10 Proven Ways to Boost Your Body Image in 10 Minutes or Less
It's hard to pull yourself out of a body-loathing funk, but our tips from experts will give your body image and mental health a boost.
Boost your body image
Changing negative thoughts about your body isn’t something that happens automatically, but there are proven things you can do in as little as ten minutes that could help improve your body image. Here are some things that therapists recommend that you can do to encourage healthy, positive thoughts and healthier ways of looking at your body.
List 10 things you like about yourself
Would you say the same harsh and critical things about yourself to someone else? So why do you continue to say them to yourself? Keep a top-10 list of things you like about yourself, focusing on things that aren’t related to your looks or weight. (If you find this task difficult, enlist the help of your friends or family.) “When you stop judging yourself so harshly, you begin to see your strengths, as well as your perceived flaws. Build up your self-confidence by talking nicely to yourself and by reminding yourself of everything you have to offer the world,” says Sarah Allen, PhD, a Chicago area psychologist specializing in mood and eating disorders. (Here are 10 ways to be nice to yourself.)
Try belly dancing
You don’t need a certain body type to learn how to move sensually, like a belly dancer. In fact, belly dancers report having a more positive body image and less body dissatisfaction than those who have never belly danced, one study found. As it turns out, belly dancing fosters a greater sense of connection between the body, mind, and spirit, all key to maintaining a positive body image. “The belly dancers weren’t so focused on external appearance but more the internal experiences and competencies of the body,” body image expert and leader of the study, professor Marika Tiggemann said in a press release.
Challenge your thoughts
If you find yourself criticizing your body while looking in the mirror, try challenging those thoughts. “It’s a very powerful experience to no longer say mean things to yourself in the mirror,” says Lori Osachy, MSS, LCSW, owner of The Body Image Counseling Center and the Text2BWell positive body image program. Opt instead to think of your body as a whole rather than focusing on body parts. These body-positive quotes will help, too.
Clean your closet
Many people hang on to a closet full of clothes in all different sizes. Even though they no longer fit, they may be keeping them “just in case.” Osachy urges people to clear them out, as “they keep you in a negative body image prison.” Once you get rid of them and have a closet full only of clothes that fit you today, you’ll feel more beautiful and comfortable in the body you have now. Here are things that professional organizers declutter everyday.
It’s easy for negative thoughts about your body to spiral, but Allen has a simple grounding trick to stop the negative-thought train, slow down those adrenaline-fueled critiques, and help you feel strong and capable in your body. “Stand up and feel that negative energy fueled by those criticisms you are saying to yourself. Let the energy travel down from your brain, through your body and down through your legs and feet. Like roots of a tree, the energy is connecting you to the floor. Feel how strong your legs are. Feel the energy coming down your arms and out of your fingertips, shake it out,” she says. Finish by inhaling and exhaling for a count of four.
Exercise for the right reasons
Some research has found that physical activity can do wonders for our self-esteem, but how you think about and approach exercise makes a difference. “Changing our views on exercise is essential in the pursuit of loving our bodies,” says Osachy. “Listen to your body and exercise for the joy and fun of it. Focus on how good your body feels when you’re exercising,” she says. Exercise should not be a punishment. Learn how this avid runner’s body changed during the pandemic as she learned to listen to it more.
Start your day with a mantra
Good or bad, our brain takes in and internalizes what we tell it. Use that to your advantage and tell it something good by starting the day with a positive mantra. Find a mantra that speaks to you and say it daily. “For example, saying, ‘I am more than my body. I am kind. I’m a hard worker and dedicated friend’ can be helpful when starting the day,” says Laura Fonseca, MSW, LCSW, a therapist specializing in eating disorders. “The more we say these powerful mantras to ourselves, the easier it will be for our brain to accept and believe them.” Try these morning mantras to give your day a positive boost.
Thank you, body
If you spend a few minutes thinking about it, you will discover many things that you are thankful your body does for you each day. Jot down the things that you are thankful your body does for you. For example, “I am thankful that my legs allow me to walk and play with my dog.” “When you start to appreciate your body for what it can do rather than how it looks, you’ll start to develop a very different relationship with it,” notes Fonseca. Also, it’s good to acknowledge the things you don’t have to contend with such as pain or sickness. Check out these legit health benefits of being kind to yourself.
Harness the power of social media
Social media often seems like a highlight reel of everyone’s flawlessness, and in contrast, you may find yourself thinking negatively. But a 2017 study in Body Image found that what you look at on social media makes all the difference. In the study, undergraduate women looked at fitspiration or fitspo images of people exercising, inspirational quotes, or a mix of both. They found that people only looking at fitspo posts had less self-compassion, meanwhile, those who looked at inspirational quotes were not only nicer to themselves, but they felt better about their bodies, too. Annie Wright, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and owner Evergreen Counseling in Berkeley, California, assigns clients struggling with body image to follow Instagram pages of body-positive activists like @theAshleyGraham or @mynameisjessamyn. “I encourage them to spend a few minutes looking at these pages until they feel more accepting of themselves and their self-esteem has boosted,” says Wright.
Get active in activism
Walk the talk and help yourself and others bring about positive societal change through greater body acceptance. Why not teach others how to improve body image as a way to raise your own? “Getting started is as easy as helping a friend or young person in your life learn to challenge cultural appearance ideals (the ‘thin ideal’) or beauty pressures,” suggests Kate Clemmer, LCSW-C, community outreach coordinator at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt. Read on for 30 ways to boost your self-confidence instantly.
- Sarah Allen, PhD, Chicago area psychologist specializing in mood and eating disorders
- Lori Osachy, MSS, LCSW, owner of The Body Image Counseling Center and the Text2BWell positive body image program
- Laura Fonseca, MSW, LCSW, a therapist specializing in eating disorders
- Annie Wright, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and owner Evergreen Counseling in Berkeley, California
- Kate Clemmer, LCSW-C, community outreach coordinator at The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt
- Sex Roles: "Belly Dance as an Embodying Activity?: A Test of the Embodiment Model of Positive Body Image"
- Flinders University: "Shimmy your way to body love"
- Body Image: "#fitspo or #loveyourself? The impact of fitspiration and self-compassion Instagram images on women’s body image, self-compassion, and mood"
- Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment: "Physical activity and self-esteem: testing direct and indirect relationships associated with psychological and physical mechanisms"