How Journaling Can Teach You to Love Your Body

Author ArticleJournaling can transform not only my physical health, but also emotional and spiritual health.

I didn’t always love my body. In fact, for years, I hardly thought about it at all.

My body was a machine that I worked relentlessly and neglected constantly. It was simply a tool that my brain used to get where it needed to go. I paid no mind to aching muscles, searing headaches and other signs of stress and exhaustion. I ignored my body’s needs until a major health challenge forced me to stop and recognize the obvious: my body isn’t a machine at all. It’s an integral part of me that requires love, care and respect.

I began journaling every day as a way to get back in touch with my body. This practice has transformed not only my physical health but also my emotional and spiritual health. I started listening to what my body was telling me and making decisions to embrace a full, healthy and balanced life.

Why Journaling?

Researchers have been tracking the positive effects of journaling for decades.

Over the years, studies have found that expressive writing can lead to significant benefits, including short- and long-term health outcomesbetter immune system performancestress and anxiety reduction and relief from chronic illnesses, such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

And a 2017 study from the University of Arizona showed that for people going through a divorce, narrative writing exercises – telling the story of their divorce, not just documenting their feelings about it – improved how their bodies responded to cardiovascular stress.

Journaling helps us strengthen the mind-body connection that we often neglect. Putting pen to paper supports us in large and small ways, making room for our thoughts, feelings and experiences in a tangible way.

How to Start Journaling

  • Start small.
  • Make it a daily habit.
  • Feel free.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You may want to write lengthy entries every day, but start with a smaller, more manageable goal. Commit to writing for five minutes or a few lines, and congratulate yourself when you reach that goal. If you want to keep writing, go for it (and celebrate that victory too).

Build on your gradual start, and make your small journaling goal a part of your daily life. Find a time of day that works best for you – such as when you’re drinking your morning coffee or you’re about to get ready for bed. Don’t debate whether you should journal or not; just make it a daily habit.

If you can’t figure out what to journal about, try free-writing. Simply jot down anything that comes to mind without filtering or editing it. Keep your pen moving until you reach your writing goal.

5 Journaling Prompts

  1. Take several deep breaths, and do a mental scan of your body from head to toe. What feels good? What feels off? What is your body telling you?
  2. Imagine you have an entire day to pamper yourself. What do you do? How does each part of the day rejuvenate you?
  3. Write a love letter to your body. What do you appreciate about it? What are you thankful for? How can you express your gratitude?
  4. Describe a sensory experience that has stuck with you – a meal, a smell, a hike, a physical activity. What did it feel like throughout your body? Why did it make such an impression on you?
  5. Write about a time you felt wonderful in your own skin. What was happening? Why did you feel strong, beautiful, capable or empowered? How can you recreate that feeling?

Journaling is a powerful way to care for your body, as well as your mind and spirit. Make daily journaling an essential part of your journey to total aliveness.

This post courtesy of Spirituality & Health.

Are You Struggling With That Whole Self-Love Thing As Much As I Am? Here’s One Way To Tell

Author Article

By design, my Instagram is filled with messages telling me to love myself just as I am. I am trying, I really am. I follow the most inspiring people on Instagram. I am all about Bunny Michael’s conversations with her higher self. And I check out artist Mari Andrews when I want to feel like I’m getting healing oxygen to my heart (her “magical things about New York” series alone does the job).
But doesn’t the idea of self-love, self-acceptance, and even self-compassion feel a bit self-indulgent? Don’t get me wrong, when I see someone fiercely owning what they’ve got—including the particular “flaws” that actually make them more compelling, more vulnerable, more attractive, and more interesting—I feel the power and authenticity of that. And none of it seems braggy or selfish.

But when it comes to me, though, I can’t shake the feeling that I want wait until I’m a little bit better before I focus on self-compassion. Which is probably why I ended up in C-student territory when I tested my self-compassion using a quiz in The New York Times (adapted from the research of Kristin Neff, PhD).

The verdict: “You have a moderate level of self-compassion but could benefit from some self reflection on how to be kind toward yourself. Try a writing exercise in which you write about a time when you struggled or failed and how you felt about yourself. Now consider how you would treat a close friend in the same situation.”

