Content by Stephani Fenkanyn, CNP, M.Sc.(OT), B.HK, BANA Health Educator
As the season changes into Spring and the snow melts away, we hear more chirping birds, see more sunny days and we start to plant fresh, colourful flowers that will bloom in the summer.
We move from puffy coats to light jean jackets. Clothing is shed and, for many, that means more skin being revealed. Although many people become enthusiastic about this potential clothing change and are picking out spring dresses or shorts that they can’t wait to sport in the sunshine, this is not the case for everyone. Naturally, for those with eating disorders or body image concerns this is an uncomfortable thought to be faced with. If this is you, consider some of the suggestions below on how you can integrate mindful practices into your day to help you build a more loving relationship with your body.
First, let’s start with what mindfulness is:
“Mindfulness is the energy of being fully aware of what is happening in the present moment—both within and around us. It involves maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and the surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance: we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them, without believing that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. Practicing mindfulness involves returning to this awareness again and again when our attention drifts or gets caught up in conditioned mental habits and behaviors.”
Why practice mindfulness to improve your body image?
- It shifts your attention away from your outward appearance towards how your body feels from the inside.
- It helps you recognize mental and behavioral habits and how you’ve been conditioned to think, feel, and act in response to various stimuli. It then opens your ability to make more conscious, deliberate choices with your thoughts, feelings, and actions.
- By learning to recognize internal thoughts and feelings instead of being carried away by them, it creates new habits that counteract obstructive coping strategies.
Mindfulness can be tremendously helpful in improving our body image. It encourages us to remain in the here and now and to stop chasing thinness. It reminds us to tune out the noise of destructive societal pressures, and to tune into ourselves instead. It teaches us to savor each minute and to observe our bodies, thoughts, and feelings without judgment. Through mindfulness, we can turn our negative emotions into our greatest sources of strength.
How can you bring the act of mindfulness into this season to further accept your body? Here are some example activities:
- Body Scan: Sit quietly and mentally scan your body from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. How does each area feel today? Tight? Loose? Do not judge, just notice.
- Deep breathing: Take 5 deep breathes. Notice where this expands your body. Is this in the stomach? In the chest? Do you feel release or is this difficult? Once again, do not judge, just observe. Take 5 more breathes. Count each inhale and exhale until you get to 10.
- Stillness: Sit outside in stillness with your eyes closed. Try observing the little things, like how the breeze moves your hair away from your face or clothing away from your body. Take notice of the sounds around you: are they quiet or loud? What are the scents in the air? Do you like them or not? Try this for 3-5 minutes.
- Use your senses: Try some local produce. Usually during spring we see lots of vibrant produce for sale. Be mindful when eating this and preparing it. Wash it with care. Notice the colour and how it differs from winter produce. How about the taste? Savour every bite.