The Mental Health Benefits of Practicing Body Neutrality

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Body neutrality, which is the practice of accepting your body in its current state for what it can do, rather than focusing on how it looks, is a fairly new concept to many. As such, some people may be unsure about why they should try it, or if they even should.

There are many benefits of practicing body neutrality, and those benefits range from physical to emotional. One of the physical benefits is that the simple act of shifting focus away from exercise that feels like punishment or for weight loss purposes, and instead engaging in exercise activities you enjoy, will make you less likely to overwork or injure your body.

In as much as body neutrality can be effective for physical wellness, it can be an even bigger game changer when it comes to mental and emotional wellness.

Let's examine the various ways that body neutrality can contribute to better mental health.

Less Judgment

Judging our bodies is a very difficult thing to stop doing. We are bombarded constantly through media with images of what "ideal" bodies look like, and most people—often including the very people whose own bodies are on display and are digitally altered—feel that their own bodies fall short of the ideal version.

When you put in the work to stop judging your own body against that of others or of an ideal in your mind, it's natural that you will also stop judging other people's bodies so harshly.

One of the best elements of this is that as we move into a less judgmental mindset about our bodies, it becomes more natural to be less judgmental about ourselves and other people, period, in all ways. Even for topics outside of bodies, when you practice body neutrality you may find yourself criticizing both yourself and others less.

More Empathy

When we move into a less critical and judgmental state of mind, we begin to open ourselves up to the unique and nuanced experiences of others. Rather than rushing to judgment about people, we instead can develop our sense of empathy.

This could be in relevant ways, such as not thinking of a fat person as having a body that isn't ideal, or in non-relevant ways like listening to a person's journey or story before passing judgment about them, or deciding what your opinion of them is based only on their appearance.

Having more empathy provides an opportunity to connect better and more deeply with other people. It allows us to be more vulnerable ourselves, because we have a stronger sense of how vulnerable others are. And it leads us to take actions from a kinder internal place, versus an "every man for himself" competitive mindset.

Lower Stress

There's no question that prolonged stress can have hugely negative effects on our lives. When you feel stressed frequently about your body, it counts as prolonged stress. That's because an emotional issue around your body doesn't have an end point on its own, as your body is with you always. People can struggle for decades, or their entire lives, over how their bodies look.

When you decide to accept your body as it is, for what it is able to do, and stop focusing on how it should be different, your stress levels are likely to go down. This makes it easier to feel happy and relaxed.

Additionally, with less stress, your body will produce less cortisol (the body's main stress hormone) resulting in positive effects like more energy, better sleep, and better digestion.

Enhanced Intuition

One key part of body neutrality involves eating what your body wants. In order to be able to do that, you have to get in touch with your body on a deeper level.

Many people are used to choosing the foods they eat based on what they are told by health and nutrition professionals, or even influencers, are the "right" foods to eat, and so eating intuitively can feel like a major life change.

When you have learned how to get in touch with your intuition in relation to your body and eating, you have also opened the door to listening to, and hearing, your intuition in general.

This can be valuable for your mental health because it can lead you to feel more confident in your decision-making skills.

Reduced Reactionary Responses

When we're in a state of anxiety over our bodies, it can be difficult to behave rationally all the time. You may find your stress about your body resulting in defensiveness or reactionary responses to situations in life both relating to your body and entirely different topics.

Because body neutrality involves coming to a place of peace about your body, this peace can trickle out into how you deal with life situations at large. Rather than feeling in a state of fight or flight, you may find yourself able to pause when a situation feels upsetting, and give yourself a moment before responding.

This is helpful in interpersonal relationships, as well as with your relationship to the world. We always feel best about our actions when we have acted from a calm, rational state of mind that we don't regret later.

Improved Mood

If thinking about your body takes up any of your time, chances are that you aren't in the best mood when you're doing that. And from there, it may be tough to suddenly put yourself in a good mood, even if technically, everything in your world is ok.

The idea of our bodies being not perfect enough can easily ruin an entire day for some of us.

Less judgment, less stress, and better intuition as results of body neutrality make for pretty great mood boosters. The act of practicing body neutrality can lead to all of those, and from there, you may find yourself in a better mood more often than you could have imagined.

Lower Anxiety

When you spend time stressing about your body, it can easily lead to feeling anxious about it. You may feel like you need a change that's impossible to obtain, that things about your body should be different but you are powerless over them, or that the world is viewing you critically. Any of these occurrences can lead to anxiety.

Moving into a place of body neutrality is an anxiety reducer. By not spending your time in this painful mindset, you will have one huge part of your life to not be anxious about. And when you have experienced less anxiety about your body, you may find yourself less anxious, period.

A Word From Verywell

Body neutrality is not a one-and-done activity. Like any personal journey, it can be a long process. The benefits, though, can be outstanding. From lower stress to improved mood, the mental health benefits of body neutrality make it worth giving a try.

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