In examining the relationship we have with our bodies, an important question to ponder is if we truly appreciate and express gratitude for all our bodies do for us. I know I certainly didn’t love my body for most of my life. Rather than treating my body like the precious vessel for my soul and beloved friend that it is, I chose instead to shun it and judge it based on arbitrarily society-constructed beauty standards.
Our bodies do so much for us – this is an undeniable truth. Our bodies engage in so many unconscious processes, which by their very definition, require no thought or effort on our parts. It fights off infection and keeps us healthy to the best of its ability. Our hearts keep the blood pumping throughout our bodies. Our lungs constantly provide us with prana – life force energy. Our feet carry us on all of our life journeys. Our hands hold close what is dear to our hearts.
Whether we choose to pay the appropriate respect to our bodies or not, the fact remains that your body has kept you alive for 100 percent of your days. It has gotten you through your best and worst days on this Earth. It has been your constant companion and faithful friend, concerned only with serving and loving you!
Without our bodies, we would have no form to experience all the majesty and wonder that is the human experience. How is this gift not magical?
We are all programmed to think in a certain way through the parenting we received, the school systems we participated in, and other forms of societal conditioning. We are taught that the most important things in life can be quantified and treated as commodities. Naturally, we as a society tend to view our bodies in the same manner.
This detrimental way of thinking has cost us a lot as a species. Most of the world’s problems can be traced to the mentality of obtaining commodities and conquering at the expense of our compassion, love, and humanity. When we recognize the downfall of living in this manner, it is no longer plausible to simply blame society as a whole for these issues. After all, are we not a part of this man-made creation that is society?
If change in the world is truly what we desire, then it follows that the first order of business we have is to heal, change, and grow on an individual level. At some point, each of us must take personal responsibility and become accountable for the changes we’d like to see in ourselves and subsequently, the world.
1. Examine Your Current Relationship With Your Body
One of the most crucial steps in developing a healthful relationship with our bodies is to examine the current relationship we have with our body. Do we treat it with kindness, respect, and love? Or are we criticizing and cringing every time we look in the mirror?
Our perceptions are shaped by what we are exposed to in our lifetimes. This applies to our perceptions about our bodies and our self image. We are exposed to media that projects social definitions of beauty onto us and we impose that expectation of the particular beauty standard of the hour onto ourselves.
As I described in great detail in Consumerism And Self Worth: Part One, the rapidly fluctuating definition of what is “attractive” is leading us to consistently doubt ourselves and feed our insecurities. Rather than giving our bodies the respect and care they deserve, we instead spend our time fixating on what is wrong with them.
Let’s instead take note of our self talk. How are we speaking to ourselves in regard to our bodies? Would we put up with this kind of talk if we heard a close friend speaking to themselves in the same manner? How does our method of self talk make us feel?
If we do not like the way we are making ourselves feel (yes friends, is it each individual who is responsible for how they feel!), it is up to us to make the changes needed. Ah yes, such is the beauty of free will!
2. Focus On How Your Body Feels Rather Than How It Looks
Instead of focusing on the physical things you do not like, such as a body part being too small or too large or wanting all your fat to disappear, try focusing on how your body feels.
Ask it questions daily such as how are you feeling today? Are you tired? Are you experiencing any pain or discomfort? How is your energy level? How is your digestion? Are you having good poops? (Never underestimate the power of an effortless poop my friends!)
Try to regard your body as you would a beloved child or pet. Work to become aware of the subtle messages your body sends you throughout the day. Perhaps your body revolts when you feed it certain foods or do not get adequate rest. Take note of the things that make your body feel good and the things that cause your body pain and discomfort.
3. Determine What Changes To Make Based On A “Need” Basis
The next time you find yourself wishing you could change something about your body, perhaps it’s that extra weight you carry in your belly or you’re not as toned as you’d like, ask yourself instead, why do I want to change this thing?
When we wish to change something about ourselves, it is important to examine the intention behind why we want it to change. Try asking yourself, do I want to change my body to fit some social definition of what is considered “beautiful” or do I want to change my body to help it feel better and work more effectively?
If we are changing for the sole purpose of fitting in to a standardized beauty concept constructed by society, we can best believe that this will not bring about any long term fulfillment and any satisfaction is sure to be short lived.
If we are changing for the betterment of ourselves coming from a place of love and the desire to be our own highest selves rather than a place of judgment and insecurity, the changes we make are far more likely to become permanent.
