Self-love is a concept many of us still struggle to grasp. What does it mean to really love yourself? All over the internet, articles about the transformative effects of learning to love yourself, but what does that mean? Is there even a one-size-fits-all answer to self-love when all of us are, in fact, different selves?
One thing is certain: You’re the only one who can learn how to love yourself. There is plenty of practical advice online, but it’s up to you to try out different methods and devise your own effective practice.
Maybe your self-love will look different as you grow. That’s okay. To get you started on the right path, here are 10 self-love practices that will help you learn to love yourself more and more each day.
10. Start Each Day With Positive Affirmations
Author Maria Robinson once wrote, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Instead of ending things on a good note, why not start off on one instead?
Self-affirmations affirmations can restore our confidence and activate the systems in our brain that allows us to look inward and reflect on who we are (1). You can find plenty of positive affirmations online; use them in a meditation or simply write them down in a notebook and repeat them to yourself throughout the day.
9. Write a Schedule
Time-management leads to greater organization and productivity, which reduces stress. Writing a daily schedule can help you prioritize your top responsibilities and avoid getting caught up in non-essentials.
You can allocate specific time periods for work, rest and socialization. Each of these play vital roles in your mental well-being, and knowing how to attend to your responsibilities without getting overwhelmed is a great act of self-love.
8. Remember Your Goals
It’s difficult to love yourself when you feel like your life is going nowhere. We all experience a stasis at some point, be it in our mental health, relationship or career. It’s important to keep plans for the future to motivate yourself everyday.
By developing a future time perspective, we can learn to stay motivated, look ahead and see a bigger picture (3). This discourages frustration with the present and allows us to stay resilient and optimistic even during times of stagnation.
7. Get Some Fresh Air
Many of us spend the majority of our days indoors. We wake up, go to work, sit at a desk and only glimpse the sun when we’re headed back home. A sedentary lifestyle is dangerous for a lot of reasons, and one of them is the negative impact minimal exposure to daylight has on your mental health.
Spending time outdoors every day can boost Vitamin D levels and elevate your mood (4). Take some time each day to just breathe and enjoy the fresh air, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. The benefits on your inner peace, stress levels and mental health will be worth it.(5).
6. Exercise Regularly
The benefits of working out far surpass the dread and procrastination many people associate with their routine cardio.
If you have to practically force yourself to go to the gym, consider spicing up your regimen by taking a class in something you enjoy. From kickboxing to Zumba, there are a lot of ways to stay in shape and get some endorphin-boosting exercise without having to schlep to a gym and trudge along a treadmill for half an hour.
5. Be Your Own Best Friend
It’s great to have a reliable support system, but we also have to be our own best friends. Relying too much on others for emotional validation can actually reinforce our anxiety. Learning how to enjoy your own company, listen to your thoughts and value your opinions is a daily practice that will help you develop a strong sense of self-worth.
When you learn to love yourself, you’ll find that you don’t look to others as often. This doesn’t mean you don’t value their input or care about them; instead, you’ll be able to develop stronger relationships by having your commitment rooted solely in your enjoyment of the other person’s company. Rather than feeling subjected to the approval or judgement of your family and friends, you’ll be able to stand confidently on your own and believe in the value you contribute to every relationship.
4. Change Your Perspective
Catch yourself slipping into autopilot and remind yourself of the bigger picture. It’s easy for us to feel overwhelmed by the weight of stress and obligation. Many of us plough through our lives without truly experiencing anything. At night, we crawl into bed and feel like another day has come and gone without much meaning.
It’s all too easy to lose yourself to the world, so take time throughout the day to remind yourself to step back, breathe and live in the moment. You can even set a reminder on your phone to help you refocus throughout the day.
3. Set Aside Time to Acknowledge Your Emotions
Do you have a tendency to repress sadness, frustration or other uncomfortable feelings? It’s human nature to avoid pain, and burying painful feelings deep inside ourselves is just one way we try to protect ourselves. But what if you could take your hurtful feelings and transform them into positive ones?
You have to make a conscious decision to acknowledge your feelings, no matter how painful they may be. Meditation and mindfulness are excellent tools for dealing with negative emotions. Instead of intrinsically identifying with every thought and feeling that passes through you, you learn how to take a passenger’s perspective and let your emotions move through you.
Emotional intelligence allows us to understand ourselves and empathize better with others. Learning how to acknowledge, accept and interpret negative feelings can help you develop a higher emotional IQ and become a happier, more positive person (6).
2. Seek Help When You Need It
You may need to speak to a therapist, or you could just need to pick up the phone and pour your heart out to your best friend. Self-awareness is an important quality many people lack; when you love yourself, you learn to stop underestimating your capabilities and putting yourself down.
Self-awareness means understanding that you can’t do everything alone, and self-love makes us capable of reaching out without feeling embarrassed, ashamed or weak. If you’ve just started to learn to love yourself, you might still feel awkward or nervous to get help. But if you decide to go against the voice in the back of your head telling you to stay quiet, you’re making progress.
It isn’t easy to admit we’re struggling, and it’s even harder to accept the fact that we can’t make things right on our own. Mental health is hard, but part of self-love is tending all pillars of your health: metal, emotional and physical.
1. Dare to Be Vulnerable
In her book “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”, Dr. Brené Brown discusses what vulnerability really means and guides readers on how to find strength in letting go.
One of the greatest ways to learn to love yourself is vulnerability. So many of us let our fear of judgement, abandonment or rejection hold us back from taking the risks we need to become who we truly want to be.
Being vulnerable doesn’t mean you let people walk all over you. There’s a reason emotional boundaries exist, and they protect us from undue harm and toxic relationships. However, some of us perceive vulnerability as a sign of weakness, so we avoid getting too close, saying too much and living too loudly for fear that we’ll somehow get hurt.
Allow yourself to take that risk. When you dare to be vulnerable, you become capable of sensing, feeling and receiving so much more love from the world around you. It won’t be easy, and sometimes, it’ll backfire. But when you allow yourself to go after what you want in spite of the pain, fear and anxiety holding you back, you will understand the immense freedom that comes from self-love.
Take Your Time
Practice patience with yourself. Be kind even when you would rather just wallow in self-pity or tell yourself all the reasons why you aren’t good enough. Think of your inner child. Would you talk to them the way you often talk to yourself? Nurture the small, trembling parts of your soul and embrace all that you can be.
You will learn how to love yourself with time. After some daily practice, you’ll start to identify what exercises really work for you. What makes you grateful? What makes you feel loved by yourself?
As you embark on this rewarding and incredible journey, you should feel excited about the person you’re going to meet. You’ll be amazed at just how much there is to learn about yourself when you exist from a place of love.