When we are born, we arrive in our “Earth suit,” the beautiful body that houses the miracle of our being. But as we age, our perception of how we stack up against our peers and media ideals greatly influences what we think about our bodies. We can never be thin enough, strong enough, beautiful enough. It may come as no surprise that a majority of Americans (and a higher percentage of women compared with men) suffer from a negative body image. Studies show there is more discontent with our bodies than ever before. Poor body image not only decreases general life satisfaction and happiness, but it can also be potentially deadly if it fosters eating disorders, depression and anxiety.

How do we support our teenage daughters (and sons), colleagues and friends who feel too “fat’” or too “thin” and “ugly’” compared with their friends? How do we boost our body image when media images of airbrushed beauties pollute our judgment of what’s real? What actually matters is that we love the body we’re in. Simply losing weight or surgically augmenting our bodies to look more like images in mainstream media is highly unlikely to make us happier.

Positive changes in lifestyle and mind-body habits over the short and long term are places to start to boost not only body image, but also overall life satisfaction and happiness. Taking thoughtful steps to end the negative mind chatter is the way to love how you look. Here are a few tips to help you love the body you’re in every day.

PRACTICE GRATITUDE

Every night before bed, write down at least three things you appreciate about your body. Give thanks for the tasks your body does for you daily.

NUTRITION

Think plant-based eating and no deprivation. Along with healthy foods, hydrating with water (not soda) will help you feel and look better.

STRENGTHS

Accentuate and appreciate your personal strengths. Share your gifts and talents with those around you.

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVITY

Positive friends and images, and working on your own optimistic thoughts, will lead you along the road to body bliss. Refrain from negative self-talk. Counter negativity with kindness and positive words.

FITNESS

Moderate daily exercise elevates confidence and self-esteem. Mind-body fitness practices such as yoga, dance and tai chi are highly encouraged.

DRESS FOR SUCCESS

Wear clothes that fit your shape. Avoid wearing overly baggy clothing that not only makes you look bigger, but also may lead you to feel uncaring about your appearance.

Dr. Debra Rouse is a registered naturopathic doctor and member of the Institute for Functional Medicine. drdebrarouse.com