As we embark on a new year, we are given a great opportunity to adopt a more affirmative approach toward our well-being. Rather than imposing restrictive resolutions born from negativity and self-criticism, let’s strive for enduring change that generates ongoing positivity in our lives and health. Let’s prioritise self-compassion and self-acceptance, a truly innovative concept amidst the popular “new year, new me” culture that often fixates on correcting perceived flaws like laziness, lack of motivation, or body dissatisfaction. Instead, why not direct our focus towards celebrating our strengths, embracing what we cherish about ourselves, and acknowledging the positives in who we are? This kind of New Year’s resolution resonates deeply. Here, I’ve got five empowering strategies to foster a mindset that celebrates both body and mind positivity in the year ahead.
Practise mindful self-compassion
Begin the new year by emphasising the practice of self-compassion, embracing the inevitability of making mistakes, and experiencing failure while being comfortable with it. Engage in activities such as yoga, meditation, or simply indulge in a soothing bath to foster this self-compassionate mindset.
However, the true essence of self-compassion lies in actively participating in life, venturing into new experiences, and accepting the possibility of not always getting things right. How can you discover your passions or strengths without daring to try? The key is to stay present in the moment, allowing yourself the time to discern your desires and aspirations, appreciating and nurturing your body without passing judgement.
Make self-compassion a consistent part of your routine to develop a profound connection with your body, recognising and valuing its strength and resilience. Rather than fixating on concerns about the size of your thighs, appreciate them as powerful assets that allow you to conquer mountains. This will help create a sense of empowerment and facilitate connections with like-minded individuals.
Celebrate your achievements
Take the time to pause and reflect on your achievements, whether they are significant milestones or small victories. Take a moment to really sit with them and see how they make you feel. Whether you’ve achieved a fitness milestone, acquired a new skill, or successfully navigated a challenging day, recognising these accomplishments plays a pivotal role in cultivating a positive mindset.
A great way to add some joy to your life without actively seeking ‘happy’ things is by documenting three positive occurrences each day. This will help you in enhancing your awareness of the positive aspects of your life that already exist, things that you may have taken for granted or just not noticed before. By acknowledging and valuing your body and mind’s capabilities, you will foster a sense of pride and gratitude within yourself and help strengthen the idea that your identity is more than just your body.
Challenge negative thoughts
Consciously challenging negative thoughts about your body and replacing them with positive affirmations is the first step in creating a positive mindset that just comes naturally to you. Recognise that everyone possesses unique qualities that make them special, and there is no universally applicable definition of beauty. If you want to see how much of beauty is just following trends, just look at the ‘ideal’ body shape or facial features from even just the past 100 years; they change so frequently, it’s impossible to keep up! The best thing you can do for yourself is to embrace what you have and do your best to ignore the trends. I know, easier said than done.
Consider maintaining a journal where you record positive affirmations and revisit them regularly, or even stick some up around your house to keep them fresh in your mind. If I find one I really like, I’ll make it my phone lockscreen for a while too. Stay mindful, take a moment to acknowledge and understand (without shame) the desire to engage in activities like overeating, being sedentary, or excessive Netflix watching. Many times, these actions are habits formed to cope with less positive situations or emotions in the past and so become the default when these negative feelings come up again. Over time, a habit of positive affirmation and mindfulness can contribute to a shift in your mindset, helping establish a loving and accepting relationship with yourself.
Surround yourself with positivity
Cultivate a nurturing and optimistic atmosphere by surrounding yourself with individuals and content that embrace diversity and promote body positivity. If you use social media, try to connect with accounts that are all about self-love and acceptance, and actively participate in communities that foster constructive discussions. Unfollow accounts that contribute to negative body image or endorse unrealistic beauty standards. By carefully curating both your online and offline environments, you can cultivate a network around you that supports your journey towards body positivity.
Refrain from discussing others’ body shapes or weights, and be mindful of any judgemental thoughts. Passing such judgements can contribute to the development of an unhappy body image, potentially leading to body dysmorphia or dissatisfaction in others. The classic adage needs to be mentioned here: if you wouldn’t like it being said to you, don’t say it to anyone else! Being a kind and supportive person will help you, in turn, attract those kinds of people.
Wear what makes you feel confident
Fashion is one of the biggest ways that we practise self-expression these days, but it is also greatly influential in the way it can make us feel about ourselves and our body: comfortable, exposed, warm, cold, attractive, sluggish, cosy, upbeat, the list goes on! It’s not talked about a lot due to the strong presence of common brands and clothing expectations in our lives, but a fun and exciting way to defy societal norms is to embrace a sense of fashion that aligns with your personality.
This year, try experimenting with colours, patterns, and silhouettes that bring joy and make you physically and mentally comfortable in them. When your clothing resonates positively with you, it can enhance your body image, elevate your self-esteem, and nurture a healthier connection with your physical self.
Recently, I ventured to the shops in search of a comfortable, flowing dress that would make me feel comfortable and cool as we’re having some nice warm days. As I stood before the mirror, a ton of negative thoughts crept in, telling me to just get the other black dress that I tried on that supposedly concealed my ‘imperfections’. However, I took this opportunity to take a leap of faith and go for the fun bright dress that made me look and feel a way that I knew was truly joyful, not the false joy that comes from thinking, “Well black is ‘slimming’ so this dress will make me look good”. Although the bright dress is yet to make a feature at a fun event or catch-up, I recognise this as progress and a testament to acknowledging my own flaws. Even after a decade as a body-positive nutritionist, I am taking baby steps towards self-empowerment.
As we embrace the new year, let’s prioritise self-love and body positivity. By incorporating these five empowering practices into our lives, we can celebrate our bodies for their strength, resilience, and uniqueness, and leave behind those ideas of what our bodies ‘should’ be. Remember, the journey towards body positivity is a personal one and may be a long one, but every small step you take matters. Here’s to a year of self-love, acceptance, and embracing the beauty of diversity!