Of course I would make a friend feel better. But letting myself off the hook for anything, if I’m being honest, just seems lazy.

According to Neff’s research, though, my approach (and I’m guessing I’m not the only one, since Brené Brown’s research on shame is consistently on the best-seller lists) is not only painful but it doesn’t get the best results either.

Here’s how Neff defines self-compassion: “Being kind and caring to yourself instead of harshly self-critical; framing imperfection in terms of the shared human experience; and seeing things clearly without ignoring or exaggerating problems,” she writes in Psychology Today.

“While the motivational power of self-criticism comes from fear, the motivational power of self-compassion comes from love. When we care about ourselves, we’ll try to change any behaviors that are causing us harm.” —Kristin Neff, PhD

She also says that if you’re like me, and not bursting with self-compassion, you’re just following the the norms of our culture (which means you can also work to un-follow them). “The number one reason people give for why they aren’t more self-compassionate is that they’re afraid if they’re too soft on themselves, they’ll let themselves get away with anything. They really believe that their internal judge plays a crucial role in keeping them in line and on track. In other words, they confuse self-compassion with self-indulgence.”

And, that voice that tells me that I should just improve before switching into self-love gear actually reveals an underlying belief that an inner hardass drill sergeant has to do the “real work” before I can indulge in positive feelings.

Even from a purely productivity-based perspective, that kind of thinking is actually dead wrong, Neff argues. “While the motivational power of self-criticism comes from fear, the motivational power of self-compassion comes from love. When we care about ourselves, we’ll try to change any behaviors that are causing us harm. We’ll also be much more likely to admit those areas of needed change because it’s emotionally safer to see ourselves clearly,” she says. “If we are harshly self-critical, we’re likely to hide the truth from ourselves—or even better yet—blame our problems on someone else, in order to avoid self-flagellation. If it’s safe to admit our own flaws, however, we can more clearly see the areas that need work.”

So, it looks like I have a few Post-Its to add to my bathroom mirror, to get this message through to my trying-to-be-mindful brain. As with everything, maybe a little Mary Oliver to start off:

“When will you have a little pity for
every soft thing
that walks through the world,
yourself included?”

Another way to cure body shame and boost self-acceptance: photograph yourself nude, as one Well+Good editor discovered. Or, you can just channel self-love queen Ariane Grande

 

– by Wes Colton, Introvert Unbound Those of us interested in doing “inner work” have two conflicting schools of thought to choose from. The Self Help school teaches us to tackle our weaknesses while the Self Love school wants us to accept ourselves for who we are, flaws and all. Pretty much all of us […]

via The Paradox of Self Love and Self Help — Introvert Unbound

6 Ways to Show Yourself the Love You Deserve

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When people think about being kind to themselves and practicing self-love, it’s often considered in a noncommittal, “Yes, I really should be doing that more,”sort of way. Then they go about their merry way, continuing the same old behaviors and being anything but kind to themselves.

Fortunately, a number of people do decide they are finally ready to start loving themselves. But what made them ready, and why have they waited so long to start?

What about you — are you ready to start treating yourself with kindness and learn how to love yourself fully, the way you deserve?

Where do you find yourself on the “self-love/being kind to yourself” scale currently? Are you at the bottom, clueless as to what loving yourself even means, or slowly crawling up the scale, wondering why it took you so long to treat yourself with love and kindness?

10 Things You’re Doing Because You’re Finally Starting to Love Yourself

I asked myself that same question many years ago when I finally considered the option to stop being so hard on myself and instead learn how to become my own best friend.

The best answer I have is that I had totally colluded with the pain of the belief that there was definitely something wrong with me and that I was not lovable. That was it. If someone had even suggested self-love, I think it would have gone totally over my head.

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I mean, how could I even consider self-love inside that painful paradigm? I couldn’t.

And I imagine you can’t either, if you still live under that spell of unworthiness and unlovability. It’s painful, isn’t it?

Have you suffered enough that you finally feel ready to try self-love?

