7 Body Positive Habits You Should Add to Your Routine

In a time where everyone has so much stress (side hustles, school, full-time work, you name it), parts of society have started to raise awareness for self-care tactics. Self-care, body positivity and increased kindness are all phrases used to refer to strategies that are meant to promote an overall mental and physical wellbeing and positive state of mind.

We spoke with Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN and author of Body Kindness, to discuss how to incorporate healthy, body-positive habits into your regular routine.

The main components to living a kind, heathy lifestyle can be hard to define. However, Scritchfield says to start off by figuring out what works. “Create a definition of health that works for you. It's about your choices and feeling good—not appearance. But there are times when you don't feel good and that's totally normal. So then it's about self-compassion and non-judgment. Talk to yourself like you would a good friend. Treat your body with kindness,” she says.

There are so many different ways to treat your body with kindness, so we’ve compiled seven tips that will hopefully give you the tools to build both your mental and physical confidence.

1. Think about your actions

It’s not only the way you interact with yourself that’s important. Thinking about the way you interact with other people, whether it be in person or through social media, can have an impact on the role that body kindness has on your life. Subscribing to body-positive bloggers and keeping up with companies that embrace body positivity are great, and can help normalize you to the idea of accepting the way your own body looks. However helpful doing this may be, it’s also important to think deeper about what body positivity and kindness means to you. One way you can do this is by stepping back and evaluating how the celebrities you follow on social media make you feel. When you look at their Instagram, do you feel empowered? Or do you feel kind of put down? If something in your life (even something like the people you follow) isn’t bringing you a sense of positivity, you may want to reconsider keeping it around.

“People have been working on fat activism since the 1950s and we still have a long way to go,” Scritchfield says. “I don't think we should stop at a ‘just love your rolls’ selfie. We should really think about our common humanity and what it means to judge people by their appearance. It's not helpful and it doesn't improve health and wellbeing.”

If you’re someone who tends to make comments to yourself or others regarding how people look, it may be better to start reevaluating the way you think about things. Rather than focusing on the positives or negatives of the way someone looks, try and find out more about them. Instead of just giving a compliment, start a conversation about the thing that you liked. Similarly, if you feel yourself starting to judge someone based on their physical appearance, take a step back and take stock of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

2. Remind yourself that there’s more to your identity than the way you look

It’s easy to get caught up in how you perceive your own physical appearance. Though the opinions of others shouldn’t be the base on which you perceive yourself, it may be helpful to evaluate physical attributes that others may like about you, that you don’t really connect with.

If someone compliments a part of your physical appearance that you’re not confident in, it may be beneficial to let those compliments give you some confidence.

“I like to point out parts of my body that people like (and I personally don't like) and to tell myself that I am lucky because people want what I have. I eventually start to love them,” says Jessica Morley, a first-year student at the University of South Wales in Britain.

Doing this will help build your physical confidence and open up your mind to look at some of your attributes in a different light from the viewpoint of others.

3. Unplug and get some sleep

It’s no secret that a lot of us are sleep-deprived. The demands of work and class are bound to cause some light nights and caffeine overloads. Sleep deprivation mixed with constantly being plugged-in can tire out your brain and ultimately cause you to overthink just about everything—including the lives of people who you’re friends with on social media. This can distract from getting the sleep you need in order to maintain a sense of mental balance.

“We tend to ‘compare and despair’ when we look at everyone's supposedly amazing lives on social media,” Scritchfield says. “You have to set boundaries on your time. Start with sleep. I recommend you don't have any devices in your bedroom and you get in bed one hour before you want to be sleeping for an 8-hour night, which most people need to have productive days.”

We hear time and time again that staying plugged in all the time can subconsciously play a negative role in the way our brain works, so it makes sense that one of the best ways to take care of yourself is to take a break from being on your phone.

4. Own the compliments you get

When you’re having a less-than-great self-esteem day, it’s easy to dismiss any compliments you may get. Being so quick to brush off compliments may decrease your ability to fully recognize how great you are.

Amanda Goecke, a senior at Carthage College, suggests doing the exact opposite. “When someone gives me a compliment on my physical appearance, I always take it with acceptance and grace rather than shooting it down.”

This advice works for physical appearance, as well as for compliments that may not be about the way you look. Is someone complimenting how on-top of everything you are? Own it.

Giving compliments can be a two-way street. Generally, giving compliments to other people can open you up to building new connections with people, and help give you a more positive outlook on the way you interact with people. Everyone’s heard of the golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated. So, you should go forth and do the same.

Related: 7 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Care

5. Say some affirmations

Affirmations can be a great way to ingrain deeper, lasting thoughts into your mind. Affirmations are often talked about in regards to how they can help build your confidence or even help you succeed at new endeavors, so it makes sense that they would be a good way of practicing self-care.

“I like to remind myself that there's literally no other person 100 percent exactly like me on the planet. Our uniqueness is truly incredible and that makes us special,” says Stephanie Huynh, a sophomore from Lehigh University. Smaller, more on-the-fly affirmations can be something as simple as, “you’ve got this” or “you can do it." Even written affirmations, like song lyrics or quotes (I have one next to my mirror that says “you don’t grow when you’re comfortable”), have the power to transform the way you think.

Affirmations like Stephanie’s can be incredibly helpful in rewiring the little voice in your brain that tries to push its’ doubts through. After repeatedly reminding yourself of the traits that you enjoy about yourself, or even your own uniqueness, you’re more likely to feel ready to take on the day and be your best self.

6. Take care of yourself

Something that may get overlooked when beginning your body positive journey is possibly the most simple way of practicing body positivity: simply taking care of yourself. We're all for treating yourself, but the primary way to make your body and your mind happy is to take care of them.

“Body positivity doesn’t mean just letting yourself go and having all the pizza or chocolate that you want, while telling yourself it’s okay. You still should eat healthy foods, exercise, have regular checkups and so on. And you should still take care of things that you don’t like about yourself that can be fixed. For example, there are many products on the market to treat acne, but there is nothing you can do about big feet. So, make an honest appraisal of yourself to fix what you can, and then just accept the things you can’t change,” says Carole Lieberman, M.D., Beverly Hills psychiatrist and author.

Making an honest appraisal of yourself isn't limited to evaluating what you can change about your appearance. It's also important to appraise your mental health. If your mental health is struggling, be sure to talk to someone about it and book an appointment with a therapist or psychiatrist. Seeing a professional can help you work out any mental blocks you may be having, as well as work on any other aspects of your life that may be bothering you.

7. Make a conscious decision to get started

The first step in your body positivity journey is to actually implement new ways of body positive thoughts and actions into your regular routine.

“You have to have a goal in mind, but people tend to make a lot of mistakes with goal-setting. In my book, I provide a whole framework for goal-setting do's and don'ts based on human psychology and behavior,” Scritchfield says. She offers the example, “Don't set a dead person's goal— something a dead person can do better than you—like I'll never eat chocolate cake again.” Instead, Scrichfield recommends describing the action you want to take. “It should be interesting and challenging, but not overwhelming. Take action repeatedly and it will become a habit,” she says.

When making the decision to live a more kind, body-positive life, it will help if you have a support system with similar goals. “It helps to form a group of friends who believe in body positivity, so you can support each other,” says Lieberman.

Though it may seem enticing to start practicing every type of body kindness at once, don’t jump into your goals right away. Give yourself time to think through the plans you have and the actions you want to take.

Life is stressful, and it’s important to take care of yourself. Embracing plans to be kind to yourself and practice body positivity can help you destress.