Loving yourself is sometimes easier said than done, but these days, it's more important than ever to give yourself a little TLC. That said, there are more ways to do so than simply slapping on another sheet mask (although they never really hurt): By implementing some body-positive practices, you can exercise self-care from the inside out.
Seemingly from the moment she arrived on the scene, Lizzo has been a symbol of body positivity and a champion of inclusion — and she's only gotten stronger in her representation of those things. In her music she celebrates herself as a sexy, bold, and confident queen, and if you're following the singer on Instagram, you'll notice that she aims to treat herself that way in real life, too. For example, in a recent post, Lizzo shared that she's taken up a new habit: Looking in the mirror and giving all her body parts loving affirmations — even the ones she used to hate the most.
According to mental health experts, Lizzo's daily practice — as silly as it might seem to some — can actually be really effective in boosting your self-esteem and counteracting negative thoughts. And that's not the only tiny-but-impactful thing you can start doing to change your outlook and keep a healthy mindset when it comes to your body. If you could use a little extra love, read ahead for even more ways therapists and psychologists say you can start treating yourself with gratitude and positivity.
Body Positive Practices: Banish Negative Self-Talk
"I often find that my clients aren’t aware of just how much their self-talk impacts their self worth," says Dr. Stephanie Insko, a psychologist at Brentwood Counseling Associates. "I’ll have them keep a log of their thoughts about their appearance in between our sessions, and they often return astonished at just how harshly they judge their bodies." She instead challenges her clients to speak to themselves the way they would a family member or friend.
Dr. Paulette Sherman, a psychologist, author of Dating from the Inside Out, and host of The Love Psychologist podcast adds that while using only kind words to yourself can feel like a tall order, it's something to strive to. "What if you committed to cease all self-criticism and to only say loving things to yourself?" she challenges.
One tip to help you do that? Focus on the things you love. "One of the problems that perfectionists have is they do nine things right and make one mistake, but then they focus on the mistake," Dr. Sherman says. "Similarly, you may love your eyes, hair, and smile but you are choosing to focus incessantly on how you feel that your thighs are too big. You can shift this. When you notice you are falling into that trap, refocus on the beauty or your eyes or your smile and milk it so that you feel good and send love and appreciation to your body."
Body Positive Practices: Appreciate Your Body With Affirmations
Following in Lizzo's footsteps, try a few actual affirmations in your self-talks, starting with statements of gratitude. "Thank [your body] for the myriad things it does for you, treat it as a temple with self-care, rest, and good food," Dr. Sherman says. "You can do affirmations that affirm the messages you wish to tell it like, ‘My body is a temple. I am healthy, radiant and strong.'" Don't be afraid to be direct, be loud, be proud. If talking to yourself in the mirror feels a bit strange, try leaving yourself little love letters.
Body Positive Practices: Move Your Body
First of all, moving your body — including traditional exercise — doesn't have to be about changing your body. Dr. Insko suggests that you reframe the idea of movement in the first place — to feeling good above all else. "Our culture associates exercise with losing weight and looking good," she explains. "So we often expect that it has to be strenuous and exhausting to be effective. That results in us being less than motivated to do it, and maybe even feeling worse physically afterward. I like to challenge my clients to shift their goals for exercise. I encourage them to find some kind of movement that feels good and leaves them feeling energized and proud of how strong or flexible they’re becoming. They find that feeling good physically and being proud of what their body can do leads to profound increases in body confidence."
If you're not into traditional workouts, Saba Harouni Lurie, therapist and founder of Take Root Therapy, has a fun alternative. "First, put on some music and have a dance party," she recommends. "Consider changing the lights (brighter or dimmer), closing your eyes if it feels good to do so, or picking a song that you can sing along to. Moving your body is a great way to release serotonin and dopamine."
Body Positive Practices: Edit Your Input
Social media — and media in general — can be filled with images that make you question or devalue your appearance, so editing the content around you can help you from going down that shame spiral. "In this society, often in magazines the models are waif-like and skinny," Dr. Sherman says. "This is what we have been taught is beautiful. In other time periods, like in Rodin’s bather paintings, female beauty was based on abundance and being curvaceous and voluptuous. Rather than letting societal messages and tribal beliefs dictate your self-esteem, you can decide what is beauty to you." Curate the content you expose yourself to; the psychologist even suggests finding new role models whose bodies you relate to and who project the level of healthy confidence you aspire to.
Body Positive Practices: Touch Yourself
Don't forget to practice physical self-love, too — even if it's just a hug. "Scientists have found that hugging can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine in the body," says Lurie. "You can enjoy these benefits by hugging yourself! Make sure to make the embrace last at least six seconds so the full impact can be felt."