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4 Must-Do Mindfulness Exercises To Boost Your Body Image & Life

How to Train a Wild ElephantIn How to Train a Wild Elephant: And Other Adventures in Mindfulness, Jan Chozen Bays, M.D., writes “Just as an untamed elephant can do damage, trampling crops and injuring people, so the untamed, capricious mind can cause harm to us and those around us.”

All day we can let our minds run with mean thoughts eventually becoming one big, clenched ball of self-criticism, anxiety, tension and negativity.  Can you relate?  I hope not :)  This is one of the reasons mindfulness can be so helpful as a coping strategy – and way of life. We don’t have to live in negativity. We don’t have to criticize ourselves.

Dr. Chozen defines mindfulness as, “Mindfulness is deliberately paying full attention to what is happening around you—in your body, heart and mind. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment.”  Here are four of my favorite exercises from Bays’s book that’ll not only help to boost your body image but also improve your mood and life.

1. Appreciate your hands.

A few times a day, watch your hands as though they belonged to a stranger. To remind yourself to do this, you can write “Watch Me” on the back of your hand, wear a ring that you normally don’t.  Not only do they nourish you with food, but they’re also the vehicles of creation. With your hands, you can cook, paint, draw and write, among other things. You can also hug and touch and thereby support others and show them love.

2. Try a media fast.

Try not taking in any media for one day or better one week! This includes avoiding everything from social media to iPods to TV to newspapers to books. We’re constantly plugged into so many types of media. So many things grab for our attention on an hourly basis, making it hard to be mindful. A barrage of bad news and vivid images of violence, weather disasters and suffering also affects us deeply.  A media fast is a great way to combat our culture of thinness, too. We’re exposed to so many ads per day, unrealistic images and shame-inducing headlines that it’s healthy to take a break.  Replace media time with taking a walk in silence or meditating :)

3. Look with loving eyes.

Our usual way of looking at life isn’t loving. It’s either neutral or negative.  This makes me think of how we zero in on our perceived body flaws. We zero in on our cellulite, pockets of fat and bloated belly, and forget to appreciate ourselves as whole beautiful beings.  Instead, try to look at life with loving eyes.  When people try looking at the world with loving eyes, they report a shift in how they see objects and other people.

4. Look deeply into food.

Being mindful when we’re eating is so important. It helps us to listen to our body’s cues and savor our food.  When you eat, take a moment to look into the food or drink as if you could see backward, into its history. Use the power of imagination to see where it comes from and how many people might have been involved in bringing it to your plate, such as the people who planted and harvested the food, the grocers and the family members who cooked it.   The next time you’re eating, take a moment and reflect on how you’re feeling at that moment—are you hungry, stressed, eating for life or eating for pleasure!