creative Officer of Cornerstone Creative and lends her expertise as Creative Director to Vanity Network Magazine, where she attempts to use her vanity for good. You can usually find her driving her kids around town to various sports practices and games, exercising at the gym and local trails struggling to stay fit, or looking like a Japanese tourist snapping pictures of her family, pretty things, and good food. Subscribe to her newsletter to get actionable business tips on increasing your digital influence.

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7 Ways Your Brain Can Make You More Beautiful