Body image is just as important as proper diet, exercise, and adequate rest when it comes to overall health. But that’s a hard thing to achieve, especially when we see images of seemingly perfect bodies every time we open a magazine, scroll through the internet, or go to the gym. It’s enough to make a person question their own body.
Accepting your mind and body for what you are is a beautiful experience. However, just like everything, it takes time and practice. It helps to know that even the most confident of people we know struggle, too. Your body is something you will have the rest of your life. Here’s why you owe it to your health to love it just the way it is.
Body Image and Health
Body image is strongly linked to overall health. Stress, anxiety, depression, and poor self esteem may increase chronic inflammation in the body, which is linked to many serious diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders. Low perceived body image may also make current diseases seem worse and decrease the effects of treatment.
There is a strong connection between the body and mind. We can either make ourselves sick with stress and worry, or healthy with positive thoughts.
Recent research has indicated that stressful thoughts and situations can diminish white blood cell response to viral infected cells and to cancer cells. Moreover, vaccination is less effective in those who are stressed. Stress also prevents wounds from healing as quickly.
Strength in Numbers
To say that body image only affects adolescents is false. The truth is that everyone struggles, even well into adulthood. A study conducted on students from two universities, one from the United Kingdom and one from Denmark, showed that 53.7 percent of students perceived themselves as being too fat. Students that considered themselves too fat were more likely to be from the British University, to be females, to be older than 30, to report stress due to their financial situation, and were less likely to have a high quality of life.
Be Kind to Others
One of the best things you can do for others (and others can do for you) is to love and accept yourself. Remember that your behavior is contagious. If you are stuck at work with someone who is unhappy, complains all the time, and who puts themselves down, chances are your mood will reflect the same. When you display a confident amount of self respect, you encourage and set the example for others to follow.
According to a 2011 study, positive thinking fosters the factors that allow individuals, communities, and societies to flourish. Our ancestors who used positive thinking to play and explore were more likely to have access to personal resources. For example, when faced with threats to life, those same ancestors who exhibited positive thinking experienced greater personal resources that would have translated into greater odds of survival, and, in turn, greater odds of living long enough to reproduce. Fear, or low self esteem, is linked with the anger and the urge to escape. You are more approachable when you exhibit positive emotions.
Learn to Let It Go
The beauty of the human body is that no two persons are alike. Imagine how boring this world would be if everyone were the same. If you had no challenges, there wouldn’t be anything to overcome, and chances are you wouldn’t grow or develop as a person. Diversity is what makes you special. It’s what people will remember you by.
Letting go of impossible standards is the first step to achieving a better body image. Relaxation techniques, such as yoga and exercise, can be helpful. Set aside time for you every day, even if it’s only 10-15 minutes at a time. Spend this time exercising, listening to music, or meditating. Whatever you do, spend this time either feeling good (blast your favorite music while exercising) or thinking of all good things about yourself. Do this again at night before bed. Think of all the ways you have helped others and how good it made you feel.
Finally, feed yourself properly. This doesn’t mean you have to lose weight. But you should concentrate on eating foods that make you feel good. The following foods may help lift your mood:
- Beans and whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean meats and fish
- Dark chocolate
Keep in mind that even if you can’t see it, everyone has something they struggle with. It’s very unlikely that any one person has it all. But it is possible to make the most of what is currently on your plate. Remember that if there is something in your life that you don’t like, you have the power to change it.