Body positivity. Does it seem like a pipe dream to you? Or possibly and overused term these days? When you read articles about how to improve your body image, do you feel completely out of touch with the suggestions or like they’re just too abstract or unrealistic? You’re told to meditate but you don’t know how to turn off the negative voices in your head. You’re told to get in a 30 minute meditation every morning, even to get up extra early to fit it in. Most well-meaning authors and coaches take the “just do it” approach exclaiming you need to use willpower to push past the pessimism. But willpower isn’t your thing.
I get it.
You need to start smaller. And in a different place. And you need to get rid of the “just do it” all together.
Instead, what would happen if you had some new, simple, low barrier to entry rituals you could add to your day that gradually boosts your optimism and helps you release yourself from the gloom and doom?
Rituals are just actions that you follow on a regular basis. They can be beneficial in so many ways, especially in ensuring things we need to get done actually get done. But they also can be healing, they can help ground us, and bring a sense of calm to our life.
And when you combine the benefits of a ritual with actions that improve your body image, you have the formula for some much-needed change.
Set Daily Body Positivity Reinforcing Intentions
No doubt you’ve heard of setting intentions. Some people get this mixed up with affirmations. But I think intentions go a bit deeper than affirmations. While an affirmation declares something you believe to be true, an intention is the part of the affirmation that puts your belief into action. It is the plan.
A strong intention is one that not only incorporates a deep belief in your truth but one that lays down a course of action. And body positivity intentions not only help you to feel at your core that you are deserving of all the love in the world, but they describe for you how to do this. There’s nothing more deflating than a vague intention that you have no idea how to act upon.
Intentions, to be effective, can be written like these (just examples, you will come up with your own):
- I intend to give every bit as much respect to my reflection when I see it in the mirror as I would anyone else.
- I intend to handle my body with the same care I would my child.
- I intend to celebrate the physical movement accomplishments my body makes each day without comparing them to anyone else.
Check-in Regularly To Reinforce Body Positivity
No, I’m not asking you to call your mom or your best friend. Although that’s not a bad idea, And I’m also not talking about finding a mirror and doing a thorough exam of how you look. That kind of behavior actually gets in the way of improving your body positivity (1). What I’m talking about here is taking a brief time-out in your day to check in with how your body is feeling, physically, emotionally, externally, and internally, and assessing your needs. Then acting on those needs.
- Do you feel tension anywhere? If yes, where and what might be causing it? What can you do to release that tension?
- Do you feel focused or like your thoughts are running wild? Is there a reason? What has worked for you to calm your mind in the past? Are you able to do that right now or can you try something different in this situation?
- How are your clothes fitting? (see next section for more on this)
- Do you feel tired or energized?
- What thoughts are you thinking and what words are you using to talk to yourself?
Noticing more of yourself more often throughout your day has positive effects on things like mood, relationships, energy, and productivity (2), all of which will impact your ability to be more body positive.
Body Positivity Relies on Comfortable Clothing
This may seem obvious, but when’s the last time you bought yourself a new pair of underwear that actually fits and feels comfortable? Wearing clothes that pinch every time you sit down or shift into crevices where they have no business being is definitely NOT on the list of body positive things. Instead, aim for clothes that fit so well you don’t notice them. Or if you do notice them, you notice things like their soft texture or the way they warm your skin.
Write Your Way Towards More Body Positivity
Sometimes taking the focus off yourself for a hot minute can do wonders to boost your self-esteem. It can help you be more positive towards yourself. Any time you can boost your ability to feel more confident is a step towards improved body positivity. Remember, body positivity is not just about liking what you see in the mirror. It’s a state of being that needs to be reinforced by a belief that you are good at your core.
So take some time to write a letter to a friend or family member, or pull out those thank you cards and send quick notes to people in your life who mean the world to you (or just someone who you want to send a little happiness to).
A couple things to keep in mind when writing these:
- They don’t need to be novels. Write how you feel. If that takes an entire page, so be it. If it is a one liner, that works just as well.
- Think about the people you’re in touch with regularly and see every day as much as you think about those you don’t see very often. Everyone can use a piece of snail mail like this.
Nature Is a Powerful Source of Body Positivity
I recently had been feeling a bit chaotic in my head. I have ADHD and tangents of unrest can happen often. So I reached out to a Facebook group I’m in for a little inspiration on how to help myself. And resoundingly the answers kept coming back for me to get outside. So I did, and they were right. Even just stepping outside and walking around my house in the sunshine and fresh air helped a ton.
There’s something about being out in nature that provides a calm and connection to the self that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Studies even show that time in the outdoors and with nature “improved psychological well-being and positive body image”(3)
So get outside. Go for a walk or (shudder 😂) a run. Join an outdoor sport. Rent some snowshoes or skis and hit the trails. Find some local hiking or biking trails. Or stay home and spend time outside doing yard work or gardening. Dig those hands and feet into the earth. Or bring nature inside and plant some house plants.
Your Body Deserves a Good Pampering
When I say the word “pamper”, what comes to mind? If you’re like me, initially you envision yourself in a white fluffy bathrobe laying on a warm comfy massage table getting your shoulders worked over while your eyes de-puff under some cucumbers. While all that sounds just lovely, that’s not the only way to pamper yourself. Thinking of pampering yourself in this way can be a bit overwhelming and for some of us (especially with our current Covid world), it can be unrealistic.
Instead, find the small ways to pamper yourself that you can do every day. Things like wearing soft socks, or using the good new sheets and those special silk pj’s can feel incredibly pampering. Lighting a candle (with dinner or just for some ambient lighting as you wind down before bed) can invoke some self-care senses. Wear perfume even when you’re still in your pajamas and you’re not going anywhere all day. Invest in a luxurious lotion (or just use the lotion you have had sitting in your bathroom closet for months…or years).
Move Your Body For Positive Results
Akin to getting out into nature, being physically active and moving your muscles and boosting that heart rate has impacts on your mental health and mood.
But for someone struggling with body image issues, being physically active may be more challenging. So start small. Find what you CAN do. Start with some arm exercises from your chair. Try to do these sitting up tall with good posture. Start your day before you get out of bed with some gentle stretching. Start at your toes by wiggling them and then move to your ankles and stretch your legs and move up the body, stretching and gently moving each next muscle group until you hit your head and your spouse is looking at you funny because of the weird contortions you’re doing with your face.
Movement doesn’t have to be a formal exercise class either. Dance around your kitchen or break into a yoga pose when the spirit moves you.
A Little Kindness Goes A Long Way To Supporting Body Positivity
Remember how you wrote those letters and thank you cards to the lovelies in your life? Well, now it’s your turn to be on the receiving end of that. Take out a nice card (make it your favorite) or a piece of paper (spray it with your favorite perfume). Sit down and write yourself a love letter. Tell yourself all the wonderful things there are to know about you. Introduce yourself as though you don’t know each other. What are some things you’d want your outside you to know about your inside you? Practice describing yourself in kind ways…stay away from physical appearance until you’re ready to be kind.
Now put this letter someplace where you can read it often. Your goal here is to get to a point where you have this letter memorized and you hear yourself rehearsing it as you go through your day.
I don’t know if you noticed, but the above ways to boost your body positivity are mostly not body focused. Yet they work to improve the image you have of your body when you put these to work for you. Now it’s your turn. Tell me below what your biggest body image challenges are and what you INTEND to do to turn them around?