When contemplating making serious changes for your body and health, a helpful tool can be to make changes on a “need” basis rather than a “want” basis. For example, having a flat tummy because it’s considered sexy is a want but not a need, whereas feeding our bodies nutritious whole foods is a necessity to keep our bodies operating efficiently (and may subsequently lead to the happy byproduct of a flatter belly).
4. Start A Body Love Journal
Try starting a body love journal and commit to log your body’s day for 5-10 minutes every day. In this way, we can begin to tune in to the signals our body is trying to send to us! By observing what’s going on with our body, we can pinpoint what changes we need to make in order to create a healthy temple for our spirits to thrive in.
Identify the major areas of your body that you’d like to become more aware of and learn more about. For someone who experiences chronic pain such as headaches or stomach discomfort, this would be good things to keep track of! Keep a log in your journal of energy level, chronic pain, mood, discomfort, exercise, quantity and quality of sleep, and any other categories you’d like to examine.
Rate these categories according to what you experience – on a scale from 1-10, 1-5, hearts and stars, smiley face stickers, or whatever works for you! Get creative with it and add your own flare to personalize your journey. With time, it may even be something you look forward to doing at the end of the day!
5. Add A Food Log To Your Body Love Journal
For people who really want to pinpoint what is contributing to their chronic pain, it is helpful to keep a food intake log next to your daily body feelings log. On the days when you experience the headaches or stomach discomfort you can check the food log on each of those days and see if there are any repeating patterns.
For example, I may find that my headaches are the worst on the days I’m consuming high amounts of processed sugar (think processed snacks with high fructose corn syrup like soda, cookies, and even store bought white bread). Or I may discover that my indigestion and constipation correlates with days I consume large quantities of animal and dairy products.
With this new information I’ve learned from tuning into my body daily, perhaps I want to consider reducing my sugar intake and seeing if that has an effect on the frequency of headaches or reducing my meat and dairy consumption to see if that gives me better poops. I’m all about them effortless stools, fam.
When we tune in to our bodies, we become aware of what changes we need to make in order for us to be our best selves!
6. Create An Action Plan
Using the data you’ve learned about your body, determine the specific changes you’d like to see and create an action plan for how to get there!
So let’s say you’d like to increase your energy levels. The specific changes needed may include exercising more often, eating more healthfully, and getting appropriate sleep. Look at where you are in the present moment honestly and without judgement in order to set attainable goals for yourself. Let’s say you currently exercise once per week, cook 1-2 healthy meals for yourself per week, and get around 6 hours of sleep nightly.
From here, you could create an action plan for the next month for exercising twice per week, cooking at least three plant based meals per week, and committing to sleeping 7-9 hours per night by enforcing a strict bedtime routine.
7. Reevaluate & Update Your Action Plan As Needed
As we grow, we may find the changes we’ve made in previous months have become habits and a natural part of our day-to-day living. At this point, we are ready to update our action plan and challenge ourselves to grow even more!
Conversely, we may also find that the first action plan we have created was not quite realistic and we may struggle to make the necessary changes. I know I myself have often set the bar too high for myself and set myself up for failure in the process. That is not what we want here.
If we find that even with a concerted effort, we are unable to succeed with our action plan, we may need to adapt our plan! It isn’t that we are lazy or not good enough to achieve our goals, but that we simply did not have realistic goals for ourselves.
It is important to keep in mind that we want to create an action plan that encourages us to succeed! When we build up a track record of small successes, we start to build confidence and the belief that we can accomplish our goals. Let’s place emphasis on progress rather than perfection.
We often are our own harshest critics and tend to penalize ourselves mercilessly for the one thing we failed to do rather than focusing on the many things we have already accomplished!
We get caught up in the mindset of comparison to others and judge our own progress based on where other people are on in their individual journeys. This is ludicrous! The very nature of each of our journeys is that they are unique. We must focus on competing only with our self defeating beliefs, detrimental habits, and negative thought processes.
Rather than worry about how slowly our progress is coming, let’s take each step minute by minute, day by day. Simply commit to doing your best today! And then continue to do that each day that follows. When we approach challenges in this manner, we start to discover that these changes are indeed doable!
Remember friends, a healthy world starts with a healthy relationship with yourself. Before we can begin to heal the ailments and problems of the world, we must first start by healing ourselves.
Did you find this post helpful? Share with a friend! Have questions about transitioning to a healthier lifestyle? Leave them in the comments section below! For more on what to consider when creating an action plan, check out my post 7 Tips For How To Start Eating Healthy.