You don’t love your body. Some days you barely like it. Some days you wish you had a different body. Maybe on many days you do. And when you do, the frustration starts climbing, twisting and turning, and it feels like you’re just going to explode. Or it’s a kind of simmer, a low frustration but a frustration that follows you regularly.
You can feel this way, and still care for your body, and still care for yourself. The key is to act. Below are four ways to start being kind to your body, even when kindness feels out of reach.
Listen to your body. Take regular pauses, get quiet and ask yourself what you need. This can be super simple, like drinking water when you’re thirsty. When you’re tired, try to rest and get extra sleep (instead of pumping yourself up with more and more coffee). Shift your movement to fit how you feel or want to feel: If you’re feeling anxious, you might need to shake out the nervousness and go for a run outside. Or you might want to soothe yourself with a restorative yoga class. Or you might need a boost so you take a dance class or have an impromptu dance party in your living room.
In other words, be thoughtful about how you move and treat your body. Remember that you get to choose. You have this power.
Another way to listen to your body is to keep a journal and take 5 minutes every day to jot down how you’re feeling. What sensations are you experiencing? Was something bothering you? What felt good? What didn’t feel so good? Listening to your body is honoring it, and it’s respecting yourself.
Use soothing, gentle touch. We communicate our compassion through touch. It is how we comfort others, how we love them and how we help them to feel safe. Which we also can do for ourselves. Massage your hands. Massage your neck and shoulders. Apply lotion to your body every night. Give yourself a hug. When you’re struggling, put your hands on your heart, close your eyes, and acknowledge you’re having a hard day.
Practice alternate nostril breathing. This is a beautiful way to relax your body and refocus your mind, which can be incredibly helpful when negative thoughts sweep in. I first discovered alternate nostril breathing in a yoga class, and instantly loved it. The awesome Anna Guest-Jelley also suggested it in this piece:
- Using your dominant hand, “make a U-shape with your thumb and pointer finger.
- If you’re using your right hand, press your right thumb into your right nostril, gently closing it. Inhale through your left nostril.
- Next, press your right index finger against your left nostril, closing it, as you release your thumb from the right nostril – allowing yourself to exhale through the right nostril.
- Repeat by inhaling through the right nostril, then closing it and exhaling through the left nostril.
- Continue like this for at least 10 full breaths.”
Regularly evaluate what and who you surround yourself with. It’s hard to be kind to yourself when you’re surrounded by things that make you feel guilty for eating dessert every day, that insist you count calories or macros or points. It’s hard to be kind to yourself when you’re surrounded by people who perpetuate the idea of one way of being healthy or strong or attractive or lovable, and achieving it at all costs.
Regularly reflect on the people you’re hanging out with, the shows you’re watching, the magazines you’re reading, the bloggers or nutritionists or coaches you’re following on social media. Ask yourself: Does this uplift me? Does it actually help? Does this promote body positivity or body diversity? Does it make me feel bad about myself?
Thankfully, we can control what we expose ourselves to. Practice kindness by surrounding yourself with people and things that sincerely support you. That support you in caring for yourself. That support you in being self-compassionate. That support you in savoring life—and savoring all kinds of foods and flavors.
The above are just a few ideas of shifting the relationship we have with our bodies from an adversarial one to a kinder one. Which we can do with our actions. You don’t have to love your thighs to choose exercise you actually like and enjoy doing. You don’t have to appreciate every inch of your body to give it what it needs.