creative joy retreat, 2012, hearts

Building a positive body image is a daily process. As such, here are 30 tips and tools for cultivating a healthy body image every day. Each booster either directly or indirectly affects your body image.

1. Move your body by doing activities you love. Physical activities help you reconnect with your body, not to mention they’re great for your health. This can be taking a walk, stretching in the morning, going to the gym, or biking around town.

2. Think of one thing your body did for you today. Do this even if your “one thing” is as seemingly simple and small as helping you breathe or take a walk. It still cultivates a sense of gratitude and helps you realize that your body is constantly working for you.

3. Compliment yourself. It can be incredibly helpful (and put a smile on your face) to consider one thing you love about yourself today.

4. Compliment someone else. Share the love! Seeing the good in others and telling them so cultivates a sense of gratitude and positivity, too.

5. Smile at yourself in the mirror.

6. Wear clothes that fit you well and make you happy, regardless of their size.

7. Check in with how you’re feeling. Oftentimes we blame our bodies and start to nit-pick because of negative emotions that we’re not even aware of. Asking yourself how you’re doing throughout the day is a good way to keep yourself in check. Whenever I was feeling ugly and uncomfortable in my skin, I was really anxious, tense and unhappy with my life. Which had zero to do with my body!

8. Laugh. It does a body image good!

9. Read an inspiring quote on body image. Here are a few: uplifting quotes from Caitlin’s book Operation Beautiful and from my interview with Julie from Beautiful You.

10. Look at or add to your inspiration body image board.

11. Let out any frustrations from today. Use healthy coping strategies, so they don’t simmer and bubble up in your body.

12. Get enough sleep. Nothing good can come of being an energy-less shell of yourself. Not getting enough sleep over time becomes very unhealthy and can mess with your mind, too.

13. Take care of your hygiene. This might sound like the silliest tip. But listen, I personally work from home and if I’m having a particularly busy day, you bet I very well might not take a shower or even brush my hair. (OK, this applies even if I’m not having a busy day.) Or realize at 2 p.m. that I’ve been sitting at my computer wearing pajamas. It’s very hard to feel good about your body when you haven’t gone a good job caring for it. Even such minimal actions as showering, applying lotion, washing your face or putting on lip gloss, help – a lot.

14. Preserve your boundaries and adjust accordingly. On Monday, I talked about the importance of creating and maintaining boundaries for healthy relationships. Well, part of a healthy body image is respecting yourself and protecting your physical and emotional boundaries. This is a daily practice. (Here’s that article again on boundaries.)

15. Open your eyes to all the beauty around you. We go through life without really paying much attention to blooming flowers, sunshine, funny-looking clouds, kind gestures and the smell of the air after a rainstorm. These are amazing things. Cultivating this mindfulness of the amazing not only leads to a greater appreciation of our lives but also to a greater appreciation for ourselves and the beauty of friends, family and others.

16. Cut the clutter. I know this tip is most often featured in home magazines, but I know that for me, I feel most out of sorts with my body when my environment is all out of sorts. My physical surroundings shape my inner world and when things are mostly organized, I feel calmer and happier.

17. Mind your media consumption. Skinny “role models,” diet advice and weight-loss commercials have stolen our society and produced one ideal. Be aware of the media’s influence on you. And if a show or a magazine doesn’t make you feel good, toss it from your life.

18. Don’t weigh yourself.

19. Keep a journal, and let it all hang out. You can write how you felt about your body today, what you think triggered those feelings and how you might turn things around. Or you might write about general feelings and thoughts about today.

20. Learn something new. When we learn something new, it also opens our minds and lives to the many wonders in this world. It puts things into perspective in a positive way.

21. Center yourself in the morning. I’m notorious for being a big freak-out and downer when I get up. I’m filled with worries about all the things I have to do, all the things I haven’t done and so on. Suddenly everything looks messy, I hate my hair and the world sucks. Clearly this is not conducive to a healthy body image or outlook on life. Give yourself a few minutes of positivity to start your day by meditating, stretching or even writing down positive thoughts in a journal.

22. Avoid the fat talk with family, friends, coworkers and anyone else on this planet. No one ever truly bonds over talking about their supposedly horrible-looking bodies. All it does is create more heartache and perpetuate the negative cycle of fat talk. Plus, there are TONS more interesting topics anyway.

23. Question health news and advice. Over the last decade or so, there’s been an explosion of articles about the evils of fat and obesity. We even have a month dedicated to the awareness of childhood obesity. (Don’t get me started. You can probably guess where I stand on this one.) A lot of this is either exaggerated, misinformation or outright wrong. Always question what you hear, see and read.

24. Think twice before spitting out a mean comment about yourself. Years ago, my disparaging comments were akin to breathing – as in they were just as automatic and natural for me as my body coming up for air.  But after my friends noted just how frequent my negative comments were and how they knew I was hurting myself, I started thinking twice. And the comments decreased.

25. Limit the time you spend looking in the mirror. Of course there’s nothing wrong with using mirrors to apply makeup, preview your outfit and check yourself out. But the longer you spend staring at your reflection, the greater the chance you’ll start nit-picking. I know because I’ve been there. Many times.

26. If something crappy happens, don’t start the self-hate cycle. Instead, repeat these wise words from Kristin Neff’s book on self-compassion.

This is a moment of suffering.

Suffering is part of life.

May I be kind to myself in this moment.

May I give myself the compassion I need.

27. Have at least one meal with zero distraction. No TV. No email. No phone calls. No work. Just you (possibly alongside your family) and your yummy food. And try savoring every bite.

28. Listen to what your body is telling you as best as you can. This might mean skipping a workout because you’re super tired or stopping eating because you’re full. Or eating more because you can tell that you’re still hungry.

29. Listen to your fave music, and dance!

30. Do one self-care activity that makes you happy. Create a list of five, 10, 20 (the number is of course up to you) activities that help you feel good. Each day, do at least one thing from that list.

What do you do every day to improve your body image? What would you like to do? What’s your fave tip from this list?