Beating the Body Blues

how to beat the body blues

Body blues can hit for a thousand different reasons. Many of those reasons are big and heavy and far-reaching and nothing that can be “fixed” by a simple behavioral change or shift in consciousness. Body blues vary in depth and breadth, and I’ve no intention of minimizing the challenges posed by that constant, low-level drone of self-loathing that can settle into your life and linger for ages.

But some body blues are more fleeting. Sometimes you’ve felt good for a nice, long stretch then get hit by a surprising setback. Sometimes you can feel leaden and discouraged, but sense that a shift toward positivity is within reach. Sometimes you know that taking action will help. Maybe just a little. So here are some suggestions for activities and ideas that might help you beat the body blues.

Wear Color

If you’re feeling self-conscious about your body, you may gravitate toward black, gray, and other dark neutrals. If you can force yourself to wear color, you just might be astonished by how quickly it’ll lift your spirits. If specific body parts are causing you anxiety, don’t feel obliged to bathe them in color. You don’t even need to go the clothing route! Switch to a bright handbag, throw on a colorful scarf, slip on your favorite neon ballet flats. Wearing color may not have a direct effect on your body image, but seeing color generally provides a little shot of joy. And if you see that delightful color on your body, that loosey-goosey connection can tighten up a bit.

Exercise

Let me be clear: I know that body blues are often related to weight gain, and I am NOT suggesting that you begin a strenuous workout routine so you can shed those extra pounds and feel better. That’s not how I roll. But I do believe in the power of endorphins, and getting your body moving is one of the quickest ways to dump those babies into your system. When I’m feeling crappy about my body, I always want to skip the gym. And I mean always. But when I force myself to go, I am always astonished by how much better I feel.

Practice Positive Self-talk

If you’re already hanging out in the Valley of Self-loathing, likelihood is you’re busily trash-talking your body. Maybe not out loud, but internally. And one of the best ways to make that stop is simply to make yourself mindful. When you realize that you’re saying nasty things to your upper arms or rear end, pause, breathe deeply, and take the opportunity to re-route your thinking. Express a positive thought about your body – its strength, agility, resilience, beauty, balance, grace, anything at all. The more you’re able to do this, the quicker you’ll zip out of that valley. (Quick note: Don’t worry if you can’t always do this. The last thing you need is to realize you’ve been engaging in negative self-talk, and then beat yourself up for failing to reverse the behavior! Go easy on yourself.)

Again, body blues will vary in severity. These practices won’t banish any body blues indefinitely, but may help a bit in many cases. And as anyone who has visited the Valley of Self-loathing will tell you, a little bit can go a long way.

Image courtesy craigCloutier.

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  • I agree with the suggestion to exercise. I can feel so utterly down about some aspect of my body and I have finally learned that relief is only one workout away. Also, I go through phases where I enjoy pushing myself to the max, and phases where I just need a very easy-going routine. Either type of workout does the trick for me. And, as a middle-aged woman, I cannot emphasize enough how important a good warmup is – even if you are just going for 209 minute walk. Recently I signed up for a website called Pilates anywhere. It is an easy to search for short (10-20 minute) routines and you can go as easy as you want. I have been very pleased with these as warmups for the cardio I prefer. Long post, but just had to share what works for me!

  • I practice the color – nothing makes me feel better than putting on an outfit full of color and that looks and feels good on me. This post was right on time for me – I skipped the gym yesterday for that very reason. I need to push myself to go 🙂 Love your blog!!

  • Aneta

    For me beating body blues is super easy. I just come to my dear bf and tell him I feel down and that if he does not hug me immediately I am gonna bite him. And most surprisingly he hugs me and everything is fine again 🙂

  • Laurie

    Just found your blog via a mention on Star Tribune. Great advice on wellness, style, etc. Glad I found it! I find that just by changing my eating habits, to eat a bit “cleaner” can do wonders in terms of my mood and how I feel. And I definitely agree with the exercising regime to boost the endorphins.

  • I really needed this today. Thank you.

  • I get the body blues way too often. I think exercise is the key to feeling better. For me it means I am trying to be better, be healthier, and not let my self slide. I try to focus on areas of my body that I do love (my legs, my strong arms) and tell myself the rest will be fine if I keep trying.

    I think color does make you feel happier, but for me wearing black and feeling badass also perks up my mood. 🙂 If I feel strong and capable, that is a mood lifter for me.

  • D

    I am not very good at the positive self talk thing, but I am a huge proponent of both bright color and exercise. I also agree with a comment before me, I generally feel much better if I take time to prepare and eat foods that I know are healthy and kind to my system.

  • Anamarie

    I have been feeling pretty great about my body for the last several months. Since March this year, I have lost weight – going from a size 18 to 12. I’m working out most days and eating very healthy most of the time. But I love food, cooking, and cocktails, so I am taking a very moderate approach. If I were a on a strict diet, I could have probably been a size 8 by now. I don’t care, I’ll get there at some point. Or not.

