Today, many people view their bodies as strangers, at best, or adversaries, at worst. They feel like their bodies have betrayed them. That they don’t deserve care or compassion because they look — or rather don’t look — a certain way. Because no matter what they do, their bodies don’t listen, don’t respond.
Maybe you feel like that, too. Or maybe you’ve simply forgotten about your body. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, maybe you don’t have the time to focus on your body – or the desire.
Many people have a crummy relationship with their bodies. Either they bash their bodies with repeated insults or criticisms, or they neglect their needs and stop practicing good self-care. (Or both.)
Our society, of course, doesn’t help. It’s primed and ready to swoop in and offer a “successful” solution: a diet food, weight-loss tip or fitness overhaul. This only boosts body shame and might’ve even sparked your body dissatisfaction in the first place.
As Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., and Wendy Millstine, N.C., write in their book, Five Good Minutes in Your Body: 100 Mindful Practices to Help You Accept Yourself & Feel At Home in Your Body:
“Advertising messages, often in the guise of promoting health and well-being, leave the (intentional) impression that whatever your physical (or emotional, psychological, even spiritual) condition might be — it is not good enough — and requires something else (most likely the advertiser’s product)!”
This feeling of not being good enough, of being dissatisfied and even angry with your body goes beyond body image. It “can affect everything you do in life,” according to the authors.
Even further, “One profound and disturbing consequence of all these conflicting messages is that you are often left feeling both fragmented and compartmentalized regarding your basic experience of being human, moment to moment and day to day.”
Building a Positive Body Image
Building a positive body image is a process. It’s a process that you can take at any time, shape, size or weight. (Everyone deserves to appreciate and love their bodies.)
Five Good Minutes in Your Body is filled with valuable activities to help you along the path to appreciating your body, one step at a time. Here are three activities to try.
1. Take a media break.
Our society is saturated with thin-is-in messages. We’re taught that we can always be leaner, tanner and more muscular. And these messages don’t just affect our body image; they can steal our overall confidence and happiness.
As Brantley and Millstine write, “When was the last time you thought about how the media reinforce the myth that only skinny people deserve love?”
And that’s the point: These are myths, false messages created by companies that profit from our insecurities and self-doubts. Just realizing that – and letting it soak in – already creates a different, more positive perspective.
Brantley and Millstine suggest these ways to take a break from the media:
- Rather than reading fashion magazines, read a good book.
- Turn off the TV or mute the commercials (or if you have DVR, just fast forward). Instead “pick out a movie that touches your heart, lifts your spirit, or reconnects you with humanity.”
- Get outside and take a walk or tend to your garden.
- Get together with loved ones.
- “Soak in a bath and take solace in the silence.”
2. Focus on your body.
Regardless of the kind of relationship we have with our bodies, we can still forget to pay attention and notice just how our bodies are feeling. This activity can help.
- Focus on the rhythms of your breath. Are you taking short, shallow breaths or long, deep ones from your chest or belly?
- Consider how your entire body is feeling. Any areas that you’ve been neglecting? How do they feel? “Take note of any pockets of tension, tightness, soreness or fatigue. Where does discomfort live in your body – your head, neck, shoulders, back or feet?”
- Say the following aloud or to yourself now and throughout the day: “With each out-breath, I am releasing pent-up tension and stress. With each in-breath, I am restoring physical well-being.”
It’s also helpful to consider what you’ll do to ease your tension or fatigue. For instance, if you’re feeling sore all over, you might do a few stretches, or take a walk. If you’re tired, you might take a nap or try to improve your sleeping habits.
3. Write a gratitude list.
You’ve likely seen this suggestion before. But really, how often do you take the time to truly thank your body? More often than not, we’re too busy thinking about what we don’t have. Rarely do we consider what we do have.
According to Brantley and Millstine:
- After taking out your pen and paper, write down everything you appreciate about your body, such as your good health, flexibility or your ability to give great hugs or kisses. (On Weightless, I’ve actually written a piece on 50 things my body helps me do; it wasn’t easy, but it was important – and felt great.)
- Focus on your mind and list everything you’re thankful for, such as your intelligence, sense of humor or wit.
- Finally, list what you’re thankful for in your life, such as your family, friends, sports and hobbies.
They also suggest keeping this list somewhere visible, such as your fridge or work computer. This serves as your “reminder of what truly matters in your life.”