Do you find yourself looking in the mirror and thinking, “”I look disgusting in this outfit” or “I can’t believe how fat I am”? Do you wish you had a magic wand that could transform parts of your body so that you could feel like your most confident, gorgeous self? If so, you are not alone (an estimated 30 million Americans suffer from eating disorders, while tens of millions more are plagued by distorted images of their bodies). Thankfully, research suggests that a regular dose of positive body mindfulness may be a very effective remedy.
Even people who often feel comfortable in their own skin experience times when they notice their body image feeling a bit shaky. Some of the factors that contribute to a negative body image include being teased about appearance in childhood, a cultural tendency to judge people by their appearance, and media and advertising images promoting thinness as the ideal. So, how can we foster a more positive, accepting attitude toward our bodies and move from a judgmental approach to one rooted in compassion? Mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be defined as the quality or state of being aware of what is happening in the present moment—both within and around you. To be mindful is to observe and be curious about your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judging them.
Mindfulness can enable you to take care of your body by:
(1) Helping you listen to your body’s needs
(2) Letting go of unrealistic ideals
(3) Being kind to yourself if you gain weight
(4) Taking on gentle, healthy habits, such as maintaining an exercise routine and balancing your nutritional intake
The practice of mindfulness can also help you to connect to a sense of transformative gratitude for your body. When you find yourself being besieged by harsh, self-critical thoughts, try the following meditation (inspired by one on bodypositive.com):
(1) Close your eyes and let your awareness settle gradually on your breath, traveling in…and out. Notice any sensations in your body. Just sit with this awareness of your body for a moment.
(2) Like a warm ocean wave, your breath brings in relaxation, and takes away tension. Feel these waves for a few moments.
(3) Now listen to all the ways that you may have experienced a gift from your body lately. Think of one thing in particular that you appreciate. Let yourself feel the specialness of this gift, the awe and wonder of it. What would you like to say to your “body self”?
(4) Take a moment to thank your “body self” for all the hard work it does to move you through the world.
In conclusion, being mindful allows you to tune out the voices of everyone else, to hear your own intuition, needs, and desires, to do what feels authentic to you, and to feel healthy and at ease in your body. If you struggle with body image and/or would like to explore how mindfulness can help you cultivate body acceptance, click here to book a session with one of our skilled clinicians.