If you, like many women, struggle with body image issues, you have nothing to lose by trying this 15-minute activity

Struggling with body image issues can lead to anxiety, depression and eating disorders, but what can you do to silence that critical voice in your head?

Write a letter to yourself!

15 minutes of writing

Renee Engeln, author of Beauty Sick (HarperCollins, 2017) tested the effect of three specific writing exercises on college women’s body satisfaction.

“In the first two studies, we found that spending just 15 minutes writing and reviewing one of three specific types of letter to oneself can significantly increase women’s body satisfaction – at least short-term,” says Engeln, who is also a psychology professor at Northwestern University.

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Focus on self-compassion

In two of the letter-writing interventions, the focus was on self-compassion.

“To induce a self-compassionate mind frame, women wrote letters to themselves from the perspective of an unconditionally loving friend who knew them well, saw all their perceived flaws and still responded with kindness and acceptance,” says Prof Engeln.

Thank the body

“The third type of letter-writing intervention asked women to write a letter to their body, showing gratitude for all of its functions – everything it does to help you get through every day. Relative to control conditions, all three of these letters increased body satisfaction,” she says.

A quick exercise anyone can do

In a final online study, the researchers created a simpler, faster writing activity with the same basic idea, but instead of a letter, women wrote only a few sentences.

More than 1 000 college women completed the online study.

Related: Women who get up early are happier

Moving letters inspire

“The letters women in the study wrote were astounding. They were moving and inspirational, several brought tears to our eyes,” says Prof Engeln.

“Many participants asked if they could take a copy of their letter home with them. It seems that even women who struggle with body image can practice a kinder, gentler way of thinking about their body. They just might need a framework to help guide them.”

In fact, the letters were so moving that the researchers hope to create a website where more women can submit letters to their bodies and share them with others.

“We’ve learned enough to confidently say that it’s healthier to avoid things like idealized media images of women, social media comparisons or negative body talk,” says Engeln, “but this is the first piece of evidence we can use to make a firm recommendation about a positive step women can take toward improving body image.

Source: Northwestern University via www.sciencedaily.com

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