#Askingforafriend: Cultivating a healthy body image
By Caitlin Rudgear
GCU Office of Student Care
Bodies, and our relationship with them, tend to be complicated. Regardless of whether you are male or female, young or old, the likelihood is that you’ve had some feelings (whether positive or negative) about your body and its appearance.
Our culture tends to promote a negative view of our bodies, as if they are a constant project to be worked on, a problem to be fixed, and our lives won’t truly begin until our bodies meet a cultural standard of appearance.
Body positivity and learning to love our bodies as they are is a beautiful cultural movement. But it’s difficult to truly love your body if you feel you can barely tolerate it, feel genuinely uncomfortable in your own skin or if you have a history of struggling with body image.
Instead of making bold proclamations of self-acceptance that don’t feel true or really resonate, let’s instead start with cultivating mindful awareness of our experience in our bodies.
Why mindfulness? Mindfulness acts as a way for us to notice our experiences while practicing nonjudgment. By learning to practice nonjudgment, we then open ourselves up to be able to become more curious, more aware and hopefully more kind to ourselves.
Mindfulness also helps us be more present and attuned to the here and now. Additionally, mindfulness can act as a tool for us to shift our attention away from the external appearance of the body and instead focus on being present in the body.
So how can we begin to cultivate this mindfulness to help us suspend judgment and thus create more room for appreciation for our bodies? Find a comfortable seat in a quiet spot and give this brief exercise a try:
Begin by connecting to the breath. Notice the quality of your breathing.
As you notice the quality of your breath and the rate at which you breathe, remember to practice nonjudgment. If you notice your mind takes you elsewhere or any distractions come up, do your best to redirect the mind to the present moment and know that distractions or wandering thoughts are normal.
Slowly begin to shift the breath to your belly, noticing the rise and fall of the belly as you deepen each breath.
Notice how your body feels today, starting from the feet and scanning upward to your ankles, legs, hips, stomach, back, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck and face.
Notice the areas where your body feels most tense and the most relaxed.
Notice your body’s ability to continue to relax itself, without any effort, as you intentionally take time to be still and attuned to your body.
Take several more deep breaths, enjoying the relaxation and allowing any tension you noticed to continue to slowly loosen.
When you are ready, slowly, and gently bring your attention back into the room.