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There are many times I look around in wonder at how my body is keeping me alive.
How my brain needs sleep, but knows when to wake and dream. How my heart beats regularly and transports blood around my body. How I can breathe out and get rid of carbon dioxide absorbed by plants, only for me to take in fresh oxygen created by them on the inhale. Being alive is a miracle—but there are many times it doesn’t feel that way.
Life is consistently testing us.
The moment we feel we have our steady footing, we’ll be thrown off balance. When we get strong and moving, an injury happens. When we find our voice, we’re afraid to speak up.
We all have tests with our bodies from time to time because sometimes it won’t “do what I said.” Like no longer being able to run on the street because of knee injuries, or facing the inevitable with age.
It’s easy to blame our bodies and notice the negative things that are going wrong rather than what’s going right. We’re wired with a negativity bias to survive. Basically, the mind reacts to bad things that may come up more rapidly, powerfully, and tirelessly than to good things of equal intensity. These bad things could pose a threat, which makes our nervous system go haywire.
And back in the day, this was incredibly useful—when we were hunting and being hunted—but not as much when we’re at the grocery store and suddenly one event turns into a spiral of negative and harmful thoughts. Like thoughts of having a body without pain, a body that is younger, fitter, or the shape and size we want.
If we’re feeling disconnected or in pain, that can turn into rage, anger, anxiety, or any other of our many emotions. Make sure to take a moment to pause and become aware of these feelings, and try to write down or think about the negative feelings—but don’t be consumed by them. We need to be easy on ourselves and acknowledge that we’re compounding our pain when we have negative feelings about our bodies. It’s something out of our control. Honoring our emotions makes us feel validated, heard, and seen.
Flip the Script
These negative feelings and thoughts about our bodies are like someone saying that we shouldn’t be the way we are, or to stop honoring our own emotions. If you find yourself in a negative thought spiral, stop and say out loud, “I don’t want to feel this way.” Just give yourself that verbal reminder to stop and change your thought process. The act of replacing negative thoughts in the Yoga Sutras is called pratipaksha bhavana.
After flipping the script, make sure to take a moment to practice gratitude. This may sound lame and uninviting, but try it. Developing an attitude of gratitude for our bodies is a powerful game changer.
Take the moment right now to consider: What is my body able to do that I’m grateful for? What’s happening in my life that is going well? Make an intentional list and keep it around to reference. Focus on that instead of the negative thought patterns.
Self-Care Equals Self-Worth
Having some baseline level of care for ourselves shows that we’re worthy, just as we are. Think drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, and doing downregulating practices like yoga and meditation. Ask how you can be the best version of yourself with what you’ve been given.
Even if our bodies aren’t in the best shape, and even if we’re not the most well we’ve ever been, by taking on this mindset, we can give our bodies the same care as if we were in the best shape of our lives, or the most well we’ve ever been.
Finding gratitude for a normal, real, flawed human body can be a challenge for many of us. It takes practice. If we find ourselves one day feeling that our bodies are more of a pest than a present—remember that breathing and being alive is what matters most.
May you feel alive and know that your aliveness is abundant and enough.