Cathy fit an all-too-typical patient profile: beyond stressed, cursing at the bathroom scale, and spending far too much money on toxic beauty products. During our second visit, Cathy complained that the repercussions were showing up around her face with sagging, wrinkled skin. Then she dropped the bomb: “I’m thinking about getting a little work done.”
“Just a simple eye lift,” she said, giving that you’re going to disapprove look. As much as I tried to resist, I did give her that look.
We live in a lose-ten-pounds-by-this-weekend culture. In 2013, Americans spent over $7 billion on cosmetic surgery procedures that carry serious risks—including hematoma, which occurs in six percent of breast augmentation procedures, and frequently complicates facelifts. Nerve damage, infections, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism are among the decidedly unsexy repercussions of these and other surgeries. Liposuction can create organ damage, and you’ve always got anesthesia complications like lung infections, heart attacks, strokes, and even death.
Read up on plastic surgery: Not pretty, not sexy, not something I want to see any of my patients to undergo.
I don’t believe in quick fixes. Anything long-lasting requires dedicated, daily, sustainable effort. I’m talking the usual, timeless suspects that don’t necessarily make headlines: nutrition, exercise, gratitude, sleep, and stress management. They aren’t the “next big thing,” and they won’t yield dramatic results immediately, but pull all them together for the long term, and you’ll be looking fabulous without surgery’s expense, risks, or other drawbacks.
Take stress. I mean, take it and get rid of it. Not just the ever-accumulating everyday stressors, but also cellular oxidative stress, because both ramp up aging. As a Harvard-trained medical doctor, I can assure you that by reducing your stress you can reverse the damage on your body. Not overnight, but as my friend JJ Virgin says, little hinges swing big doors.
How Apps Help You Dial Down Stress and Stay Younger
One of my favorite ways to manage stress and help defy aging is apps. As in, ones you download onto your mobile device. No, you’re not going to bliss out with these apps for ten minutes and suddenly look ten years younger. What you will do gradually but surely is manage stress, feel better, have more confidence, maybe revitalize your nose-diving sex life, and altogether yield dividends with your weight, energy levels, and happiness.
Download and use one of these science-supported apps that I’ve already researched, and see if you don’t look and feel better than plastic surgery after consistent use.
Tara Brach earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the Fielding Institute. In 1998, she founded the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC (IMCW), one of the largest meditation centers in the United States. In other words, she knows her stuff.
Brach’s podcast shows you how to be the best “you.” Ditch your Oprah-ish skepticism and consider she gets over a million monthly downloads: Insight Timer has more than 1.2 million meditators with over 3,000 free—yeah, free—guided meditations. You connect with over eight hundred of the world’s best meditation teachers, listed alphabetically with pictures and short bios.
Psychotherapists use mindfulness meditation to treat various health problems, including depression, substance abuse, eating disorders, relationship conflicts (we’ve all got those), anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Did I mention it was free?
This app allows you to initially try their “Take 10” mindfulness meditation for free. (If you like it, you can subscribe for a monthly fee. Full disclaimer: I do not get compensated one penny for promoting any of these apps.) You can select meditation sessions to suit your particular mood and set specific length. In other words, no more “I don’t have time to meditate” since you get to pick the allotted time.
Called a “gym membership for the mind,” Headspace allows you to listen on the go and even download sessions to use offline. Do you need studies to show daily meditation improves sleep, sex, stress, mood, brain size, and overall health? I know you don’t, but they exist.
With almost 70 million diagnosed cases of insomnia in America, studies show sleep loss (fewer than seven hours per night) adversely impacts numerous diseases like anxiety, depression, immunity, and oh yeah, weight control.
The Calm app focuses on specific goals with a multi-day series. You start with seven days of mindfulness meditation, focusing on a single daily goal. Other seven-day programs include managing stress, improving focus, calming anxiety, improving sleep, fostering gratitude, and boosting self-esteem. Ultimately, Calm helps you show self-criticism to the door and handle stressful situations with more resilience.
Rohan Gunatillake, director of Mindfulness Everywhere, found many would-be meditators didn’t meditate because it took too much time or was too “hippy.” Therefore, this version of “urban meditation” will help you dial down the stress that negatively impacts your mood, well-being, behavior, and health.
