“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” ~ Oscar Wilde
You’ve likely heard it before, but the most important relationship you have in your life is the one you have with yourself. There’s a lot of talk about “self-love” these days, but what exactly should it look like? We have the tendency to love ourselves conditionally, rewarding ourselves with positive feelings or even material things when we are content with something we’ve done and judging ourselves harshly when we’ve fallen short of our expectations.
The journey to self-love is just that, a journey. The path is not linear and like any journey filled with twists and turns, two steps forward and one step back, it requires patience, practice, and devotion. The benefits are plentiful however — a healthier mindset, greater personal growth, stronger motivation, and an overall higher level of satisfaction with your life. Your relationships, career and health all flourish when you love yourself.
Deep down we all know that it’s important to love ourselves, but we as human beings often just get stuck on actually knowing what self-love means and how to do it.
What is Self-Love?
Before you can actually practice it, it’s important to understand what it means. Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. It means having a high regard for your own wellbeing and happiness, taking care of your own needs, not sacrificing your wellbeing to please others and not settling for anything less than you deserve.
Self-love can have different meanings to different people because we all have many different ways to take care of ourselves. Figuring out what self-love looks like for you as an individual is an important part of your mental health. So, what does self-love mean to you? For starters, it can mean:
· Talking to and about yourself with love
· Prioritizing yourself
· Giving yourself a break from self-judgement (for me it’s silencing that inner mean girl)
· Trusting yourself
· Being true to yourself
· Being nice to yourself
· Setting healthy boundaries
· Forgiving yourself when you aren’t being true or nice to yourself
For many people, self-love is another way to say self-care. To practice self-care, we often need to go back to the basics and:
· Listen to our bodies
· Take breaks from work and move/stretch
· Put the phone down and connect to yourself or others, or do something creative
· Eating healthfully, but sometimes indulge in your favorite foods
Self-love also means accepting yourself as you are in this very moment for everything that you are. It means accepting your emotions for what they are and putting your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing first above all else.
How and Why You Should Practice Self Love
Now you know that self-love motivates you to make healthy choices in life and that when you hold yourself in high esteem, you're more likely to choose things that nurture your wellbeing and serve you well. These things may be in the form of eating healthy, exercising and/or having healthy relationships.
Self-love as an art that can be practiced and mastered over time. When we practice self-love, we cultivate a loving and healthy relationship with ourselves and something magical happens – we become our own best friend.
So how do we start that romance? How do you learn to love yourself? Here are nine ways you can start practicing the art of self-love right away:
1. Start a daily self-love ritual
Show yourself some kindness by creating and practicing a daily self-love ritual that includes starting your day of with a self-loving acknowledgement for the wonderful things you are a represent. End your day off by recognizing what you did well, nourishing your soul and expressing self-compassion. I've created a template for you with my new Self-Love 101 Daily Ritual. Download this FREE tool which will help you master self-love, with a morning and evening practice.
2. Nourish yourself with nutrient dense foods
If you’re totally new to the practice of self-love, start with focusing on nourishing yourself with nutrient dense foods. This is one of the most basic forms of loving yourself so take some time to become mindful about what you put into your body. Start your day with a green smoothie, treat yourself to a raw chocolate snack and make time to cook yourself a nutritious dinner full of superfoods. The way we feed ourselves reflects how we love ourselves after all so get good at nourishing yourself with healthy food and you’ll begin laying a strong foundation to self-love.
3. Start a gratitude journal
It has been proven that by writing down just 5 things that you’re grateful for each day, you can train your brain to be more positive, in turn giving you an overall feeling of happiness. It is a key tool when it comes to practicing self-love because it has us step into an attitude of gratitude, love and abundance. So, buy yourself a pretty notebook and at the end of each day, write down 5 things you’re grateful for and see how good it feels to finish off your day this way. When giving thanks for things that have happened to you during the day and the people in your life that you’re thankful for, also include yourself in your gratitude practice. Find at least one thing you can thank yourself for each day and you’ll see your relationship with yourself shift into an incredibly loving place.
Not into journaling? Try out new and creative ways to track your grateful moments. For example, I decided to create a gratitude jar this year. Any time I experience a poignant moment of gratitude, I write it on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. On New Year’s Eve, I plan to empty the jar and review everything I wrote. Now, when a good thing happens, I exclaim, “That’s one for the gratitude jar!” It immediately makes the moment more meaningful and keeps me mindfully on the lookout for more.
