Words by Jasmine Pradhan
Today marks the beginning of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, pioneered by the Mental Health Foundation, and this year’s theme is ‘Body Image’.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us have experienced body image issues over the course of our lifetimes. We are bombarded by daily advertisements whose success relies solely on making us feel not-quite-good-enough”, diet culture is pervasive, and 1 in 3 people suffer from such severe body image issues that they feel ‘overwhelmed and unable to cope’.
Throughout the week we’ll be using the hashtag #wearetheoneinthree to share personal experiences from the Balance Garden community around body image and mental health. We’d love you to join the movement and share your stories about your own journeys with us. Speaking out breaks the stigma, raises awareness and helps people to feel less alone. Together we rise.
Here at Balance Garden, we are unwavering advocates of opening up the conversation around mental health, and we are proud to say that one of our key values is challenging the status quo around body image and self esteem. We are happy to be supporting Mental Health Awareness Week with a series of articles and honest and vulnerable offerings from our contributors, to show you that you are not alone if you are one of the many people who ride the wave of mental health issues, body image related or not. It is our pleasure to offer you some tools and techniques to create a more peaceful relationship with that wonderful body of yours.
Below, I’ve collated some of articles from the Balance Garden archive that can help rewrite the conversation with your body, but before that here are some of my own suggestions:
Stop reading “women’s magazines”. Immediately. They are packed full of airbrushed models and advertisements for things that make you feel like you are somehow not good enough. True, the conversations they are having within those glossy pages might be progressing marginally, but the images are the same - and I don’t think I’m the only one who feels crap about myself after reading them.
If you haven’t already, find a movement practice that helps you to enjoy your body and creates positive associations around it. Yoga, dance, qoya etc. are all good options. It’s crucial that the motivation behind the practice is pleasure over potential aesthetic benefits. (If you are London based don’t forget to check out our fortnightly FREE “Yoga for Mental Health” sessions in partnership with The Dragon Cafe in the City.)
Start following some “body positive” Instagram users, Pandora Paloma of @RootedLiving_ is a good place to start. And immediately unfollow anyone who uses the phrases “summer body” or “bikini body”. It seems innocuous because it’s so pervasive, but all those subconscious impressions just reinforce the message that you somehow need to be different that you are in order to be worthy of love and appreciation from yourself and others -which is not the case.
Perhaps one of the most helpful things in my own tumultuous body image journey, has been to focus on accepting rather than loving my body. Loving your body can feel totally impossible at times (although let’s hope we get there one day), but accepting it feels more in reach. Moment by moment, stretch mark by stretch mark, emotional wobble by emotional wobble. Work on acceptance first and love will follow.
If you are finding it difficult to cope and you’re not sure where to turn, reach out to any of the organisations listed HERE, to be put in touch with compassionate professionals who are on hand to help you through.
Articles from the Balance Garden archive to help you on your journey to self acceptance
Learn The Art Of Self Love In A Culture Of Criticism and Comparison
Excerpt: “Some of my earliest childhood memories are snapshots of the profound loathing I had for my body. I can vividly recall my formative summer holidays, and how terribly self-conscious I felt about my ‘enormous’ thighs, which were reluctantly exposed to the world in my cut off denim shorts.”
2. Affirmations For Each Of Our Five Bodies
Excerpt: “I’ve found that widening my perspective to all five bodies has helped me navigate some of life’s biggest challenges. Each of the koshas or bodies have their own way that they relate to our sense of self and we may identify more with one than the other which can cause imbalance, perhaps you see yourself as a physical being, or prioritising intellect over caring for your physical self.
Bring awareness to the experiences of each of your five bodies and seek to strike a rounded balance in all you set out to achieve in life.”
3. How To Use Biofeedback To Feel Good Within Yourself
Excerpt: “Simple actions like changing your posture or slowing your breathing can impact your brain activity and as a result your stress level, your thoughts and even your mood. And so you can increase the effects of biofeedback by increasing your awareness of your body.”
4. How To Boost Your Self Esteem
Excerpt: “Self-esteem is our own personal evaluation of our self and our own worth. It includes values, beliefs about ourselves, assurance and even our emotional states. Feeling confident and being happy in your own skin stems from an authentic connection with your true self.“
Hopefully you’ll find the articles above helpful in cultivating a more accepting and loving relationship with your body. All this week look out on social media @balancegarden for more articles and offerings along the same theme.
Don’t forget to tag us and use the hashtag #wearetheoneinthree to share your own journey with body image and mental health with this supportive community.