Imagine a relationship with your body in which you feel so connected, accepting, and loving towards yourself. Sounds like what we are all hoping for right? We tend to be so mean towards our body, and while we find ourselves trying to improve our body- we feed it, hydrate it, bathe- we often find ourselves back in the place of despair and disgust. How did we get back in this place? Why doesn’t any of this work for me like it does others? The first place I encourage you to explore is how are you nurturing (rather than just doing what’s needed for) your body? We can do the best job caring for ourselves, but without nurturing we greatly limit the extent in which we can have a connected and loving relationship with our bodies. Consider this metaphor: I have a puppy who cries all the time no matter what I do. I feed the puppy every morning and night, I make sure the puppy’s water bowl is full, I leave a pad out for the puppy to go to the bathroom when needed, gave the puppy a home, so what am I doing wrong? Any animal owner and/or lover knows that these sweet little animals require a bit more- they want lots of pets and cuddles, to go for walks, to be played with, to be near their owner when they’re scared, they need to be nurtured not just care for. Not so surprisingly, we require the same and here are some achievable places to start:
When we speak about nutrition, we simply mean eating with variety and balance. The jargon and labeling of food as healthy v unhealthy, good v bad is overwhelming and quite frankly not necessary for the majority. Now certainly some may have to be mindful of certain types of food if experiencing a chronic illness or other health concern and we’ll leave that to your doctor to suggest. However, the use of this language is the equivalent to us therapists throwing clinical jargon at you- it often doesn’t land the way intended and rather just feels like a judgment or leaves you to assume. What is helpful to focus on most is your relationship with food and how it nurtures your body, rather than what you’re eating. We know scientifically and cognitively diets don’t work and tend to be more harmful than helpful, so reconsider the role food plays in your life. A common saying is, “take the mood out of food,” so you can properly nourish and nurture your body without the added noise.
Good ole’ mindfulness- always relevant when leaning towards nurturance! Mindfulness allows us to be more in touch with what our body is communicating to us rather than what our inner voice is telling us, which tends to be ego driven. Through different mindfulness exercises like breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and observing how our body feels at any moment, we can be more in touch with what is needed. Initially, this tends to be difficult because we are so wired to avoid our body rather than go into a place of loving acceptance. That doesn’t change that your body still requires nurturance and to be heard- so open yourself up to listening to your body if you’re willing. And when, not if, it gets difficult- think of the puppy! One cue I encourage others to use is, “do I feel this in my head (ego) or my heart/body.” If you find it’s in your head: place your hand over your heart, thank your mind for letting you know you need some nurturance, and take a deep breath feeling the breeze of your breath flow through and reconnect you to your body.
Movement: Activity and Exercise
One of the most effective ways to nurture our bodies is to get it moving! This is a great tool for regulation and releasing of emotions that may otherwise be pushed deep down inside not to mention it has tremendous physical benefits as well. Now there are different ways you can practice movement and it often has to do with how much energy is required and what your intention is.
Physical Activity occurs for most, if not all, people on a daily basis and is essentially any contraction of muscle that requires energy. For example: walking to your car, taking the trash up, picking clothes off the floor, taking an evening stroll.
Exercise tends to be more structured and repetitive in order to build or maintain physical fitness. For example: running, biking, boxing, yoga.
Without movement, the energy in our body stays stagnant and often tries to find other ways to get released- ever wonder why our inner voice and emotions are loudest when we are lying in bed, when we first wake up, or simply watching tv? Remember, mind and body are bidirectional so by moving our body, we also keep our mind moving rather than staying stuck. A nurtured body is a nurtured mind so get to moving!