For those of us who strive to be mindful of our health, nourishing our bodies with healthy foods and getting plenty of exercise tend to be our focus. We may forget that giving our body the love it needs is a very important part of our health as well, and the stress of constantly criticizing ourselves can have negative health effects.
With that in mind, here are 30 ways to start loving your body, beginning today.
Find exercise you love
Not all of us are gym rats — and that’s okay! Trying to force yourself to stick with an exercise plan you hate is a recipe for failure, and it’s likely to lead to negative thoughts about your body. Instead, find something you love, whether it’s walking your dog, jogging, yoga, or hiking.
Show your body a little TLC. Get a massage, take a long bath or go for a facial. Give your body an opportunity to be pampered.
Surround yourself with the right people
Culturally, it has become the norm for many of us to be critical of our bodies. Often we find ourselves complaining about our “fat thighs” in order to fit in with others who are doing the same. Break the cycle. Make an effort to spend more time with friends and family members who have a positive body image or seek out Facebook groups devoted to body positivity.
Enjoy your food
For a lot of us, food and body image are very closely connected. We don’t allow ourselves to truly enjoy what we eat because we’re afraid of “getting fat.” Once a week, fix or order in one of your favorite meals, serve it on your nice dishes, light a candle, play some music, and really be present.
Make conscious food choices
Being mindful when it comes to what you eat is another way of becoming more connected with your body. This doesn’t mean you have to eat only kale all the time. A treat every once in a while is fine — just don’t mindlessly devour it. Enjoy your indulgence with awareness, and allow yourself to have it because you enjoy it and you know you deserve a treat. Similarly, enjoy your green juice not just because you think it’s something you “should” include in your diet, but because you’re mindfully deciding to care for your body.
Silence the negative thoughts
When you notice yourself experiencing negative thoughts about your body, remember that those thoughts are the product of fears and insecurities, they’re not the truth. Notice how the thoughts make you feel, then allow them to pass. Your negative thoughts don’t need to control your emotions or actions.
Cut yourself some slack
Once you’ve made the decision to put an end to negative thoughts about your body, it can be easy to become perfectionistic with this. If you’re making the effort to let go of negative self-talk, don’t beat yourself up if you still have self-critical thoughts from time to time — that’s only adding another layer of self-judgment. Remind yourself that creating positive change is a process, and you’re exactly where you need to be on your journey.
Do what you’re good at
Body shaming is often a gateway into and/or symptom of larger struggles with self-criticism. We often criticize our bodies because we feel as if we’re somehow “not good enough.” So, if you’re a talented musician, schedule in a little time to play. If you enjoy writing, start a blog. Being creative, and reminding yourself of your strengths will help to boost your overall self-esteem.
Appreciate your body’s abilities
Focus on what your body can do. It is our bodies that allow us to navigate the world, to hug our friends, and hold hands with our loved ones. Our bodies are powerful and have so much more to offer than just the way they look.
Treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend
When you begin to criticize your “flabby upper arms” or “limp hair,” ask yourself, “Would I say this to my best friend?” The answer, of course, is no. So don’t say it to yourself. You are just as deserving of love and respect as the people you care about.
Stop putting off your happiness
Many of us fall into the trap of waiting until we have the “perfect body” to allow ourselves to be happy, thinking that if we just lose that last 10 pounds, we’ll be more deserving of love, acceptance, and a fulfilling life. But that’s not the case. Your body is perfectly loveable just as it is today, and you deserve to be happy right now.
Get dolled up
Of course, how we look does not determine whether we’re truly happy. But if you’re having a down day and feeling badly about your body, looking your best can help to pull you out of the doldrums. So buy a new outfit, get your hair done, or pull out that glamorous dress from the back of the closet and try it on, even if it’s only for yourself.
Call someone you love
We are often our own worst critics. If you’re getting down on yourself, call a friend or family member who knows you well and tell them what you’re going through. They are sure to remind you of everything they love about you, and to help you see the situation from a different perspective.
