Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching! This holiday is known for being all about that famous (infamous?) four-letter word: L-O-V-E. For some, that means flowers, chocolates and a romantic dinner for two. For others, it may mean panicking about making plans or possibly not having any at all. With so much focus on our romantic relationships (Am I in one? Should I be? What should I buy them? What if they don’t like it?), you’ve probably forgotten about the one person you should constantly be showering with affection.
That’s right! Have you given any thought as to what you’re going to do for yourself this Valentine’s Day? Self-love is one of the most important actions a person can do for themselves, and is also usually the last item on the never-ending to-do list. When we do nice things for other people, it makes us feel good. However, after putting our time and energy into other people or tasks, we may barely have enough time for ourselves. When we think of self-love, we might imagine a spa-day or buying ourselves that special item we’ve had our eye on. While pampering ourselves can make us feel good and well taken care of (and is definitely well-deserved!), the type of self-love being explored here goes a little deeper. Deborah Khoshaba, Psy. D., wrote an article in which she discusses her seven-step prescription for self-love. In it, she explains that “self-love is not simply a state of feeling good. It is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.”
This Valentine’s Day, take the challenge to try a few self-love strategies for yourself. Not only will this make sure you are taking care of yourself, but it will help recharge you so you can continue to do great deeds for everyone else too. Here are a few tips on how to practice self-love:
Take Care of Yourself Physically
Practicing good self-care habits is important in keeping our bodies healthy. There are things most of us do every day like showering and brushing our teeth. But then there are things that a lot of us don’t do most of the time, or even at all. These activities include exercising, eating well-balanced meals, putting on sunscreen, getting enough sleep, or even going to the doctor for our annual check-up. Doing these types of activities ensures we’re giving our bodies the love and support they need. Think of it like taking your car to the mechanic for an oil change every few months to make sure your car keeps running at optimal performance because you want it to last as long as possible. Creating new positive habits can take time. Try choosing one activity a week to implement in your day. If one day you forget or aren’t able to meet your goal, don’t stress about it. Tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to try again. When we put in the time to make sure we’re giving our bodies the attention and care they deserve, it makes us feel good physically and emotionally!
Be Kind to Yourself
Speaking of feeling good emotionally, when was the last time you complimented yourself? Have you ever heard that we are often our own biggest critics? Think about the things you tell yourself on a regular basis. “I need to lose weight.” “I’m so lazy.” “I’m not smart enough.” “I’m not good enough.” Now think about your best friend, someone you genuinely care about. Would you ever say these types of things to that person? Probably not. So why are people so willing to say them to themselves? Next time you hear yourself using this negative self-talk, try challenging it. When your first response is “Why would I be chosen for that promotion?” say to yourself “Why WOULDN’T I be chosen? I’m awesome!” When we challenge our negative thoughts, we begin to see the reasons as to why those thoughts aren’t true. With practice, this becomes a habit. Pretty soon, you’ll have more great thoughts about yourself to help you see what a terrific person you are!
Practice Being Grateful
It’s easy to take the things we have for granted. So many small wonderful things happen every day and we start to feel like it’s normal. Once a day, think of at least three things you are grateful for. It could be right when you wake up in the morning, right before you go to sleep at night, or even on your afternoon coffee break. Take one minute to come up with three things in your day that you feel fortunate to have experienced. This could be something huge like a new promotion at work, or something that you wouldn’t really consider, like the fact that it didn’t rain while you were walking to work this morning. Try to be creative. The challenge here is to see all the small details that happen every day that make your day great, that you wouldn’t usually see. If you are having a really difficult time coming up with something on a certain day, go back to your basics. Tell yourself you are grateful that you woke up that morning, that you have a roof over your head, food on your plate, a job, or even the love and support of your family and friends. Reminding ourselves that we have these things can often put in perspective that some people in the world aren’t as fortunate as we are, and there is always something to be thankful for.
Meditation means different things to different people. There are many styles that you can practice like mindfulness, chanting or mantra, or even loving-kindness. People may use meditation for different reasons as well, like to momentarily clear their head or as a way to become more self-aware. Some people even use it to lift themselves to a higher plane, becoming more connected with their spiritual source. Whatever your reasons are, meditation has been found to help relieve stress and anxiety, feel at ease with what’s going on in our surroundings, help us build better relationships with others, and even help us feel more connected to other people. If the idea of sitting still for a prolonged period of time makes you angsty, then start with something simple like 60 seconds. Sit at your desk (or on your sofa, or on the bus, anywhere you like) and just focus on your breathing for 1 minute. Really pay attention to the sound of your breath going into your nose, the feel of your lungs expanding and your chest feeling full, then the way your body releases when you exhale. Doing this for just sixty seconds might help you feel a bit more at ease, even if just momentarily. With practice, you can work your way to longer amounts of time and even play around with different styles to see what works best for you!
Do Some Soul-Searching
When was the last time you checked in with yourself? As in truly took some time to ask yourself how you’re doing, where you’re going in life, and what you want to accomplish. While it’s not necessary to always know the answer and be working towards accomplishing our life’s mission (no pressure, right?), it is necessary to make sure we’re feeling good about the choices we’re making and to explore what we would like to do next. Often times, people get so caught up in the grind of daily life that they become used to doing the same thing every day. Every now and then it’s important to ask ourselves if we’re still doing what we love, if we’re still working towards our goals, or if it’s time to make some changes. This can be daunting, even on a good day. However, when we ask ourselves the hard questions, we can really start putting in the work to make sure we’re living our lives with purpose. Start by taking some time to figure out what that’s going to be, and then put in some effort to make it happen. It’s not going to happen overnight and we need to remember to be patient with ourselves. As Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” so don’t be afraid of taking that shot!
Now that we’ve gone through some tips on how to practice self-love, go ahead and treat yourself this Valentine’s Day! Go out with your partner, friends, or family and enjoy every moment you spend with them. Then remember to take care of yourself too! Try using some of the tips we talked about here, or even find your own way to practice self-love that may work better for you. Self-love takes many forms and there is no magic way to get it done. As long as you’re focusing on taking care of yourself, you’re headed in the right direction.