    Last Friday night, I had a huge setback which is still messing with my head and making me question why I’m bothering trying so hard. I have thought about not eating, throwing food away, purging, etc., all the stuff I used to do in high school to be thin. Why? Because some asshole drunk stranger at a restaurant bar said to me, “you look like you’ve never missed a lunch!” I reacted with, “excuse me??” and he said, “look at him (my husband), look at me, WE’RE slim!” and I said, “and so I’m FAT?” He replied, “you said it, not me.” After calling him a few expletives and telling him to leave me the F alone, I had to run to the bathroom and burst into tears – twice. I have cried about this several times since, and I get so angry. I know what I have gone through to get the body I have now, and I’m proud of it. Two years ago this week I fractured both ankles, my foot, and heel and had to have reconstructive surgery and was in a wheelchair for a long time. I didn’t know if I would be able to be active, or walk normally. So why did this asshole get into my head?

    Maybe my body-image issues are still there, after all, if that loser could dig them up so easily.

    • JenFin

      Oh, Anamarie, I’m so sorry. What a f’ing asshole. No one gets to make that kind of judgment on your body. The fact that you’ve overcome some major health issues to feel good about yourself is incredibly inspiring. Keep rocking your awesome self.

      • Eleanorjane

        Amen! What an a**hat! You are awesome, he sucks really a lot. Look after yourself and do whatever you can to build back what his stupid ugly comments took away.

    • Anna

      Anamarie, you’ve come so far. Like JenFin, I am truly inspired by your journey. Don’t let a stupid drunk guy sabotage your real accomplishments. If your body-image issues are still lurking somewhere, at least they can’t take you by surprise, and you can recognize them for what they are (old stuff) when they get stirred up. (And hey, I’d love to be a size 12!)

    • Anamarie

      Thanks JenFin, Eleanorjane, and Anna! Your comments made me cry again, but this time from your kind words. Loves it.

      • Lisa W.

        For every ONE A-hole, there’s a HUNDRED sensitive, caring, amazing men who would be thrilled to be with you just exactly as you are. Really and truly. I like to believe that mean people get as much of that energy back as they’re putting out. Maybe not from you or from me, but one way or another. So work at purging the experience, staying positive and letting nature take it’s course where mean people are concerned.

    • Chris

      How about I get my daily exercise by using that jerk as a punching bag? I know this sounds violent. It is meant only partly tongue in cheek.

      You are so wonderful Anamarie. What that man said to you makes me so angry. Can I at least pour some ice water on his head?

  • JenFin

    The positive self talk thing is so, so true for me. I often back way up to something like “I blink automatically to keep my eyese moist and healthy, and thank god my body just does it, because I know my conscious mind would totally muck that up.” Which I certainly don’t mean as a diss to my conscious self, but let’s be real: if I actually had to think about blinking, breathing, heart beating, etc., it would be a dramatic fail. Our bodies just do that stuff! Automatically! Generally really well! How cool is that?! Anyway, it’s hard to get/stay worked up about the stuff I don’t like when clearly bodies work automatically and brilliantly as is.

    The other aspect to this is that I’ve recently been dealing with a couple of health challenges – nothing huge, but big and annoying enough that I’ve been humbled by how complex my body is and how most of the time that complexity just…works. Tinkering with the way it works is difficult at best and disastrous at worst, even for trained professionals. Again, I can’t get worked up about how imperfect my stomach is when my immune system is low, you know? Who the hell cares about a little squishiness when bigger stuff is afoot? It makes it so much easier to appreciate my body.

  • Harriet

    In addition to the exercise thing (and for me, even a short walk around the block helps quite a bit — actually, even just stretching and taking deep breaths, and smiling, helps), and making sure to wear clothes that I like, I tell myself to step back and put it in perspective — so what if parts of me are not shaped in a certain way? In the long run it doesn’t matter at all. As long as I am taking care of myself and feel good physically, that means there is nothing wrong with my body except by some abstract aesthetic that has no practical use.

    I also start getting mad that this is even an issue and think that if other people don’t like my body, it’s their problem.

    Anamarie, I hope your husband stuck up for you. That was beyond awful, no matter what size you are or what you look like. You should just put it out of your mind, if you can.

    • Anamarie

      Thanks, Harriet, he did!! He has loved me at every size and I am truly blessed.

  • Anneesha

    1, I’ve found hormones to be a big part of this – emotionally and physically. It helps to think “it’s probably hormones!” and that it will pass.
    2. Cameras can be the enemy – delete unflattering photos immediately from facebook, cellphone etc. and only keep the ones where you look cutest! And if you’re trying to cram into a group photo, don’t be the one on the end who’s leaning back into the shot – immediately unflattering.

