When I came up with this series of posts on mindfulness, I knew that this fourth part would be the most relevant for me (and maybe the most difficult to write). As a refresher, mindfulness is the act of being fully engaged in the present moment, being aware of all the sensations, feelings, and thoughts that you experience in that moment without judging those sensations, feelings or thoughts. Let me repeat that because it’s so important: mindfulness invites us to be aware without judgment. Judgment comes from the attitudes we have about our thoughts. When we practice mindfulness, we become adept at noticing our thoughts without attaching any meaning to them.
If you have ever dealt with disordered eating, you have most likely also dealt with distorted body image, seeing yourself very differently from the way others see you or being hyperfocused on certain body parts to the exclusion of the whole body. Others of you may experience hypochondria and be very tuned into the aches, pains, and sensations within your body. You may even judge those sensations as negative, believing that they indicate a major health concern. As a result, becoming aware of the body without judgment can be really challenging.
Here’s how mindfulness can help: When I look in the mirror, my distorted body image might lead me to the thought, “I look fat today.” A more mindfully aware self-thought might be, “I look different today.” I might take it further and do a mental scan of my body and take note of sensations I feel: “I notice my pants feel tighter around my waist. I notice I’m taking shallow breaths. I notice my mouth and lips are dry. I notice my eyes feel heavy.” These objective observations may lead me to the logical conclusion that I’m dehydrated or tired. Take note that these observations do NOT lead to, “OHMYGOSH I’m so fat I need to go on a diet right now and get my fat ass out of the house to exercise this very minute or I’ll just be a complete and total failure for the rest of my life!” The former is simple awareness without judgment. The latter is complete judgment. It is our judgment of our body’s sensations that distracts us from the truth about our body’s needs, be it for rest, hydration, nutrition, or play (I like the word “play” rather than “exercise”).
So, mindful awareness of the body can lead us to a better understanding of the body’s needs, which can allow us to better tend to those needs.
Take a few moments today to sit quietly and scan your body. What is it trying to tell you? Be sure to scan and simply notice, without judging those sensations. It might be difficult at first. It takes practice, but it can really help quiet that inner critic/judge.
Peace, joy, and health,