In our pursuit of happiness, our bodies are often left out of the equation.
We are sleep deprived and exhausted, eating mindlessly at times and suppressing our feelings with food, drugs, alcohol and smoking. Our days off from work are filled with endless chores and to-do lists.
Quite simply put, we are checked out and becoming increasingly numb to the world around us. We push our bodies to the limit with extreme diets and exercise routines or ignore them altogether.
At least, this has been the case with me.
After experiencing migraines that left me incapacitated in the emergency room, ulcer-like stomach pains, exhaustion and fatigue, I decided to commit to some radical self-love and give my body a much-needed break from all the stress and mistreatment. I started viewing my body as a beautiful vehicle that allowed me to do just about everything I asked of it, instead of something I constantly criticized and took for granted.
Just like choosing to think positively and have happy thoughts, we can choose to have happy bodies as well—after all, the two need to work together for us to function at our best.
I have found that making subtle shifts, like ingesting loving thoughts about myself, has produced radical changes in how I ingest food and perceive my body. When I view myself as a spiritual being designed to serve and help others, I naturally want to rest, take care of myself, eat healthier and stop eating when I am full.
The constant need to fill a void or numb myself out with food or other distractions (like shopping) is gone. My focus now is on being healthy so I can spread positive body image and self-love messages to the masses—and not on my dress size or lack of six-pack abs.
Here are some ways to have a happy body:
1. Body Awareness.
There is no such thing as a perfect body. Even supermodels I’ve met and worked with complained about their bodies and were constantly trying to improve them, rather than appreciate the near-perfection they already had. Or they have these gorgeous figures and fill them with nothing but coffee and cigarettes. So even if they look beautiful, they aren’t loving their bodies and feeling healthy.
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in your body’s image that you stop paying attention to it. I see many women at the gym with bodies that society would say are “better” than mine because they are much thinner than me, but they can’t do one pushup, and are too weak to lift weights. This isn’t about comparison, this is about having a body that feels great, and doesn’t just look great.
The body and mind are designed to work together, and this mutual support is what creates happiness. You cannot have a single thought, sensation or feeling without the body. All of our experiences have a physical component. When your mind chooses to ignore the signals your body is emitting, like slow down, or don’t take that pill or have that third drink, stress, sickness or even death may occur.
When choosing a certain behavior, ask your body, “How do you feel about this?” If your body sends a signal of physical or emotional distress, look out. If your body sends a signal of comfort and eagerness, proceed.
Body awareness is powerful; it lets your body know what your mind is thinking, and vice versa. Not paying attention to your body is like neglecting your newborn child. If you constantly ignore cries for help and attention, how you can expect to feel safe, happy, cared for or supported in a meaningful way?
2. Body Wellness.
Treat your body with care before getting sick. In my teens and 20s, I thought I was invincible. I would spend hours in the sun without wearing any sunscreen. I wore my tan like a badge of honor for years. Before I turned 30, I was diagnosed with skin cancer, and had a quarter-sized tumor cut out of my forehead. Several years after being cancer-free, I still have frequent headaches from the nerve damage caused during surgery (the cancer had grown deeply towards my lymph nodes and brain.)
Prevention is key. Mind and body need to function as one and be at peace with one another by listening and responding appropriately. My body would tell me to get out of the sun through sun burn and even sun poisoning, but I didn’t listen. I wanted to sunbathe all day, and I wanted my fair skin to be a dark bronze.
I would do anything to turn back time, listen to my body, and not have had to endure all the pain of my mistakes.
3. Body Acceptance.
Our bodies carry out messages from the mind. Your body doesn’t need to be thin, fit and beautiful to make you happy. A good body is more than just superficial appearance and conforming to society’s absurd standards of beauty. A good body is in alignment with your mind, supports you in wholeness and allows you to live your life to the fullest.
The key to a great body is to first listen to it. I’ve given up pushing myself past the point of exhaustion, and instead learned to slow down and even be still. I’ve become more joyful, creative and successful in my stillness.
I recommend meditation, kundalini yoga, a walk in nature or massage to unwind, recharge and reward your body for all it does for you day in and day out. Pulling all nighters, chugging coffee all day to keep your eyes open and abusing drugs and alcohol to avoid feeling your emotions does not a happy body make.
Try to treat your body like you would a newborn child—with radical self love and care.
Author: Kate Eckman
Intern Editor: Danielle Ferrara / Editor: Toby Israel
Image: Alex Wong/Unsplash