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Your body, your closest friend: body image explained

07 Feb 2023 15 min read
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Ruby Liu MY

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Self-exploration
Mindfulness
Psychotherapy
Community mental health

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aware of body


Body positivity is a recent movement popular in the mass media that promotes acceptance and empowerment of all body types and encourages confidence towards our bodies. This idea suggests that people accept all body types regardless of their physical ability, size, gender, race, or appearance. However, there are also people saying that if I don't fancy my body, how can I be in love with it?

Body neutrality echoes such doubts - instead of intentionally focusing on our appearance, we can focus on our body's functions. This means appreciating our body's ability to do things for ourselves, such as

  • Legs that walk you over a slope
  • Skin that lets you soak up the warmth of the sun
  • Ears that take in melodies to your heart
  • Intestines that absorb nutrients and replenish you with energy
  • And so, so much more...

A harmonious relationship with the body and mind begins with honoring and thanking our bodies.

Scholars, Marika Tiggemann and Kristy Hage, invited 345 women to participate in a study on "spirituality and body image" and found that spirituality is deeply connected to positive body image. Spirituality is defined as a person's journey to self-actualization, personal fulfillment, peace, meaning of life, self-acceptance, and connection with both inside and outside. People who are deeply spiritual are less concerned with their physical attractiveness and less likely to self-objectify.

The scholars further suggested ways to build a positive body image, including:

  • Writing gratitude journals, thank you letters to appreciate our healthy and functional body (we invite you to do a guided body scan exercise at the end of this article*)
  • Participating in activities that focus on both physical and mental quality, such as sports, yoga, and other embodying activities that facilitate mind-body integration
  • Participating in activities that enhance our awareness and mindfulness, such as breathing exercises and body scan

In addition, we can choose the information we browse more consciously, reflect on the content we read, the social media accounts we follow, and the values behind them. We can also set up a digital detox schedule for ourselves. Meanwhile, we can actively share our views on body image, encouraging a diversified, open, and inclusive discussion, and bringing our perspectives to the prevailing views on body image in the society.

What is your motivation?

In the age of "no pictures, no truth", photos are, to some extent, a way for us to present ourselves to others. In addition to body image, it is also about self-image such as personality, intelligence, lifestyle, and social status. 

As the saying goes, "nothing hurts if you don't let it", it is still inevitable that we live in the eyes of others or ourselves, as we are born as part of the society and the community.

When we struggle with our body image, make self-criticism, or are trying to make certain decisions related to our bodies, we can take a look at these thoughts, ideas, and behaviors to see if they actually benefit us. Do you agree with the values behind these thoughts? Do these decisions empower you to feel more confident and competent, allowing you to have a more comfortable and fulfilling life?

We can apply the self-determination theory - do you pursue something that you truly value, that is inspired by your own intrinsic, autonomous motivation? Or is it more about controlled motivation, such as satisfying other people's expectations or social norms? Making a conscious choice for yourself after reflection; finding the most comfortable way to be with your body.

Living in a society that places a high value on physical attractiveness, we can be our own guardians and define beauty on our own terms.


look after mind body daily

10-Minute Body Scan Meditation 

Here, we invite you to spend about 10 minutes to feel the state of your body, listening to its needs and signals.

 (SCRIPT)

(Ting)  

Now we will do a body scan exercise. Its intention is to cultivate awareness of bodily sensations. 

Now allow your body to quiet down slowly. According to your own needs at this moment, you may choose to sit or lie down. You may close your eyes or gently look at a certain point. Sense the contact between your body and the chair or the bed. Let your body sink to the chair or the bed as you breathe and feel the support to your body from the chair or the bed. 

Now slowly bring your attention to your left leg and observe the sensations in your left leg. From the toes to the calf, then to the knee and to the thigh – cold or hot, loose or tight, itchy or painful, or feel nothing. You don’t need to change or create any feelings, just observe them and you can say to yourself “Hmm, I have these feelings right now.” 

Now slowly bring your attention to your right leg and observe the sensations in your right leg. From the toes to the calf, then to the knee and to the thigh. What do you notice? You don’t need to change or create any feelings, just observe them gently and acknowledge what you feel.   

If you notice that your attention wanders, you don't have to judge yourself. Just notice what happens in your mind and gently bring your attention back to the body part which you are observing. 

Now bring your attention slowly to your hip, your abdomen, your waist, your chest and your back. What do you feel right now? Maybe some parts are loose while some are tight. You may sense your body movement as you breathe – expand and contract, rise and fall. Observe the emergence and disappearance of sensations with curiosity. You don’t need to push them away or hold onto them. 

If you feel any discomfort, you can choose to keep sensing them gently or adjust your body with awareness to take care of this feeling.  

Now slowly bring your attention to your left arm, from the fingers to the wrist then to the arm. What do you feel at this moment? Notice your sensations – obvious or obscure. You don’t need to change or create any feelings, just observe them and say to yourself gently “Hmm I have these feelings right now.” 

Now slowly bring your attention to your right arm, from the fingers to the wrist then to the arm. What do you feel? Observe your sensations gently and accept what you feel at this moment as it is.  

Now bring your attention to your shoulders. Our shoulders carry many burdens for us every day, let’s spend some time feeling them and giving thanks to them. Do you notice any difference in sensations in your left shoulder and your right shoulder? 

Now bring your attention to your neck, your face and your head. Notice your feelings of your skin and muscles as well as your facial expressions. Observe them with curiosity. Maybe some parts are loose while some are tight. Observe the emergence and disappearance of your feelings with curiosity. You don’t need to push them away or hold onto them.  

Now expand your attention to your whole body. Feel the sensations throughout your whole body at this moment as you breathe.  

This is the end of the body scan exercise. When you hear the bell rings, you may open your eyes slowly and stretch slightly if needed to complete this practice. Take your time. You can thank yourself for spending time communicating with your body and taking care of yourself.  

(Ting) 


Self-exploration
Mindfulness
Psychotherapy
Community mental health
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Ruby Liu MY

Well-being Promotion Officer of Jockey Club TourHeart+ Project

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