woman hugging herself
Our last Refocus event for our Strive community focused on Body Confidence discussing how best we can look after and be confident in our mind and body. We have an overview below. 
To talk about body confidence, we must first understand the true meaning of compassion. There are seven components to compassion 
 
kindness 
understanding 
respect 
dignity 
wisdom 
courage 
strength. 
The 7 Components & 3 Flows of Compassion
Our mind and body are linked. What affects one also affects the other. If we can be healthy, compassionate, and confident in our shell, we can be the same in our minds. 
 
One thing to note is that our bodies are designed for survival. We as humans have learnt our best chance of survival is to be in a pack, a group. We care about other people’s opinions because of this. We cannot remove this evaluative part of our minds, instead we can learn to control how it affects us. 
 
When working with anybody in a state of distress, the first thing to do is to check their basic bodily needs are being met. Is the person sleeping and eating well? Are they hydrated and keeping active? These things could seem irrelevant if the strong connection between mind and body are ignored. Mental health issues like eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia are examples of how strongly the two are linked. 
Consistent phrases you say to yourself become automated thoughts; they transfer from our conscious to our subconscious minds. So, if our self-talk is consistently negative, these become core beliefs. We may get these standards we set for ourselves from social media - seeing repetitive representations of ‘perfect bodies’ can act as a cue for negative self-talk about the way we look in comparison. This can then affect how we treat our bodies or vice versa. 

How can we change negative self-talk about the way we look? 

The first thing to do is to identify what belief it is we have about ourselves that we want to change. For example, “I’m ugly” or “I'm fat.” We then need to recognise that this belief has come from unrealistic standards and us not being truly compassionate to ourselves. 
 
The new belief we want to create would be: “My external appearance does not determine my self worth.” It takes work to disrupt our current thinking patterns, they have become so automated, and it may be something you have believed for some time. This does not mean that it cannot be replaced with a healthier, more helpful way of thinking. 
The first thing we can do is affirmations. An affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that should be repeated to oneself and written down frequently to enter your subconscious mind.  
 
So, in this instance, you would repeat or write your new belief: ““My external appearance does not determine my self worth.” 
woman writing affirmations for self-acceptance
A few Affirmation tips: 
 
Our subconscious lives in the now with no sense of time so for affirmations to be effective, it is said that they need to be present tense e.g. I am confident, not I will be confident 
Use your own language patterns/words. Keep sentences brief & say them with feeling. If you don't mean it, you won't believe it. 
Say affirmations first thing in the morning and last thing at night at least. The more frequently you repeat/write them, the quicker they enter your subconscious. 
Put affirmations on sticky notes around the house. You could also put them as a wallpaper or set them as repeating notifications on your phone. 
 
Our resources for Strive members include more on Affirmations including interactive activities.  
Going back to compassion, we need to ensure we employ good self-care and self-compassion. This doesn’t just mean looking after ourselves physically - but it means accepting ourselves as a fallible human being, one who is not perfect but doing their best. We must only say things to ourselves if we would be comfortable to say that out loud to someone we love and care about. 
 
We can also use cognitive techniques like challenging thoughts, rational questioning as well as visualisation and imagery practices.  
 
We also need to keep in mind that our thinking patterns have become comfortable for us. Although they are unhelpful, they have become our ‘normal.’ Changing our beliefs involves stepping truly outside of your comfort zone. 
 
"Life begins at the end  
of your comfort zone" 
We also need to keep in mind that our thinking patterns have become comfortable for us. Although they are unhelpful, they have become our ‘normal.’ Changing our beliefs involves stepping truly outside of your comfort zone. 

How do we look after our bodies in the best way? 

1. Health 
Immunity is a major topic in health. Low immunity can be the result of: 
 
Excessive stress 
Overwhelming workload or training 
Gut microbiome diversity 
High blood sugars 
Lack of sleep 
2. Exercise 
Our bodies are designed to run, walk & move between 10-15km per day. Movement allows us to: 
 
Feel stronger, fitter, and healthier 
Be more able to fight disease 
Have a better quality of life 
Release our natural ‘feel-good chemicals’ such as endorphins or dopamine 
Adults over 40 who run, walk, train a couple of times a week can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by 40%! 
Exercise keeps our body running at optimal health by providing the necessary amounts of energy and oxygen to all areas/ parts of the body (mainly from the heart pumping them through our circulatory system.) 
Life nowadays is sedentary. Sitting all day in the office, eating high sugar foods for the periodic energy high throughout the day to get you through and then crash when you get home to not have the energy to do anything but watch the TV. We must move past this - literally. We need to keep our activity levels up and let our bodies do what they are designed to do. 
3. Nutrition 
We must feed our bodies with the nutrients required to maintain health and support growth. Nutrition at its very basic core should be natural and all the colours of the rainbow. If there are ingredients on the packet, then it isn’t natural. The fact that it's in a packet means: 
 
Preservatives 
Refined sugars 
Fat 
Excess salt 
The food industry has paid millions in research, to scientists, to produce foods with exactly the right amounts of refined sugar, fat and salts to put your brain on high alert for more and more of these “fat bombs”. The exact same foods are fed to laboratory rats, mice, and other animals to fatten them up as quick as possible. 
chemistry lab
Ours brains are very clever in the fact that they fire wonderful chemicals - hormones, into and around our bodies to produce pleasure to make sure we satisfy our basic human needs of reproduction and survival. 
 
The basis of our survival since the beginning was that we were to be able to find and eat food by hunting and gathering. 
 
Foods high in sugar, and fat give us the most energy so our body rewards us the most with pleasure when it is satisfied with these and the scientists have worked out just the right amounts. 
 
And the thing is, in nature, there isn’t anywhere else you will find a food containing both together– these fat bombs are designed to keep you wanting more and more, like a drug. 
4. Recovery 
Recovery is an extremely important aspect of our health. Lack of rest and sleep can: 
 
Affect our ability to learn and concentrate 
Cause our bodies to search for high sugar foods to compensate for the lack of energy 
Affect our immune system 
Heighten the risk of depression 
Decrease attention span & decision-making ability 
Heighten injury risk 
Seriously affect our brains ability to function and convert short term memory into long term memory 
illustration of someone looking at their phone
Anything less than 6 hours of sleep per night can affect our brain function and performance by 20% and rising. The optimal amount of sleep required for an elite athlete is between 8.5 & 10 hours per night. 
 
You can die from lack of sleep, and it doesn’t take many days missed. It is no coincidence that various modes of torture in the past have employed sleep deprivation as a tactic. Sleep quality is also very important. 
There are scales to this. At one end we have Elite athletes striving for peak performance and at the other there are people who don't eat well, lack sleep, and do not exercise – immune systems depleted. And in the middle is a happy medium. 
 
We all need the odd, small pleasure. But just remember that pleasures can be the source of addiction. We need to strive towards a state of enjoyment. 
 
The pleasure is the short sugar high, the bottle of wine, etc. Being healthy is longer lasting, better for you and more sustainable. 
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