SPEND THIS YEAR WORKING ON HOW YOU SEE YOURSELF
It’s January again, which means new year’s resolutions out the wazoo. We’re pressured to sit down and evaluate our lives as we dab foundation onto our faces and fill our champagne flutes. We ask ourselves; What do I dislike about myself? What do I want to change about my life? So often our eyes wander down to the bulges in our dresses. It’s time to ramp up the workout and cut out the sugar, we think. New year, new me… Right?
What if this year, instead of focusing on what we dislike about ourselves we commit to loving our bodies instead? The self-love mantra has been chanted for years, prevalent on our feeds and in cute inspirational messages on our coffee cups. But how many of us have actually put in the work to really love ourselves? This year, instead of forcing our bodies into diets and shapers, let’s learn to smile when we look in the mirror.
This resolution is no less work than a vigorous diet and gym routine. It requires work everyday and sometimes feels impossible. But the results are stunning, even though they aren’t always visible. In order to see results, we use tips from cognitive behavior therapy, which aims to improve mental health by challenging negative thoughts. If you have the time and money, finding a professional cognitive behavior therapist would be ideal.
First and foremost, we’ve got to figure out how our brains work. Understanding what cognitive behavior therapy is and how it sees results will allow us to use parts of it safely. If you’d like a schedule, you could dedicate January to this task. Books like Understanding the Brain by John E. Dowling go in depth on the brain as a whole, which is a great place to start. Find other articles, videos, and journals on cognitive behavior therapy until you feel like you have a solid grasp on why your brain works the way it does.
Next, we jump into the hard stuff; It’s time to rewire our minds. There’s a slew of methods you could try to do this, and everyone will find more success with different tools. Getting rid of scales is a good first experiment. See if you’re happier after you stop weighing yourself. Smiling when you look at the mirror is another neat trick. Every time you’re looking in the mirror, even if it’s just a glance, try to flash yourself a smile. Eventually, you’ll force your brain to associate your reflection with a touch of happiness.
More importantly, you’ll need to actively assess your thinking. This is called metacognition, and it’s arguably what makes us human. Whether you use a journal, meditation, a touch of reflection before bed, or just try to notice it whenever, you’ll need to learn to identify when you’re having negative thoughts. Why did that evil little voice pipe up? What did it say? Now that we know how the brain generally works, you’ll need to figure out how your own mind does things. This will be different for everyone, and the methods will often overlap, so the schedule is up for you to decide.
Once we understand the patterns of our minds we can build a strategy to dismantle the negativity that’s housed there. Replacement is usually the best move. When you realize you’re putting yourself down, counter that evil voice with a positive one. Your stretch marks are embarrassing? Stretch marks represent growth, and show how much you’ve grown as a person. Growth is hard, but it’s what makes people good. This resolution is one of those hard, good kinds of growth. Stopping that negative voice and finding things to replace it with is a lot of work, but we come out better versions of ourselves at the end.
One more thing you should build into your plan is to learn about your body. Similar to the brain, understanding why your body does certain things makes it more forgivable. We’re made of trillions of cells that work their whole lives to ensure that our bodies are able to function. That fat cell is trying to protect you from starving. Maybe it doesn’t now, but knowing that might make it a little harder to hate.
Of course, pursuing a healthier lifestyle is a noble challenge. Treating your body with love and respect means keeping it healthy, and new year’s resolutions are a great way to kickstart that journey. But don’t feel obligated to do pushups just because it’s January. Resolutions are about doing what’s best for you, and learning to love yourself might bring you closer to that new you than you expect.