Does learning how to love yourself sound like a foreign language to you? Maybe you have an inkling of what it means to others, but for you…?

Oh, how you’ve been swallowed up by this great misunderstanding of who you truly are and what you are worthy of! How you’ve been conditioned to shut yourself off from your inner wisdom, believing others know more than you do!

I often run up against a wall when I talk to people about the importance of learning how to love yourself — unless this person has suffered so much that it’s willing to try a new way. I wish suffering were not the only reason why you would stop this insanity of treating yourself as a second-class citizen.

However, if you happen to be standing against that wall blocking you from self-love now, no matter how you got there, and are weary from denying yourself the goodness of life, let me share a few things I’ve learned since I broke through that wall myself.

Here’s how to love yourself for who you really are and treat yourself with the kindness you deserve.

1. Make a Vow.

The step to learning how to love yourself is to make yourself a promise.

In my self-love journey, I took a clear stand and vowed to never treat myself the way I had been, ever again. I embraced a power that I had lost touch with during all the painful years of self-doubt, self-hate and self-denial.

The pain of this ongoing torture had worn me down to finally realize that I didn’t want to do that to myself anymore

Finally, I’d had enough and wanted something else. It was a strong decision and, without it, you may still have found me in the trenches.

2. Say “No” When You Fall Into Old Patterns.

So now that I made this vow, how was I going to do it? All I had to go by at this point was that I didn’t want to do this to myself anymore, but I didn’t know what to do instead.

My determination gave me the option to say “no” whenever I would glide into the muddy trenches, simply by default. That was the “how” for now: Refuse to continue, the very moment when I found myself slipping back in.

Or, if I was so lucky to catch the first glimmer of the familiar invitation knocking at my door, simply refuse to open.

3. Stick With It.

I really started getting a feel for using the power of saying “no,” to the familiar suggestions to put myself down. It felt good. Yet, to be honest, I probably fell into the trenches more times than I would like to admit. It was a deeply ingrained pattern that didn’t just take the first “no,” for an answer.

However, my determination was strong and my “no” was getting stronger. This started my journey out of the trenches, without any idea of what my next step would be. I didn’t care. I gave myself permission to exercise my “no” — maybe more often than needed. I had to. I just had to use this new powerful weapon against the demons who were used to me saying “yes” all the time.

4. Accept the Journey.

All this didn’t happen overnight. Without knowing where all this was going, I learned what steps to take and when. I started seeing steps, obstacles, dead ends, tricksters, successes, and failures. I saw doors open and close, and also saw doors open and open even wider.

I paid attention and finally (after many years) could authentically show others how to love themselves. My own pain and suffering slowly turned into my life’s calling, something I would never have imagined when I took my first stand many years ago.

Here Are 20 Ways to Be Good to Yourself Today

5. Let Go of Resistance.

There are certain behaviors that keep a closed door shut, no matter how hard you push against it. The biggest one is resistance — resisting the parts of yourself that you hate, dislike, and are ashamed of. Resisting yourself keeps you imprisoned forever, and if you want to move past the wall, you’ll need a new strategy.

Have you ever pulled one of those Chinese finger traps, where one finger goes into each end, and the harder you pull, the tighter it gets? The more you try to get away from it, the more you feel stuck? Well, that’s no different from the painful emotions you’re trying to get rid of. The more you resist them, the more stuck you feel.

6. Acknowledge Your Emotions.

When painful emotions come up, I practice “allowing.” Allowing is the opposite of resisting and, coincidentally, seems to be what works to get out of your self-imposed trap. It feels counter-intuitive, but it works. You’ll have to shift your familiar tendency to get away from discomfort and, instead, be open to leaning into it and experiencing it.

Just try it as an experiment first. Test out this theory. Find out what happens when you are willing to move toward a painful feeling that you normally try to get rid of. Allow space for it. Breathe into it and find out what happens. This is your experiment and is for you to find out if the grip loosens or not.

When you let go of resistance and make space for whatever you have resisted, you release a lot of energy. This energy was stuck in the trap when you moved away from it. Now, when you move toward it with curiosity, you’ll notice that the feeling you wanted to get rid of, gets exposed. It’s vulnerable and needs your care.