It’s not difficult for many of us to get “stuck in our heads.” We’re all busy, and a lot of us have minds that seem to be going 100 miles an hour. Try to slow down, focus on whatever it is you’re doing, and put your attention on the experience of your body. How is your body feeling in this moment? Beginning a practice of checking in with your body on a daily basis is one of the first steps toward learning to love and appreciate it.
Let it go
This one is definitely easier said than done, but if someone makes a snide remark about your appearance, try not to let it change how you feel about yourself. Remember that those who tear others down often do so because they feel insecure about what they perceive to be their own “shortcomings.” Their judgments have much more to do with them than with you.
Stop judging others
If others judge you when they’re feeling badly about themselves, you might be critical of them when you’re feeling insecure about your own body. Getting a handle on the critical thoughts you have about others will make it easier for you to stop being so hard on yourself as well.
Look to your role models
Call to mind the people who have inspired you — friends and family members, historical figures, people who have make positive contributions to the world. Why do you look up to them? Is it because of their appearance? The answer is most likely no — you probably admire their integrity, creativity, kindness, or intelligence.
In a culture that is often obsessed with youth and appearances, it can be a challenge to remember all that we’ve got going for us. Making a mental inventory of the good things in your life will help shift your perspective. Who cares whether or not you have a thigh gap if you’ve got good health and people who love you!
Thank your body daily
Every day, while you’re brushing your teeth or doing the dishes, thank your body for everything it does for you. Your body is the vehicle that allows you to experience the world, and it deserves love.
Find or write a mantra that resonates with you — something along the lines of, “My body is worthy of love exactly as it is.” Repeat it to yourself at least once a day.
Imagine your future self
Picture yourself 10, 20, or 30 years from now looking back on your life. Imagine how it would feel to realize you’ve spent so many years consumed with worry about your physical appearance. Then imagine how it would feel to look back and see that you’ve spent that time living your fullest life, because you accepted yourself and your body.
Give your body what it needs
If you’re feeling sick, allow yourself to take a day off. If you’re exhausted, it’s okay to skip that dinner party and go to bed early. Honor your needs, don’t apologize for them.
The nonstop barrage of photos on Facebook and Instagram of people looking svelte and fit can make it challenging not to compare yourself to others. But remember, your body is unique, and it doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. In fact, trying to emulate someone else’s body type can sometimes do more harm than good to your health. If it helps, declare a media moratorium for a day — no social media, no magazines.
Ditch the idea of a “target weight”
Many of us spend way too much time trying to diet our way to what we think is our ideal weight. But the truth is, each person’s body is different, and what’s healthy for your coworker or best friend may not be healthy for you. Find forms of exercise you enjoy, eat whole foods, and allow your body to settle at the weight at which it’s truly healthy.
Think about how you spend your energy
Imagine what your life would be like if all of the creative and emotional energy that you’re currently putting into worrying about your body went into something more meaningful instead. When so much brain power and life force is spent obsessing about weight or looks, we’re sapping the precious resources we need to reach our highest potential.
Imagine what it would be like to be present
Many of us are not truly present for our experiences. We may be enjoying a family celebration or a night out with friends, but in the back of our minds, there’s always a nagging voice telling us we’re too heavy, or we’re just not good enough — and that takes us out of the moment. Think about what it would be like if you could enjoy those experiences, without that negative voice bringing you down.
Find what sets you apart
What is it that makes you unique? Is it your sense of humor? Your compassion? Your ingenuity? Good looks are not the only trait that makes a person attractive. Figure out what your strengths are and use them to your advantage.
Remember your accomplishments
Think of everything you’ve achieved so far. Call to mind a few of the accomplishments that make you the most proud — and remember that the way you look had absolutely zero impact on your ability to achieve them.
Ask yourself what you really want
Often, when we’re discontent with something in our lives, we use our body as a scapegoat. Ask yourself if there’s a deeper issue you’re not addressing that is keeping you from being as happy as you could be. Working with a coach or therapist may be helpful.
Listen to your body’s intuition
One of the best ways to give your body what it needs is to tune into its intuitive wisdom. Pay attention to how your body feels after eating different foods, when you feel hungry or full, when you need rest or exercise.
So, ditch the criticism and spread a little love in your life. You’re worth it.
—The Alternative Daily