Valentine’s Day can be a depressing time, especially for those who feel self-conscious and unloved because they lack a healthy body image. This is an extremely common feeling, as we’re often our harshest critics. When you look in the mirror and see only flaws, you’re more likely to feel discouraged, eat unhealthy food and give up on your exercise habits. The following are some ways to help you achieve a healthy body image and feel happier about who you are:
Exercise for enjoyment
Although exercise can certainly help with weight loss, it’s also a good way to relieve stress and start feeling better about yourself. Getting active – playing a sport you enjoy, learning a skill like dancing or getting outside for a nice walk – can cause your body to release chemicals called endorphin’s, which trigger a positive feeling. Let the emphasis be on enjoyment rather than on inches and pounds, and you’ll be helping yourself form a healthy body image.
Don’t engage in negative talk or thoughts
If you find yourself thinking something negative about your body, replace this with a positive thought. Think of all the things your body is able to do, from working to playing with your children to taking care of your home. With friends, try to deflect any harsh body image talk with a contradictory message. You might be able to keep a friend – as well as yourself – from falling into a pattern of negative thoughts.
Pamper your body
A gentle touch feels good and can help promote a healthy body image. Indulge in some rich body lotion or spend some extra time massaging your scalp as you shampoo your hair. Treating yourself to a manicure, pedicure or massage can also help your body feel great. If you think you’re too self-conscious to get a massage, remember that massage therapists see all types of bodies. If you still don’t feel comfortable, ask for a shoulder and neck massage instead of the full-body treatment.
Meditation has long been recognized as an effective way to relieve stress, but a 2015 University of Texas-Austin study found that women who participated in guided self-compassion meditation for 20 minutes a day for three weeks had an increased appreciation of their bodies. The effect lasted even after the women stopped meditating! If you’d like to try this technique for yourself, you can download the meditations used in the study.
Leave positive notes for yourself and others
Throughout February, body image expert Mary Pritchard is posting a new sticky note with a positive thought for each day on her Facebook page, and encouraging you to place them where you – as well as others – will see them. She believes that the more people see certain messages, the more they start to believe them.
Treat yourself as you treat others
You probably wouldn’t look at a friend and think, “She’s so overweight. She looks disgusting.” You shouldn’t treat yourself any differently, but in reality, you probably judge yourself much too harshly – and often inaccurately – by obsessing over perceived flaws and overlooking your many positive qualities. The next time you’re having negative thoughts about your body image, ask yourself, “Would I think this about a friend?” and extend the same kindness to yourself.
For more tips on how to achieve a healthy body image, contact BMI of Texas.