Would you be able and willing to meet it with the same kindness as you would a scared little child or animal? Try it and see how this feeling responds. It may be confused first because it’s not used to your kindness yet. Imagine you offer it a loving hand or caring touch to let it know you are here to help.

When that part feels safe enough, it will slowly let you know about how it’s feeling and what it’s upset about. This is the released energy from the trap of resistance. It’s been waiting for you to listen and take it seriously, and here’s your chance.

Use this opportunity to take another gentle breath down into the area where this feeling has been stuck.

Just take some kind, gentle breaths, as though you want to say hello to it. Do it with a caring attitude to make sure this newly liberated feeling stays open. Just notice what changes when you gently approach it that way with a curious, caring attitude.

The connection has been made. You are now in a new relationship with your previously resisted feeling. Can you feel the difference?

If you need more time, keep breathing kindly into the area in your body and do your best to be caring and curious. The aim here is to find out more about this pain that was stuck in the trap. That part has a story to tell and needs you to listen.

Maybe nobody has ever listened to that part of you, least of all you. Here’s your chance to deeply listen and learn about yourself in a whole new way.

This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: The Subtle-Yet-Obvious Reason You Don’t Love Yourself — Yet.

Why Would You Want To?

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In my ongoing quest to come to the end of the internet, this week I discovered a word I should have seen coming—self-compassion. Self-compassion is a stop somewhere out there on the journey to self-love, which, from my vast research, seems to be a terminal destination. Self-compassion nor self-love should be confused with self-indulgence, which of course is bad, and is probably the conjoined twin of self-care. And also, I took the quiz, though I lied. I put ‘sometimes’ down for every question because I don’t really care, I just wanted to see what they were asking. By the twelfth one I was clinically bored.

It seems to me, though I never thought it was possible, that modern western culture is determined to put a lie to that tragic questioning cry, found in the lections for today, if you were thinking of trudging off to church somewhere. It’s that famous line buried in a recapitulation of Psalm One (also for today) and much maligned by ex-evangelicals who love Brene Brown. Here it is.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

After two more articles on the website Well and Good, where you can find the link to take that quiz if you want, I feel like the answer to that question is, ‘Why would you want to?’ Because after a very short interval its not that interesting anymore. The more the world careens towards self-acceptance, self-love, self-compassion, self-care, all wrapped up with that dreaded bow of self-indulgence, the more the internet stops being curious and fun, the more twitter lives into its full malign nature. Are human people even that interesting when they are in the ghastly throws of self-compassion?

“Cursed,” explained Jeremiah, speaking on behalf of God, “is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” He is like a shrub in a desert, parched. But I am reminded of all that grass we human people are likened to somewhere else by some other prophet*. It grows up suddenly and waves in the bright sun and bends in the wind and you think ‘oh, that’s so fresh and bright and summer is so great,’ but then you come back a month later and there’s a heavy layer of snow and the grass is nowhere to be seen. It died. It was brittle. Fire or snow, or time really, and its as if it never even existed. That is the human person, scrolling wildly through a social-media news feed, driven along by that unsparing, internal rule of self-love. Cursed.

If that doesn’t appeal to you, and it shouldn’t, a few verses later you come across the antidote. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,” and then, in case you didn’t quite get it, Jeremiah repeats himself, “whose trust is in the Lord.” He is like a tree planted by streams of water, whose roots go down into the cool silent depths, who stays green all the time and even bears fruit.

How can a human person, of whatever kind of gender, in whatever state of self-love, who is here one moment, like the grass, and gone the next, ever be like a tree? I met a glorious tree last month. Some ancient, vast oak tree down in the south that looked like it had wandered out of Lord of the Rings, and also like it would say something in words if you stood there long enough, quietly.

Trees and grass are all of the same stuff, the same idea. They both live. They can both look pretty. But one of them isn’t going anywhere, and, according to Jeremiah, that one of is basically completely happy, blessed even, sucking up water through its roots while the other one burns itself out in a conflagration of self-love.

