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Feel More Beautiful in a Heartbeat

These five introspective activities will help you tune into your body and turn up your self-esteem.

| May 14th, 2013
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Feel More Beautiful in a Heartbeat

Listen to your heart may sound like just another cliché catchphrase, but researchers have discovered that taking it literally may actually boost your self-image. 

A 2013 study from the Department of Psychology at the University of London found that women who were closely in tune with the beating of their hearts had a healthier body image than women who weren’t as accurate.

QUIZ: How Healthy Is Your Body Image?

Researchers had 50 volunteers try to listen to and count their heartbeats for a set period of time while a data unit recorded the actual number of beats. Then, the volunteers completed questionnaires designed to determine the extent to which they objectify themselves (that is, value their bodies based on attractiveness), a tendency that reflects poor self-image. The researchers found that women who rated highly for self-objectification were the ones who least accurately estimated their heartbeats.

While more research is needed to determine how much inner body awareness can shift self-perception, the initial findings suggest the two are very much linked. “We found people who have poor awareness of their inner bodies can improve their heartbeat perception by deliberately shifting their focus toward themselves,” explains Vivien Ainley, a Ph.D. candidate who worked on the study. This includes tuning into your breathing, feeling your heart beat against your chest and feeling sunlight or fabric against your skin—anything that makes you aware of how your body is working and reacting to the world around it. Better body awareness may then translate to better body image overall.

COLUMN: How to Find Your Flow

Ainley cautions that too much time tuning in can make you overly self-conscious—so don’t overdo it on the intense introspection. When you’re done counting your heartbeats, try one of these other get-to-know-yourself activities and get in touch with how beautiful you really are. 

Admire Your Profile (Not the One You Think!)
Before a big date, resist the urge to check yourself out in your compact mirror. Instead, pull out your phone and sneak a peek at your online profile. Research has found you’ll get a bigger self-esteem boost looking at your profile than you would if you’d inspected your reflection. “It seems the improvement in self esteem occurs because we put the best versions of ourselves on Facebook,” says Amy Gonzales, Ph.D., assistant professor at Indiana University who co-authored the study. “Unlike a mirror, we have more time to choose how we present ourselves online, so what we see is a little bit ‘better’—more attractive, smarter and funnier.”

Put Yourself in the Spotlight
Researchers involved in the heartbeat study have found that focusing on words like I or me could help women tune into their inner bodies. One way to instantly tune into these words? Choose a pronoun-packed power song like "Me, Myself and I," by Beyoncé, and play it (or sing it in your head) when you need an extra jolt of confidence, like if you’re heading to a nerve-wracking job interview.

MORE: Workouts That Boost Body Image

Remember the Finish Line Feeling
Whether it was completing your first half marathon or giving birth to a baby, your body’s a pretty awesome instrument. “Valuing your body for its’ health, strength and accomplishments makes you stop thinking about your body as an object,” says Ainley. Have a few go-to memories of times when you were really psyched by your body (and not because it could finally slide into your skinnies) and replay them when you start feeling self-conscious.  

Give Yourself a 20-Minute Mini-Makeover
Doing an at-home mani, blow-drying your hair, or taking a luxurious bubble bath not only makes you look more polished, but taking the time to focus purely on yourself can also be used as a tune-in tool. “Sometimes, women feel guilty for even taking a second to attend to their own needs,” says Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., a psychologist in Mill Valley, Calif. “But valuing yourself is essential. It’s not dressing up for someone else, it’s realizing that you deserve whatever makes you feel good.” Maximize this effect by setting your alarm a bit earlier so you don’t have to rush a hot shower, or sign off e-mail and turn off the TV an hour before bed and give yourself a mud mask. Once you’re done, you’ll feel beautiful from the inside, out.

VIDEO: How to Give Yourself a Professional Facial—At Home!

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