Self-love is an important part of self-care. Society often tells us it’s important to be selfless: to take care of others, put loved ones first, and to give whatever and whenever you can. These messages themselves are not wrong. Most people are part of a larger community, and we tend to benefit when we take care of each other. However, problems start when we prioritize taking care of others above caring for ourselves.
The concept of self-love is simple: it just means valuing and caring for your own needs, wants, and desires. It is not about being selfish. It’s about making sure you have time to recharge to have the energy and resources to be there for others. As airlines like to remind us, it’s important to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others do the same. If you run out of air, it becomes a lot harder to help anyone, including yourself.
How does self-love work? Self-love is not complicated. It can be as simple as changing your self-talk. For example, showing compassion to yourself when you make mistakes in the same way you’d show compassion for a mistake a loved one makes. Or it could be more extensive, like taking a day off from work to recharge. Simply put, the goal of self-love is to love yourself at least as well as you love others and follow the advice that you would give to those you love.
Researchers have found that despite the many benefits of self-love, it’s often a habit people are least likely to practice. The good news is that it can lead to some health benefits, including helping with:
- eating habits
- stress management
Additionally, when you practice self-love and self-compassion, it can help make you more resilient in times of adversity.
Here are 5 simple ways to practice self-love, and improve your well-being
- Do more of the everyday things you’re good at and things that are good for you
Research shows that self-efficacy (the belief that you are good at something) and self-worth are linked, and the more you do things—small or big—that you are good at, the better you’ll feel about yourself. Even small daily tasks can spike your confidence, so don’t overlook the obvious!
Knowing that things like exercise are good for you, make time for it. Nobody has ever regretted doing a workout!
- Start a self-love or gratitude journal.
Documenting one thing that you are grateful for every day is a wonderful way to honour the good that you have in your life, remind yourself of the things that you are good at, how loved you are and what is going “right”. Better yet, read your entries aloud to yourself after writing them down to really make them sink in. You can also return to this list when you’re feeling especially low. Doing this at the same time every day eg as you wake up or before bed is a good way to form a habit.
- Spend time in nature
Fresh air is often therapeutic, and outdoor adventures with the people we love can put a smile on our faces. You might plan a hike with a romantic partner, or maybe a bike ride with your children. Spending time in nature helps clear your head as it takes you away from screens and the usual household noises. It is always a wonderful way to exercise in a way that often feels more fun!
- Give yourself permission to say ‘no’
You can’t be everything to everyone, and it’s hard to give anything your best if you’re constantly trying to do it all. Saying no gives us greater navigation over our lives and grants us the opportunity to build a fulfilling, meaningful life on our own terms. This is particularly relevant when trying to reach a goal weight. Saying no becomes an essential skill.
You can decline a request while still being kind, appreciative, and respectful. Sometimes, putting limits in place is helpful, such as “Yes, I can come over at 1 p.m., but I’ll need at 3 p.m” or “No, I won’t be having dessert, but I have enjoyed every aspect of this delicious meal, thank you!”
- Treat yourself!
It can be hard to spend money on ourselves, especially during times of financial strain. But small (and occasional) splurges can help us all smile a little more and feel as if our hard work for, example with sticking to a meal plan, is rewarded. Small treats can also help to motivate you and could be as simple as a magazine or the lipstick you wouldn’t usually allow yourself to buy.
The onus to practice self-love starts with you, and the best time to start is now. Let’s make 2022 your happiest, healthiest year yet!