Our bodies are our longest home. They are what carries us through our lives – protecting us, growing, and sustaining us for the long haul. More often than not, we make choices on the daily that don’t serve our bodies in the best way possible. In this post you’re going to learn 11 ways to be kinder to your body (and some are things you’d never think to do)!
What Do I Mean BY Being Kinder to YOur Body
We’ve been conditioned to believe that our bodies function at maximum efficiency by simply getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. While all of those are true, there’s more to sleep, food and movement that we need to keep our bodies functioning at an optimal level.
By being kinder to your body, you’re deciding to adopt a holistic approach to overall health – this includes mindset, emotional well-being and more.
The Problem With How We Treat Our Bodies
We’ve engrained the sleep/food/exercise narrative into our culture and mindset so deeply that’s often where it stops when we think about treating our bodies with kindness. We often don’t think about the effects of:
The Words We Use
How you speak to yourself really is important (even if it doesn’t feel that way). Just as saying something negative and hurtful would affect your relationships with others, it inherently affects the relationship you have with yourself, how you view yourself, and how you build yourself up.
Speaking negatively about yourself has actually been linked to feeling more helpless, striving for perfectionism, greater stress and lack of motivation (source: verywellmind). The more you think this way (ie. I can’t do that or I’m not good enough), the more you begin to feel and believe those thoughts.
The Habits We Create
The habits we create can make or break us. When we slip into a bad habit that takes a toll on our bodies, we often won’t realize the damaging effects until much later on (ie. not getting enough sleep, not making a yearly Dr.’s appointment, drinking or smoking too much, etc.).
The Cues We Ignore
Have you ever been hungry but thought “oh it’s too early/late to eat” or “I’m just going to push a little bit further at the gym despite the pain”? Have you ignored emotions (or questioned why they would even be there)? Have you ignored signs to go to the washroom, go to sleep, etc.?
Our body is designed to tell us how it’s feeling. When we ignore our body’s natural cues, we’re depriving ourselves of what we actually need in the moment. Sometimes this may mean more rest, skipping the gym, having an extra snack or eating less that day, or just having a good cry.
How to Start Being Kinder to Your Body
Below are 11 ways we can start being kinder to our bodies. This list takes a physical, mental and emotional approach to helping you listen to and understand your body, and give it what it needs to grow and flourish!
1. Do More of What You Love
Hate kale? Stop eating it. Love playing basketball but hate going to the gym? Do that instead.
We’ve grown accustomed to making health and wellness a black and white subject, when realistically there are so many ways to maintain our well-being without having to suffer.
The more you focus on picking out what you love instead of what everyone else has decided is the ultimate picture of health, the more you’ll enjoy making the transition and benefit from it!
2. Have Help
Some things our body is great at telling us, others not so much. It’s important to be getting regular check-ups, whether that’s with your family Dr., dentist, therapist, specialist, etc.
There are some things that are out of our control at the level of our body and we need extra help along the way. Whether that’s help from medication, alternative therapies, going through counselling, preventative screening etc., seeking outside help is a great way to make sure everything is working towards being the best it can be (body and mind)!
It’s no secret that staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body! While there’s no universally recommended amount to drink (depends on age, gender, climate, etc.) it is important we make hydration a priority!
Staying hydrated helps our skin, hair, mind and body to function optimally! You can read all of the benefits of being hydrated here.
4. Enhance Your Environment
It’s actually been proven that having a cluttered space actually affects our brains, and can lessen our working memory! Your brain likes organization, so when you take the time to declutter and organize your space you’re setting yourself up for greater success!
5. Work on Your Mindset
Having a positive mindset sounds very cliche, but having a positive mindset helps more than it hurts!
Having a positive mindset means shifting to a more optimistic outlook on life, however, it doesn’t mean there is an absence of negativity, sadness, or feelings of being upset. It will challenge you to look at these internal and external factors that control your thoughts and mood and choose how to handle them.
Working on developing a more positive mindset enhances your capacity to be in a better mood, a better headspace and more in control of your thoughts, feelings and mood.
Click here to read more about developing a positive mindset and what that looks like!
6. Learning to Rest
Rest is not a reward for work, but something we need to incorporate into our regular routines. You can’t run on an empty tank, nor can you be productive 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Not only are there several diseases and conditions linked to not getting enough rest (high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart disease to name a few, read more here).
