Lately, right before bed, I’ve been washing my feet. For just a few minutes. I feel silly writing this. But it’s become an important ritual: Putting my feet under the hot water, using an exfoliating sponge soaked in my favorite body wash has felt calming and satisfying.
It feels like I’m connecting to my body and treating it kindly, gently and with respect. Yes, this small, seemingly insignificant act feels like I’m honoring my body and myself.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Saad Shaheed
It is a time to pause and be there, in the moment. In that moment, I am listening to the thoughts skipping around in my head. I am listening to the water gushing out. I am feeling the heat of the water and the comfort of the sponge brushing my skin. I am taking a few moments for me, in the quiet and stillness of the night. There are no phones, no TV, no music, no noise except for the water and my thoughts.
This made me wonder: What other tiny but daily respectful acts can we perform for ourselves? What other kind, gentle gestures can we practice? Where can we add comfort and self-compassion into our days?
I like to think of small things because they’re less intimidating. They aren’t overwhelming, especially when it feels like there’s so much to do. Plus, over time, small steps create big paths, changes and leaps.
Here are some small ways we can honor our bodies and ourselves:
- Try this 5-minute gentle chair sequence.
- Carve out 10 minutes to write about your thoughts and worries — without getting angry with yourself. For instance, you could simply say: “Worrying like this is really hard.” Or you could give yourself support and encouragement: “Everyone struggles. But I can try to work through these concerns one at a time. What do I need to feel better? To cope better?”
- Take a few minutes to apply lotion to your body after a shower. Even if you have just one minute, take your time and know that you’re doing something sweet for your body. In this small act, you’re creating a connection.
- Reflect on what respecting and honoring your body and yourself look like. What do these words feel like?
- Set an alarm to go off every hour so you can ask yourself: What is my body telling or asking me right now? How can I respond?
- Every morning reflect on one thing you’ll say yes to because it feels good, because it honors your body and because it fulfills you.
- Every morning also reflect on one thing you’ll say no to because it distracts you from what’s important, because it doesn’t feel good, because it disconnects you from your body.
- Get out your yummiest smelling lotion, and give your hands a massage.
- Look at your face in the mirror. Really look. Look into your eyes. If you feel like it, smile. If you feel like it, say something kind. And if you don’t, that’s OK. The act of noticing ourselves, of looking into our eyes, is enough, is important.
- Think about one thing you adore about your body. Just one thing. Write a poem thanking this part. If you like this idea, make it a habit every day (or every Friday) to express your adoration for your entire body. That small part, of course, belongs to the whole.
So many different acts can become self-compassionate gestures. The key is to bring a caring, mindful intention into whatever you’re doing. To slow down. To use all your senses. This way you can savor the activity.
Think about how you can fill your days with respectful choices, actions and gestures. For your body, for yourself.