Over this month, I have done a series of blog posts related to body image and disorders of body image, such as Body Dysmorphic Disorder. So, it is safe to say that we understand how important our own body image and body esteem is to our mental health. But how to we move towards a more positive body image?
1. Appreciate what your body can do
One of the most important things is that we recognise what our bodies can do. What I'm thinking about here is what our bodies can do on a general scale - we can get from A to B, we can play sports, we are generally physically healthy, we can create new human life, and so on.
It's also interesting to think about what our own bodies have been through and overcome. For example, if anyone has been pregnant and delivered a child, anyone who has run a marathon or competed in sporting events, and anyone who has overcome something traumatic with their body still in tact.
Our bodies are amazing and serve us in so many ways without us even thinking about it or appreciating them.
2. Focus on what you like about your body
This might sound cliché, but it is cliché for a reason. It is almost impossible for anyone to dislike every single thing about their body.
So you may not like the size of your body, but do you like the length of your hair? The colour of your hair? The colour of your eyes? The clearness of your skin? The speed with which you can run? The flexibility your body allows? The scars that show your journey?
One of my favourite quotes goes something like this: Imagine if we obsessed about the things we loved about ourselves.
It gives me goosebumps every time I read it.
3. Become critical of your feeds
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, social media is a massive influence in today's society. This is especially so for certain people who really throw themselves into that world, or who have certain vulnerabilities regarding their self-esteem etc. But I think we all are liable to fall under the spell of social media every no and then.
Start to become a critical viewer of social media. Curate your social media feeds. If an account is constantly posting photos or sharing content that puts you in a bad mood or makes you question your self-worth, unfollow them. Unfriend them.
Make your social media feeds places that you feel safe, loved, inspired, and accepted. Make them places that bring you up, not pull you down.
4. Explore the cognitive distortions
When you do have negative thoughts about yourself and your body, write them down. Sit down with them and really think about where these thoughts have come from.
Is it your voice or someone else's voice? If it's someone else's voice, who is it? Is there any evidence to substantiate what is being said? Is there any evidence to the contrary? Does the voice always say the same thing or does it depend on your mood?
5. Food is neutral
Food should neither be a reward nor a punishment. Food should be neutral. And the same should be said for exercise.
A lot of the time we use food to reward ourselves for working hard, or a consolation prize when things go wrong. Sometimes it is a punishment - eating the rabbit food because we didn't go to the gym. Or worse, not eating at all.
Again, the same thing happens with exercise. We kill ourselves in the gym because we ate that doughnut. We punish ourselves for not going. Worse still, we reward ourselves for going to the gym by eating that doughnut, then leading to a punishing gym session at a later date, and so it goes on.
In our culture, we do use food to celebrate with friends and family or to mourn a loss, and that is okay. But food shouldn't be a punishment or a reward for perceived wrongdoings.
6. Embrace your Inner Child
Most issues with body esteem start after the age of 6 years old. If we are lucky, they started much later. Whatever the case, think back to yourself as that carefree child. Indulge that carefree child every once in a while.
Indulging your inner child doesn't necessarily have anything to do with eating sweet treats. It does have everything to do with allowing yourself to think about your self and your body as a child would.
Children don't care about the size of their body as they run wildly around the playground. Children aren't bothered about how they look as they jump into a swimming pool. Children are too preoccupied with building their sand castle to think about how they look on the beach.
Embrace your inner child - they aren't bothered, so why are you?
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