In a world that sells dissatisfaction, it’s almost heretical to feel happy about your body. And on the rare occasion when body satisfaction is socially acceptable, it’s usually in the context of “Dang, I look amazing in my wedding dress/tailored business suit/perm/bathing suit/whatever I just spent a lot of money on in order to make me feel this way for a couple of hours.” For all the sunshiny Facebook messages telling you “You’re beautiful!” there’s not much to make us feel legitimately joyful to be in our own skins.
So where does happiness come from, anyway? Psychological studies show that happiness stems not from being the best, most successful, or sexiest, but from gratitude. So telling yourself over and over that you’ve got a great body is less likely to leave you feeling happy than feeling grateful for the body you’ve got. It’s not always easy. None of our bodies are perfect. We often feel at odds with our bodies, feeling as though they’re betraying us in some fundamental way.
Still, it’s the season of Thanksgiving, and if there were ever a time to give thanks for the bodies we inhabit, it’s now.
You can give thanks that your body has seen you through many long years of life.
You can give thanks that your body is young and healthy and strong.
You can give thanks that your body has taught you important lessons about pain and the mental and emotional strength you have in bearing it.
You can give thanks that your body has survived the ravages of cancer.
You can give thanks that while your body contains the seeds of the disease that may one day kill it, it will not die today.
You can give thanks that your body has given rise to new life.
You can give thanks if your body honors your parents with features it received from them.
You can give thanks if your body honors your parents with its presence, against all odds, having been born to others.
You can give thanks if your body has the senses to know beauty, the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings of the world around you.
You can give thanks if your body includes a mind that can think, imagine, and dream.
You can give thanks that your body has built, dug, cooked, sewn, planted, and shaped the world around it.
You can give thanks that your body has held and honored and taught the bodies of others around you.
Massage therapists are lucky people. We get to see the wonder in the bodies around us every day. It’s an honor, and one we’re perpetually grateful for. On Thanksgiving Day, give thanks for food and family and friendship, those standards of the season. Express your gratitude however you normally do, through writing in your journal, phone calls to your loved ones, a reflective walk in the woods, or prayer. But don’t forget that inimitable body of yours, which has accomplished so many things throughout your life. If we all inhabited our bodies with an attitude of gratitude, who knows what might happen? Maybe that whole peace on earth business wouldn’t seem so far away.