Hello and happy February! Did you know that February is Body Awareness Month? Increasing body awareness is often talked about as a way to build self-esteem, but it can be difficult to reap those benefits if your brain is in the habit of negative self-talk. It’s like when you look in the mirror and can only see your blemishes or weight – you would probably feel better if you could ignore those thoughts and recognize strengths instead.
Let’s take some time to review body awareness, and then explore one idea that could be helpful in working on your body awareness in an uplifting way: unconditional positive regard. While it is a skill typically practiced by trained social workers for the individuals they engage with, I have found it helpful to apply unconditional positive regard to my own mindful practices, and I hope it can help you too.
What’s the deal with body awareness?
Body awareness, or kinesthesia, can be described as a conscious understanding of one’s body and its movements, positioning, and sensations. Our brains work with the information from our senses to determine our needs and try to fulfill them, meaning there can be a negative impact if there is a disconnect between the brain and the body’s sensory information. The example I like to use is in a typical workday: in our fairly sedentary lives, it can be easy to zone-in to your work at a desk without thinking about the pain building in your neck and shoulders until hours later.
By practicing bringing attention to how our body is positioned and the tension of our muscles, we can tune back in and may notice cues our body was ignoring, like pain or discomfort, hunger, and thirst. Some easy ways to practice are testing your balance on each foot, walking backwards (in a safe space please), beginner yoga, and body scan meditations – I will have a link for a printable guided body scan meditation worksheet at the end of the page.
What is Unconditional Positive Regard?
Unconditional positive regard is a term in social work practice in which the worker sets aside their personal biases, judgements, preconceptions, and expectations, to accept the individual in front of them as they are. For the purposes of this post, I would like to reframe this perspective for people to use when they are approaching themselves: when you do take the time to practice your body awareness, first take a minute or two to recognize the expectations or judgements you may be holding yourself to. To practice letting go of those negative thoughts, you may try verbal affirmations, or positive statements, aimed at contradicting those specific negatives. Instead of “I didn’t finish all of the chores today,” how about “I was able to get what I could do done,” and it helps to be persistent.
This ‘personal’ unconditional positive regard, as I call it, is about accepting yourself, where you are, wherever that may be – if you cannot put aside expectations or judgements, that’s okay, remember to recognize the effort you are putting in! Suggested worksheet:*NEW* Body Awareness Worksheet - Inherent Peace
This worksheet is free to download and walks you through a full body scan practice, with a reminder to be accepting of your sensations.