Women of different sizes

5 Ways to Develop a Positive Body Image

By Sarah Robinson, Rachel Myrer

Body image is how you see and feel about your body (Pérez et al., 2018; Marco et al., 2018; Alleva et al., 2015). It affects your identity, how you feel about yourself, and your physical and mental health (Dunaev et al., 2018; Marco et al., 2018).

About 60% of women and 40% of men have negative body image (O’Hara et al., 2021; Alleva et al., 2015). If you have a poor image of your body, remember that you are not alone. It is important to create a positive view of your body because a negative body image increases your risk for depression, eating disorders, and suicide (Dunaev et al., 2018; Alleva et al., 2015; Fung et al., 2019). While not everyone with a negative view of their body will attempt suicide, developing a positive body image may prevent you from going down that road. Here are some ways you can develop a positive body image:

Steps to Develop a Positive Body Image
  • Practice body gratitude. Write down some things you are grateful for about your body. Try to focus on what your body can do, not what it looks like (Stevens & Griffiths, 2020; Stewart & Ogden, 2019; Dunaev et al., 2018). 
  • Practice body positivity. Change your negative self-talk by choosing to think and say positive things about your body. You could share what you like about your body with a friend. Or try going to a body-positive yoga class (Diers et al., 2020). Focus on accepting, appreciating, and loving your body (O’Hara et al., 2021; Stevens & Griffiths, 2020).
  • Practice self-compassionate mindful meditation. Get comfortable, relax, and meditate by letting your thoughts flow in and out without judging them (Wielgosz et al., 2018). Be mindful, or aware, of your body by focusing on your breathing, the sensations in your body, or trying to relax tight areas (Wielgosz et al., 2018). Think kind thoughts about your body (Neff, 2003). Don’t get frustrated if you get distracted, just relax and try again.
  • Work at it. Chances are, you won’t wake up and suddenly love every part of your body. It might not be easy, but if you put in the time and effort, you will be physically and mentally healthier (O’Hara et al., 2021). Try to do something every day.
  • Seek professional help. Sometimes you need someone else to help you change your thinking. That’s okay! It doesn’t mean you are “crazy” or “broken,” it just means you need help. You are NOT alone! Many other people need help too. It’s just like seeing a doctor for a broken leg or high blood pressure. If you are feeling or having thoughts that you are worthless, that you need to harm yourself to feel better, or if you don’t believe the positive and good things that people say about you, then you may need some professional help. A psychologist can help you change how you think about yourself and your body (Alleva et al., 2015). They exist to help you.


  • Alleva, J. M., Sheeran, P., Webb, T. L., Martijn, C., & Miles, E. (2015). A meta-analytic review of stand-alone interventions to improve body image. PloS One, 10(9). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139177
  • Diers, L., Rydell, S. A., Watts, A., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. (2020). A yoga-based therapy program designed to improve body image among an outpatient eating disordered population: Program description and results from a mixed-methods pilot study. Eating Disorders, 28(4), 476–493. doi: 10.1080/10640266.2020.1740912
  • Dunaev, J., Markey, C. H., & Brochu, P. M. (2018). An attitude of gratitude: The effects of body-focused gratitude on weight bias internalization and body image. Body Image, 25, 9–13. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.01.006
  • Fung, I. C.H., Blankenship, E. B., Ahweyevu, J. O., Cooper, L. K., Duke, C. H., Carswell, S. L.,… Tse, Z. T. H. (2020). Public health implications of image-based social media: A systematic review of Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Flickr. The Permanente Journal, 24(18). doi: 10.7812/tpp/18.307
  • Marco, J. H., Cañabate, M., García, A. J., Llorca, G., Real, L. M., Beltrán, M., & Pérez, S. (2018). Body image and nonsuicidal self‐injury: Validation of the Body Investment Scale in participants with eating disorders. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 25(1), 173–180. doi: 10.1002/cpp.2142
  • Neff, K. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self & Identity, 2(2), 85. doi: 10.1080/15298860309032
  • O'Hara, L., Ahmed, H., & Elashie, S. (2021). Evaluating the impact of a brief Health at Every Size-informed health promotion activity on body positivity and internalized weight-based oppression. Body Image, 37, 225–237. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2021.02.006
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  • Stewart, S. F., & Ogden, J. (2019). The role of BMI group on the impact of weight bias versus body positivity terminology on behavioral intentions and beliefs: An experimental study. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 634. doi: 0.3389/fpsyg.2019.00634
  • Stevens, A., & Griffiths, S. (2020). Body positivity (#BoPo) in everyday life: An ecological momentary assessment study showing potential benefits to individuals’ body image and emotional wellbeing. Body Image, 35, 181–191. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.09.003
  • Wielgosz, J., Goldberg, S. B., Kral, T., Dunne, J. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2018). Mindfulness meditation and psychopathology. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 15, 285–316. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093423