  • susan

    I do 5 rhythms dance. Its amazing. All ages participate, and its very body empowering. There is usually a group near any large city, if you’re interested look up 5 rhythms dance for a group near you:

    It burns a tremendous amount of calories, and it makes me feel looser and more relaxed than any yoga class ever has!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/5Rhythms

  • Eleanorjane

    Good points. Some other things that help me are doing nurturing things like exfoliating in the shower and moisturising all over afterwards (I don’t usually do that) or doing my nails. Cute new shoes and jewellery are a boost that don’t require fitting a specific size. A haircut with relaxing scalp massage beforehand is good, but I’ve moved away from my lovely hairdresser and haven’t found another good one yet.

    I’m in the midst of the body blues (well, mainly face blues) at the moment – feeling old and haggard… I need to nurture myself as much as possible in the ways above and also take time to rest and quiet in-between all the busy-ness.

  • Kaybug

    I do all three things that you mention, and also try to drink a LOT of water, cleansing out my systems. Then, when I wake up the next day, I feel better.

  • All good advice! We all get the body blues, don´t we? My excercise of choice is a long walk, whatever the weather. I get to move, I get to vent my lungs, I get light (a commodity getting more and more scarce as we move into winter), I get to see other people, and when I pass the walkers and wheelchairs my neighbours park by our front door, I´m reminded that not everyone can just stand up and walk. I also think dressing up ever so slightly helps, a nice pair of earrings, a pretty watch, a big rhinestone. And colour, sure.

  • Genevieve

    A couple days sticking to really healthy food and lots of water. A massage. A trip to the hot tubs. Stretching. A facial, self- or professionally-administered. Sex. Staying away from cameras and mirrors for a little while. Prioritizing adequate sleep. A long walk with a friend with something absorbing to talk about (not bodies).

  • Frenchie

    I practise all three of your strategies. They work like magic! I used to wear a lot of black but am loving much more colour in my wardrobe. I exercise to feel good (endorphins) and to feel strong. The positive self-talk sure comes into play when someone makes an insensitive comment about my clothes and/or appearance.

  • pdfh

    Put on some 80s pop and dance like a drunken teenager. If at all possible get a little morning sun for some Vitamin D.

  • Sonja

    For me, exercising is so important, even if I’m like Sal and have to force myself every single time, but afterwards I feel so much better. The funny thing: It not only works immediately, but also in the longer term – after only a week or so of regular exercising or a more active lifestyle, I find myself feeling fitter, firmer, more flexible, more attractive … From an objective point of view, after such a short time, nothing has changed, but I feel so different!
    And I totally second what others already mentioned: Dancing! That’s so effective. It doesn’t matter if you take dancing lessons, do zumba at the gym or put on your favourite song at home and dance wildly in the living room for three minutes and a half – all this is really wonderful and helps so much!

  • My father passed away when I was just 13 but his lessons live on 34 years later. He would take me on walks and talk to me about loving myself and being my own best friend. His words echo in my mind if even the slightest negative thought towards myself begins to surface. I am so blessed to have something so strong to pull me back from the edge of darkness….

  • Sue

    The three things that help me are: wearing a bright lipstick in a shade that suits me; wearing cheerful colours especially a flattering shade, in my case peach or turquoise (even if it’s only accessories) and playing some of my favourite music, in particular dance music.

  • Huh. Am I the only one here for whom exercise makes me feel worse? I think I have dysfunctional endorphins or something.

    Oh well. To each their own. I like to wear the softest clothes I own, because then when I think about my body letting me down and not working right, I can think, well at least it feels cuddly today. That, and knowing that no matter how awkward and awful I feel, my cats still want to sit in my lap and be close to me. The fuzzballs are annoying sometimes, but they sure are a comfort to have around.

  • Jeannie

    Hi everyone,
    Yes colour works for me sometimes, also a really lovely fabric that feels fabulous against my skin – just a silk scarf can make me feel better.
    I know exercise will work but sometimes can’t drag myself to a gym or even to do some moving about at home. But then I’ll put on a rock’n’roll toon (Good Golly Miss Molly works every time) and fling meself about a bit; being aware I look like an idiot usually makes me laugh like a drain and my mood will lift.
    (If you have a close friend to do this with it is even better).

  • I’d amend the idea of wearing color to wearing anything that feels good to you – be it color, or ruffles, or shiny and bling-y. My skin tone doesn’t do great with bright colors, but throwing on a pretty dress works the same way (better, really, for me). Or wearing big, even gaudy jewelry – if it makes you happy to look at it, wear it! Color has it’s own “powers” (for lack of a better term), but brights and super-colorful items might not be in certain wardrobes. But hopefully everyone has something to wear that they just think is fun and happy!

  • Jessica

    I’ve learned over time to let go of these negative thoughts as quickly as possible. Yes, I have cellulite, arm jiggle and stretch marks but my body can do amazing things. Like give birth to my precious son and provide him with nourishment & comfort. It allows me the freedom to move however I want, to give & receive warmth, love & pleasure. There are so many bigger things to focus on but when I can’t shake the blues, I love to wear something tough, like boots and to remind myself of all of the above. It also helps to have a husband that adores you at any size 🙂

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