For my who-has-time-to-meditate patients (that’s, like, all of them), Buddhify allows users to customize their mindfulness meditation experience with over eleven hours of meditations covering many aspects of your life – such as commuting, being online, work breaks, and sleep. De-stress, sleep better, build awareness and compassion: Buddhify helps you do all that and more.
Your one-stop shop for local yoga, massage, and group fitness including barre classes you can conveniently book or save favorites for later bookings. The app provides special local deals, and users are able to check out ratings for classes, locations, and instructors. Booking appointments aside, you can also discover top trainers in your area and lots more, taking the guesswork out of finding the best instructors.
With over five hundred of the world’s top transformational audios to improve every area of your life, Omvana is convenient for commuting or for travel. Omvana gives you access to meditation tracks for focus, peace, sleep, enlightenment, and tapping into your creative, purpose-driven life. Research confirms a purpose-focused life creates favorable health outcomes, especially among older adults.
Free, nonprofit, and perfect for beginners, Smiling Mind provides hundreds of age-bracketed mindfulness meditations (they even have meditations for toddlers!), helping you find the perfect bliss-out plan to relax and refocus. Spanning stress management, relationship building, communication skills, and even enhanced sports performance, Smiling Mind’s versatility works for individuals, schools, and even corporate settings. Research shows what you already know: A calm mind means better productivity, mental health, and overall health.
When I’m in the throes of writing a book, I frequently have to remind myself that numerous studies show short breaks can reduce work-related stress. Otherwise, I become super-focused and stress eventually hits me like a ton of bricks.
Designed to break up a stressful day (hence the name), Take a Break provides guided meditations including work break and stress relief. You can use these guided meditations for seven or thirteen minutes, making them perfect for lunch breaks or any time you need to de-stress and step away from your desk.
Even if you’ve never tried meditation, these voice-guided, step-by-step instructions help you delve into meditation. C’mon, it’s only seven minutes. Created by Mary Maddux and Richard Maddux, they bring over thirty years of teaching guided meditation with this free-to-download app.
Here’s the deal: None of these apps work miracles. They aren’t going to instantly transform your life. You won’t do a seven-minute guided meditation and your partner suddenly insists you’ve had a facelift. But one thing I know for sure after taking care of women for twenty-five years: your skin is a mirror of your soul. If your soul is restless, your skin will reflect it.
Cathy knew that, and so do you. What these apps do provide is safe, effective, free (or nearly free) ways to dial down stress, inflammation, and other factors that create that I’ve got to get a facelift mentality.
For Cathy, she eventually abandoned the idea of an eyelift. Instead of persuading her, I offered her an alternative: Become more stress-resilient along with cleaning up her food choices, supplementing smartly, doing some daily yoga, and improving her sleep. Cheaper, way safer, and effective.
None of that happened overnight. Two visits later, she still felt like she was working hard but making progress at turning back the clock. She also found many of these apps “got her there” more quickly. Simple, accessible, DIY, and available at any time, these cool, easy-to-use apps put the stress reset and the downstream health benefits in your hands.
You’ve got one, I’m sure. What’s your favorite use-it-and-love-it app that helps you keep stress low or your health on track? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.
Interested to learn more about staying younger? Read my latest book, Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years.
 “The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery Reports Americans Spent Largest Amount on Cosmetic Surgery Since The Great Recession of 2008.” ASAPS, March 24, 2014, http://www.surgery.org/media/news-releases/the-american-society-for-aesthetic-plastic-surgery-reports-americans-spent-largest-amount-on-cosmetic-surgery
 Schaefer, A. “The 10 Most Common Plastic Surgery Complications.” Healthline, Feb. 4, 2015. http://www.healthline.com/health/most-common-plastic-surgery-complications#1
 Hoge, E., et al. “Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity.” J Clin Psychiatry 74, no.8(2013): 786–792. doi: 10.4088/JCP.12m08083.
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 Boyle, P.A., et al. “Purpose in Life is Associated with a Reduced Risk of Incident Disability Among Community-Dwelling Older Persons.” Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 18, no.12 (2010): 1093–1102. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e3181d6c259.
 van Leeuwen, S., et al. “Meditation Increases the Depth of Information Processing and Improves the Allocation of Attention in Space.” Front Hum Neurosci, no.6 (2012): 133. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00133.