4. Make your body happy through movement
As we learn how to love ourselves it’s important that we focus ample time and attention on our bodies. How we feel in our bodies directly impacts how we feel about ourselves. Oftentimes, our feelings of loneliness and lack of love actually stem from being disconnected from our bodies and yet we fail to prioritize ourselves enough and make time for our health and wellness, including exercise. Regular exercise not only reduces your risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and some cancers, but it also gives you more energy and gives your feel-good hormones a massive boost. Every time you choose to incorporate movement into your day, you’re essentially filling your self-love/care cup. When it’s full or overflowing it means you have more energy to dedicate to your kids, partner, job, and friends—you’re able to put your best self forward for anything and everything that comes your way. So, get yourself moving and do what makes you feel great, whether it’s a run, cycling, yoga, a walk outside in the fresh air, or an 80’s dance party with the kids.
5. Be you and express yourself
It’s so important to find ways to really express yourself and allow you to be you. Whether it’s dancing, writing, singing, painting, acting, sculpting, cooking, playing an instrument, sketching, DJ’ing, pottery or poetry, everyone has something that allows them to fully express themselves.
What is it for you? When do you feel you can really let go and be who you truly are? If it’s not something you do at the moment, then think back to earlier years. What makes you come alive and really connect with the deepest parts of yourself? Now go and make time for it in your life. Whether it’s unleashing your inner Rihanna on the dance floor, singing like no-one’s listening or painting in big bold brush strokes, just for the fun of it, it’s essential that you make time to do the things that allow you to really express yourself from the heart.
6. Write yourself a love letter
We write sweet notes of appreciation and thanks to our loved ones, so why not to ourselves? Write about the things in your life that make you happy right now and the people in your life that bring you joy, inspiration and kindness. Reflect on how you’re feeling, give yourself a pep talk if you feel you need one and document your dreams and wishes for the future. If there’s something in your life that you’re struggling with at the moment, see what advice and encouragement you can give to yourself, celebrate your achievements and sign your letter off with love. Then pop that letter in the post and enjoy receiving it a few days later.
Not your thing to write yourself a letter? Write out a list of positive qualities you have or achievements that you are most proud of instead. Revisit it often and reflect on the parts of you that you love the most, especially when that mean inner critic comes out.
7. Shower yourself in feel-good vibes
We have far more power than we often realize to generate the feelings we want to experience in life, no matter where we are or what’s going on around us. We just have to learn how to tap into those feelings. An easy way to do it is to think back to a time in your life where you felt full of joy, happiness, peace or fulfilment – whatever it is you want to feel. Then, find a photo of you from that time that really reminds you of what it was like to feel that way, so much so that you start to feel that way again just by looking at the photo. Put that photo somewhere where you’ll see it every day: save it as your phone screensaver or print it out and stick it up on your bathroom mirror. Whenever you need a boost to your day, take a look at that picture and let yourself bathe in those feel-good vibes.
8. Get out and connect with nature
One of the quickest and easiest ways to clear away negative energy and thoughts is to get outside for some fresh air. I love to trail run and hike on my local trails. Getting out into the forest helps me feel better almost immediately. I find the trees and peacefulness very calming and grounding. You don’t have to find a trail or mountain to climb though — perhaps take your lunch outside to a park, go out for a walk around your neighbourhood, or head out to the backyard or your balcony to watch the sunset each evening. Soon, you’ll be craving the fresh air every day and it will become a part of your daily routine.
9. Check your inner voice
The person we talk to the most is ourselves, so are you being kind? A positive, forgiving, and empowering inner dialogue is crucial for supporting our journey to self-love. When you feel negative thoughts start to creep in, make the switch to something more positive. Focus on what you’ll do differently next time instead of what you did wrong. Start your day off with a positive affirmation and repeat it to yourself throughout the day as needed. When you do your daily journaling, focus on what you did well today and what you want in your life in addition to recognizing the things you’re grateful for.
Don't forget to show yourself some kindness with my new Self-Love 101 Daily Ritual I mentioned earlier. Download this FREE tool which will help you master self-love, with a morning and evening practice.