Jeremiah answers his own question, “Who can understand it,” with the only answer you’d expect of him. He quotes God, “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”

What is curious to me is that God would even want to know. That he bothers with the search. That he hasn’t already had enough of ladders.com and Well and Good and just chucked it. Sin—of which self-love, if not the chief, is surely reclining at the head of the table—is not that interesting. There is never anything new and wonderful about it. When you see it there in the light it doesn’t look shocking nor inviting. It is strange of God that he would take the trouble even to search the depths of a boring and bedraggled humanity, setting themselves alight with vanity and calling it special.

“Heal me,” concludes Jeremiah, setting himself down by the stream and probably throwing his phone into its sparkling depths, “and I shall be healed. Save me and I shall be saved. For you are my praise.”

God, who is the living water, and is himself the most interesting being out there, if only we would stop gazing at ourselves in the mirrors of our lives and wander away to read a book, but especially the book I’ve been quoting here, has the power and the inclination to heal and to save. His compassion far surpasses any that you or I could ever manufacture, even with the help of a leading psychologist. He has mercy on those who suddenly see themselves going up in smoke, who see the stream and the cool quiet and wish they could stop careening along in the way of the wicked.

And what of the tree? Because it is not just any tree. It stands there against the sky so that when you hurry by, if you were to pause, just for a moment, you would actually see a redemption, a healing, a compassion, a salvation, indeed, a solution to all the cares of the world, fixed there. You could pause and sit, and drink, and eat, and forget yourself in a haze of wonder. You can’t understand yourself or him, but he understands both.

Be a tree, go to church.

*Isaiah 40:7

Are You Sabotaging Your Self-Love?

Author Article

This month, we’ve been talking about self-love a lot over in my Instagrampage. We’ve been having meaningful conversations about what it is, why it’s so hard to achieve, and the main challenges about it.

Mariana Plata
Source: Mariana Plata

Self-love is the foundation for all the other relationships in your life. In simple words, one cannot pour from an empty cup. One can’t give if one doesn’t have:

  • You can’t have a healthy relationship with other people if YOU don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself.
  • You can’t be compassionate with others if YOU don’t practice self-compassion in your own life.
  • You can’t take care of others if YOU don’t take care of yourself, first.

Self-love, though it has a pretty ring to it, can often be one of the most difficult practices to accomplish. Why? Because we live in a society that promotes and celebrates your exhaustion and how tired you are. It benefits from your insecurities.

This is why loving yourself is a revolutionary act. Society has “normalized” the ways in which we sabotage prioritizing and taking care of ourselves.

The first step is realizing when these self-sabotages show up. Here are three red flags that you might be self-sabotaging your self-love practices.

You keep comparing yourself 

Social media is full of comparison traps. And, once we fall down this rabbit hole and don’t actively make an effort to get out, our self-love gets compromised.

I won’t tell you not to compare yourself, because we are only human. It’s only natural to fall in these traps. What I will ask you is that when you compare yourself, make sure you challenge that comparison. How? With gratitudeWhat is wonderful about YOU? What makes YOU magical, unique and special? And actively fight against that comparison trap with a gratitude perspective about yourself.

Black or white thinking 

“Good vs. bad.” “Skinny vs. fat”.””Pretty vs. ugly.” These are all black or white thoughts which are counterproductive to our mental health. Especially, to our self-love. Things aren’t good or bad, they are. Your body isn’t pretty or ugly, it is. It works. It helps you achieve your daily goals and tells you what needs adjusting.

These black or white thoughts only welcome shame, which is a powerful emotion that fosters a negative self-image, low self-esteem and promotes self-loathing. Shame is self-love’s arch-nemesis, and it’s only cured by practicing self-compassion, a key component of self-love.

You don’t prioritize your self-care strategies

Similar to self-compassion, self-care is a crucial part of self-love. The way we take care of our body (exercise, eating healthily, sleeping enough, drinking plenty of water); our mind (seeking help from our support system, talking about difficult emotions); and our soul (meditatingjournaling).

If you’re not carving out a space in your day to include at least one of the areas mentioned above, you’re not prioritizing yourself. And, if you don’t prioritize yourself, who will?