In the age of social media, we’re surrounded by idealized images of beauty more than ever before. These images can create expectations that are impossible to meet, leaving us feeling inadequate and ashamed about our own looks. It’s no surprise, then, that a majority of young women and many men feel insecure about some aspect of their appearance.
As “normal” as body dissatisfaction may seem, it can have serious negative effects. For some people, it can lead to eating disorders or other mental illness. But even if it doesn’t reach those extremes, it can detract from quality of life in other ways. For example, research has shown that body image concerns can impair academic performance and reduce sexual pleasure in both men and women.
One way to address body dissatisfaction is to change the way we think about our bodies, shifting the focus from evaluation and critique to care and appreciation. Recent research suggests that self-compassion may be particularly helpful for easing appearance-related concerns and promoting a positive body image. Here are five ways it works.
1. It puts media images into perspective. One major source of body shame comes from taking media images of beauty to heart and feeling compelled to live up to them. In one study, self-compassionate women were less likely to internalize media pressure to be thin or to engage in disordered eating related to media exposure. But self-compassion goes beyond simply turning the tables on which body types are valued and which ones are disparaged. Instead, it involves acknowledging that beauty comes in many forms, and that no one is perfect.
2. It helps us stay in tune with our physical states. Attention is a limited resource: When we’re focused on how our body looks, we’re often less aware of how it feels—and therefore less in touch with signs of hunger and fullness, feelings of pleasure and pain, and even the sensation of our heartbeat. Research suggests that self-compassion is associated with lower levels of self-objectification, the tendency to habitually take an observer’s perspective on one’s own body rather than experiencing it from the inside out.
3. It makes us appreciate what our bodies can do. Because self-compassion is rooted in a genuine sense of care and concern for our psychological and physical well-being, it should lead us to view our bodies as precious and motivate us to be loving and kind to our physical selves, rather than harshly self-critical. Consistent with this idea, one study found that participants who completed three weeks of self-compassion meditation training reported an increase in body appreciation, which involves feelings of body acceptance and respect.
4. It reduces self-punishment. Being compassionate about perceived body flaws doesn’t necessarily take away their sting, but it can minimize the extent to which feeling unattractive makes people feel worthless or undeserving. In one study, exposure to a self-compassion intervention reduced the extent to which participants based their self-worth on their appearance, and in another, participants who were more self-compassionate about a perceived body flaw were less likely to report that they turned down a chocolate candy (offered by the experimenter) in order to punish themselves.
5. It makes other people allies, not competition. One of the key components of self-compassion is common humanity, which refers to the recognition that other people struggle too. That friend who seems to always look perfect on social media is probably spending a lot of time behind the scenes setting up their shots and deleting outtakes—and might have plenty of insecurities of their own. When other people become targets of social comparison and competition, we might miss what’s really going on with them under the surface, and we might berate ourselves for failing to live us to standards that aren’t even real.
Specific practices for increasing appearance-related self-compassion are described in this article and are available at http://www.selfcompassion.org/ under Practices. Research suggests that making a habit of these practices can lead to lasting improvements in body image.
author credit: Juliana Breines Ph.D on Psychology Today article link
Image location: Sera Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet
Copyright Kate McKenna. All Rights Reserved.
Spring is the king of seasons— a time of sunshine and cheer, love and creativity. Mother Earth wakes up and causes sprouting; energy moves up; everything is blooming, full of color. We begin to feel more energetic and spend more time outdoors, where children are playing and the birds are singing. Spring is the season of celebration.
Spring is the king of seasons— a time of sunshine and cheer, love and creativity.
The qualities of spring are warm, moist, gentle, and unctuous. Due to the warmth, the accumulated snow and ice of winter begin to melt. Similarly, accumulated kapha (the mind-body force responsible for lubrication and sustained energy) in the body starts liquefying and running. That is why so many of us get spring colds. In addition, as flowers shed their pollen and emit sweet fragrances, many people get hay fever and allergies.
If you have a runny nose, asthma, congestion, or allergies; if you are feeling lazy, greedy, or attached, you probably have excess kapha. The best way to avoid these symptoms is to follow a kapha-reducing regimen. Try the time-tested tips below and you’ll enjoy the best of spring.
If you have a runny nose, asthma, congestion, or allergies, you probably have excess kapha.
1. Do a Spring Detox
Try a weekly juice fast with fresh fruits and veggies such as carrots, beets, broccoli, parsley, apples, pomegranates, or berries, and take one teaspoon of triphala (an ayurvedic herbal compound) with a cup of hot water at night to keep the colon clean. You can also sign up for a 3- to 10-day panchakarma treatment at a well-reputed ayurveda clinic. Panchakarma, a cleansing and rejuvenation regimen, detoxifies the system, purifies the bodily tissues, and strengthens the immune system. Then, under the guidance of a qualified practitioner, follow instructions for a personalized rasayana (ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy) that will leave you feeling light and vivacious.
2. Take Energizing Herbs
Good kapha-reducing herbs for spring include ginger, black pepper, trikatu, kutki, punarnava. Look for them online or at your local Indian or health food store.
3. Stay Active
Sleeping after sunrise imbalances the kapha dosha. Instead, wake up early and go for a morning walk. Then practice invigorating sun salutations and asanas like fish, boat, bow, locust, lion, camel, headstand, and shoulderstand. Follow your hatha routine with energizing pranayama practices like bhastrika (the breath of fire), kapalabhati (the glowing skull breath), and brahmari.
4. Adapt Your Diet
Agni (digestive fire) is low in the spring. That’s why ayurveda suggests eating less than you did in winter—when agni is high—especially if your predominant dosha is kapha.
Eat light, warming foods
Bitter, pungent, and astringent foods are ideal for the spring. Enjoy a whole-foods diet of legumes such as yellow split peas, red lentils, garbanzos, pinto beans, soy products, and grains such as barley, buckwheat, corn, millet, or oats. For vegetables, try broccoli, radishes, spinach, okra, asparagus, artichokes, and onions, with hot spices like garlic, ginger, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and chili pepper. Salads with spring greens like dandelion and fresh-leaf lettuces will reduce kapha (although vata-dominant people should eat these sparingly). You can also eat pears, plums, apples, pomegranates, and rhubarb in moderation.
Make Digestive Drinks
To keep your agni strong, drink a tea of cumin, coriander, and fennel powder in equal proportions, or make a homemade lassi: Combine 1 part yogurt with 4 parts water and 1/4 teaspoon of roasted cumin seed. Blend until creamy.
Avoid cold, heavy foods
Sour, sweet, and salty foods like citrus fruits, ice cream, and potato chips increase the kapha dosha and should be avoided. Also reduce your use of dairy products and iced drinks—they dampen your digestive fire.
Use more honey
According to ayurveda, honey is heating and helps balance kapha in the spring. Use it as an alternative sweetener, or treat yourself to a cup of hot water with a teaspoon of honey.
author credit: Vasant Lad on Yoga International link to article