Reading Purge: Rehab Diaries and interviewing author Nicole Johns last week has made me more aware of body image—a touchy subject for most of us, man or woman, boy or girl—and the many ways in which it affects us. How often I, for instance, look into a mirror and see only the unwanted bulges, bumps, and wrinkles on my body. The frequency with which I complain about the fit of my clothes or the numbers blinking at me from my digital scale.
At the same time, I am looking forward to Thanksgiving, a time of family gathering together, sharing stories, laughter, food, and more. Thanksgiving reminds me to be more cognizant of all that is good in my life. Including my body, though lately I have taken for granted how well it serves me.
Therefore, this week’s journaling prompts and related short exercises—as much a reminder to me as to you—are about gratitude and body image: using gratitude to affect body image and to help us see ourselves in a more positive light.
- How do you typically relate to your body? Do you think it’s too fat, too thin, too flabby, too old, or something else? Take a moment to stand in front of a full-length mirror, noticing the thoughts you have. Then freewrite for ten minutes about what you experienced. If you want, make a list of all the things your body was “too much” or “too little” of.
- Engage in a mild physical activity for five or ten minutes. As you do so, be aware, beginning at your toes and moving upward, of how your body works for you. Think about how your muscles and skeleton supports you in your activity. Feel your heart pumping blood through your body, your lungs expanding and contracting as you breathe, your muscles contracting and stretching as you move. When you’re done, sit down and write a brief thank you letter to your body. Thank each body part that functioned well. And if you experienced any pain or dysfunction, thank that body part for the message it’s providing you about your health, and the surrounding body parts for supporting the weaker ones. How do you feel after completing this exercise?
- Stand in front of a small mirror, reflecting just your face. Pretend you are a stranger and you are meeting yourself for the first time, curious about this person you are meeting. Look at the shape of his or her face, hair, and look deeply into his or her eyes. What do they tell you about this person’s personality? What aspects of this person’s face and expressions attract you? Now, still pretending you are this stranger, write in your journal about the person you just met. Write in great detail about those of his or her features you liked.
- Repeat #3 with a full-length mirror, taking the whole person into consideration.
- Make a list of ten body parts—seen and unseen—for which you are grateful. For each body part listed, write why you feel gratitude.
- Pick three “negative” qualities you wrote about for prompt #1 and, for each quality, complete the following sentence, more than once: I am grateful for ________ because … . For example, if I wrote that my hips were too wide, I could now write: I am grateful for my wide hips because they made childbearing so much easier … or because my lover thinks they’re sexy … or … they make my waist look smaller.
- Select one area of your body that you have consistently resisted and battled with over the years. It could be weight, the shape of your nose, narrow shoulders, whatever. (First, if you didn’t do #6, or you didn’t address this issue using that prompt, complete it now with this body area mind.) Using your gratitude statement from #6, write at least one affirmation for yourself, written as though you are speaking to someone else. Using my example, I could write: Your hips are beautiful because they are sexy and shapely.
Then, each morning and each evening, stand in front of a mirror, look into your own eyes, and repeat this affirmation three times. Do this for one week, then write in your journal about how you feel about that area of your body. Has your perception of your body changed in any way?
I invite you to leave a comment and share one discovery of gratitude about your body this week.