I recently had a conversation with a group of friends that blew my mind. It started with Lady A saying, “I don’t hate my body. Yeah, there are changes I want to make, but I don’t loathe it anymore. My body is the shit. I want it to last a long time. We are beautiful. Our bodies are the shit.”
We stared over the table at each other for a moment, drinks forgotten.
“You know what?” I said. “I don’t hate my body anymore either. Every time I start to say negative stuff about my body, I remember everything it’s done and continues to do. Our bodies are the shit!”
Lady B said, “I haven’t hated my body for a long time. Well, I would like to have a more toned stomach area but yeah, no more hate. Our bodies are temples! In fact, I love myself!”
“Inside and out!” I said.
That pretty much led to a toast, the bulk of which involved, “Our bodies are the shit! Our bodies are temples! We love ourselves! Inside and out!” And though we went on with our evening, that conversation stuck with me for a long time.
I’ve known these women for years, some for decades. We’ve spent a lot of time hating our bodies, being mean to ourselves in our own heads, putting ourselves down, not giving ourselves credit. Changing how we feel about ourselves and what we put into our bodies and minds and evaluating what comes out. Wrestling and struggling and overcoming so that we could be our own people, our own women.
My mind was overrun with burning questions: What made the difference? What helped us to change? What helped us get to this place in our lives, and what keeps us going? What has helped us cultivate this happiness with ourselves – inside and out – like a garden of delights?
I remembered different events in our lives and reflected on how we have changed over the years, and pretty soon I had a list of specific ways that I have cultivate this garden of happiness. I stopped at 44 ways, simply because I am 44 this year. Here is the first half of the list in no particular order. Take what you want, use what you can!
#1. Retrain your brain. Just because you’ve responded one way for a long time doesn’t mean that you can’t change. Life is not all or nothing. Failure is feedback, not an excuse to give up.
#2. Evaluate your choices and routines. Are they working for you? If not, make adjustments.
#3. Get rid of toxic people. Some of these people may be related to you. Doesn’t mean that they aren’t toxic. It’s hard, but it’s worth it (that’s what she said).
#4. Stop doing what doesn’t serve you. In my case, one of those was my husband. Take that as you will.
#5. Get professional help. Of all kinds. I like to say that, “It takes a village to raise a Kelly.” I have a lot of people working on me: doctors, therapist, massage therapist, acupuncturist, personal trainer, dentist, chiropractor, and more I can’t even think of right now. Just because you’ve always handled everything alone doesn’t mean that you still have to.
#6. Help people. Volunteer for your kids’ stuff or with other organizations. The world needs you. Your community needs you.
#7. Say yes. A lot. Get out there and experience life and do stuff you haven’t done before.
#8. Ground yourself. Go for a walk, play with your kids, bake something, listen to your favorite playlist, whatever does it.
#9. Go dry. Take some time away from alcohol or whatever else is legal in your state.
#10. Eat nutritious food. Cook for yourself. Meal prep for lunches during busy work days. Buy healthy snacks.
#11. Start a new hobby, something that you’ve always wanted to do but put off until “someday” or “later.”
#12. Clean out a closet. Or a room. Or your pants pockets.
#13. Practice vulnerability. Especially in relationships with your people. These are the hardest but worth the most (also that’s what she said).
#14. Say what you mean. As precisely as possible.
#15. Don’t make assumptions. Ask questions.
#16. Shut down the shitty committee. They lie.
#17. Be present. In this moment, right here, right now.
#18. Make a different choice. To have a different life, you must make a different choice.
#19. Practice The Pause. That space between action and reaction.
#20. Cuddle people, animals, pillows, the Anxiety Blob. This is also known as hugging or snuggling. By far some of the most valuable time spent.
#21. Laugh. Deeply, from the center of your body. Guffaw, head thrown back. Also giggle, snicker, snarf, and chuckle.
#22. Move your body. For a minute or hour or whatever.
Stay tuned for the rest of the list!