In a world where you experience a constant barrage of body-image influences on television, social media and advertising, it can be a huge challenge to maintain a positive body image. To help combat these negative influences, here are four ways to love your body and integrate self-love behaviors into your everyday life. Self-love begins with self-acceptance.
1. Move With Purpose and Passion
There are many barriers to adopting positive behavior change, including the feeling that movement is painful or simply not enjoyable. The truth is that exercise should be enjoyable and, when performed regularly, generally leads to improved mood, more energy and higher levels of happiness. In fact, according to a Gallup study, people who exercise at least two days a week reported being happier and having significantly less stress than those who did not exercise. And the benefits continued to increase with each additional day of movement (up to six days per week).
In the newly released 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, the focus has shifted to moving more and sitting less. After all, the benefits of movement go beyond physical benefits and include increased cognitive and mental health such as reduced risk of depression and anxiety and increased quality of life (Piercy et al., 2018). Find movement opportunities throughout the day that bring you joy.
2. Focus on Feelings
Throughout the day shift your focus on how you are feeling (such as being well-rested and energized) instead of what number is on the scale. Try assessing your day by tracking different variables, such as how well-rested you feel, how often you smiled or laughed or felt worried or sad, and how much enjoyment you experienced. You may start to notice trends that suggest which circumstances or situations make you feel happier or more stressed. A simple shift in your mindset can be achieved by repeating mantras or meditations and can help improve your self-awareness and your feelings toward yourself.
3. Participate in Self-care
Self-care Sundays may be a popular hashtag on social media, but self-care is a necessity that needs to be done more than just one day per week. Imagine that the inhale of a breath is helping yourself while the exhale is helping others—you cannot continue to exhale without taking in air first. It is important to listen to your body and give it appropriate fuel and recovery time when needed. Engage in activities that feel good to your body, such as taking a bath, a nap or a leisurely walk. You might also consider starting a gratitude journal and writing down three things you are grateful for each day. The more you focus on the positives in your life, the more it becomes your default mindset.
4. Create a Network of Positivity
It is easier to feel good about yourself if you surround yourself with those who feel good about themselves (Levine and Smolack, 2018). And participating in movement opportunities with friends, colleagues and family members increase your chances of sticking with a program. Although we can gain a lot of positive benefits from social media, be aware of how your social media affects your personal body-image. Follow accounts that promote self-love and positive body image and unfollow those that don’t. Slowly, you will see your actions reshape your newsfeed in a way that creates a supportive environment.
Levine, M. and Smolack, L. (2018). 10 “Will Powers” for Improving Body Image. National Eating Disorders Association.
Piercy, K.L. et al. (2018). The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Journal of the American Medical Association, 320, 19, 2020-2028.
Rackow, P., Scholz, U. and Hornung, R. (2015). Received social support and exercising: An intervention study to test the enabling hypothesis. British Journal of Health Psychology, 20, 4, 763-776.