Taking time for yourself and doing things that you actually like to do is so important. When you take a break from work and the things you ‘have to’ or ‘should’ do, you give yourself permission to make time for yourself. Here’s why you should make more time for yourself and how to easily start.
7. Go Back to the Basics
Some of the most basic things you can do to be kind to your body are making sure you get enough sleep, eat well, move your body, spend time with people and spend time doing what you love.
Take a look at your everyday life and ask yourself if you’re meeting the most basic of your needs. If the answer is no, it’s time to go back to the beginning and figure out what needs improving.
When you fuel your body properly and meet your basic needs, you give yourself the capacity to go beyond just the basics to be kinder to your body.
8. Change Your Inner Dialogue
The way you speak to yourself matters. Your thoughts and internal dialogue have a profound effect on your everyday life (whether you’ve realized this or not).
When we constantly beat ourselves up or think negatively about ourselves, not only do we start to believe it, we train our brain to look for the negative in other situations.
Choosing to work on your inner dialogue to be more positive will not only improve your mood, but change the way you think about yourself (and it’s the first step to take when working towards a more positive mindset). You can start to change your outcomes just by changing your inner dialogue!
Related Read: Managing Your Internal Dialogue
Your body is telling you exactly what it needs, and you would know that – if you just listened. From hunger cues, to feeling tired, to feeling pain, these are all signals from our body that are literally our bodies telling us what they need.
How many times have you not eaten because it ‘felt too early or too late’? How many times have you resisted going to bed because you wanted to get more things done? I’m guilty of these thoughts and feelings too – it’s hard to unlearn the part where you need to ignore what you’re body is saying to you.
Your body is often giving you the answer, you just need to tune into the cues it’s giving you and listen. It may take some time to re-learn these cues and begin to honor them, but this article may help a little bit.
10. Move Your Body
Whether this is stretching for five minutes, going for a walk, or running a marathon – move your body in the a way that suits you (and you enjoy).
Finding a type of activity that we like to do (and that we know is good for us) makes it a lot easier to actually commit to and follow through with this activity.
It matters less about what you’re doing and more so the fact that you’re doing it, and making a conscious effort to include exercise and moving your body as a part of your routine.
11. Reduce Stress
We do need some level of stress in our day to day lives – without it, we might not get a lot of our to-do lists done. However, the impacts of long term/chronic stress on our bodies have a profound impact in so many areas of our physical health (read here for a full list of what stress does to our bodies).
Reducing stress doesn’t have to be something elaborate, it can be something as simple as going for a walk, practicing mindfulness or lighting a candle (more ideas here).
However you decide to reduce stress, it’s important to make that a priority in your daily routine. The long term effects of stress have been shown to have profound impacts on our bodies, both physically and mentally (see first paragraph).
Making it a Habit to Be Kinder to Your Body
The real challenge doesn’t necessarily come from what we need to do to be kinder to our bodies, but making it a habit.
Choosing to be kinder to your body is one of the best decisions you can make for yourself. Reducing stress, eating well, moving your body and changing your mindset are some of the simple yet amazing ways you will start to see huge changes in your day to day life!
Here are a few things to remember when it comes to making it a habit to be kinder to your body:
Start With One Thing
Change one thing first. Change is hard (we all know this). Start by simply incorporating one of these new habits into your life, and add others as you start to feel more comfortable.
Gradually introducing new habits and practices into your life will give your body and mind a chance to adjust, and will likely lead to greater long term results!
It Won’t Look the Same For Everyone (and That’s Okay)
Our bodies need different things, that’s simply a matter of fact. Our bodies need different energy requirements, movement requirements, and have different thresholds than others. What feels good to you, might not feel good to me (and that is okay).
Listen to your body and choose what feels good. Walk instead of run, give yourself an extra hour of sleep or vice versa. Go with what feels good and natural to you and you won’t be led astray.
Give Yourself Grace
With any adjustment, you need to show yourself patience, love and acceptance. Some days will be more challenging than others, other days will feel amazing. You will go right off the rails and get back on with fiercer determination than you’ve ever had before.
Remember where you started and what the goal in mind is, and to take the journey one step at a time. Treat it like a marathon instead of a sprint and you’ll get to where you want to go!