By Barbara Field
*Read the original article here: https://www.verywellmind.com/ways-to-practice-self-love-5667417
Having self-love involves having an appreciation and respect for yourself. That includes taking care of your physical and mental health. Although most people are busy, it’s important to take time to nourish yourself and treat yourself with the love and kindness you deserve.
What Is Self-Love?
Self-love is having regard for our own well-being and contentment according to the American Psychological Association.1
While self-care proponents suggest taking baths and getting massages, loving yourself goes much deeper than splurging once in a while on pleasures like these.
Self-love should be a daily activity in which you check in with yourself and treat yourself the way we treat loved ones.
The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation says that self-love comes from actions that support physical, psychological, and spiritual growth.2
What Self-Love Is Not
Some critics think self-love is a modern concept and is merely self-indulgence. They view self-love as excessively focusing on yourself and akin to narcissism. But self-love is not about having a grandiose sense of self or being puffed up with self-importance. Self-love means taking care of your needs and recognizing that you have value.
The Importance of Self-Love
Your first relationship is with yourself and it’s the foundation of relationships with others. Loving yourself enables you to live in alignment with your values and to make healthy choices in your everyday decisions. Confidence, self-respect, self-worth, and self-love are all interconnected. As we deepen in love for ourselves, we can deepen the love we share with others.
How to Practice Self-Love
Sometimes it’s hard to assert yourself and think about your own needs. While it might be considerate to practice self-love here and there, it’s important to make it a daily practice.
Here’s how to incorporate self-love into your lifestyle.
Prioritize Your Well-Being and Mental Health
Your physical and mental health are directly correlated and how you feel physically can influence how you feel mentally and emotionally. When you begin loving and caring for your body, you’re directly and positively influencing your mental health, too. Eating and sleeping well is important in maintaining well-being and warding off illness. That means choosing healthy foods and getting adequate sleep every night.
Exercising regularly has a positive impact on your overall health as exercise decreases cortisol, the stress hormone, in your body.3
When you acknowledge your mistakes and accept your imperfections with kindness and without judgment, you exhibit self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff’s widely accepted definition of self-compassion has three components:4
- Self-kindness: feeling kindness toward ourselves rather than judgment, criticism, or shame
- Common humanity: recognizing we are part of a common humanity as everyone makes mistakes rather than viewing ourselves as isolated beings unworthy of love and belonging
- Mindfulness: viewing mistakes mindfully by having a perspective and not over-identifying with our failings
In a pilot study5 on self-compassion, scientists empirically tested the use of a writing intervention to determine if these self-compassion components influenced each other. Findings showed that the three components do mutually enhance each other.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Other People
When we are jealous of our friend’s promotion or feel we are lacking because we gained ten pounds while our neighbor is in great shape, it’s hard not to feel down. Social comparisons can cause stress. Comparison and competition may motivate you in ways that are helpful and not harmful. More often than not, they diminish us by causing stress, anxiety, guilt, and shame.
Social media has affected our mental health in not-so-great ways. We judge ourselves more harshly on a regular basis and don’t feel good enough. High social media use has been linked to depression.
Drawing the line helps with stress management. Sometimes you have to say ‘no’ at work or to your family to preserve your energy. One-sided relationships have unequal distribution of energy, control, and thoughtfulness. Recognize your needs and carve out time to be thoughtful about yourself by setting boundaries.
Cultivate ways to stop self-loathing in any form. Forgive yourself for your past mistakes and find ways to heal. To incorporate self-love in your daily life, don’t ruminate over mistakes and regrets. Rather than blame yourself for things that were probably out of your control anyway, turn to self-forgiveness.
A recent study6 finds that greater forgiveness is linked to less stress and a decrease in mental health symptoms.
Surround Yourself With Supportive, Loving people
Having social support is vital. You could reach out to receive your family’s love for you but if those relationships are strained or they’re not in the picture, invest in relationships with your friends and community and allow yourself to receive care and support from them.
Let go of toxic, draining, and one-way friendships. The goal is to fortify yourself with healthy interactions and people who believe in you, champion you, and support you in becoming more of who you are and want to be, not less.
If you think you’re in love but aren’t sure, remember that healthy relationships involve intimacy and deep emotional connection. Invest your time, energy, and care into platonic and romantic relationships that support, energize, and restore you.
Change a Negative Mindset
Positive thinking doesn’t mean ignoring problems. It means choosing to have a positive outlook as an approach to life that includes gratitude and many possibilities. Maybe it’s time to seek support to process your anger and release resentment and grudges, for example.
Holding onto and fixating on anger and hatred towards others can be damaging to our mental and emotional well-being and it can be an act of self-love and care to address it at the root cause.
Say kind things to yourself. Positive affirmations can boost your self-esteem and reduce your social fears. Remind yourself that you’re a kind person doing your best. Changing your perspective and focusing on things that you are grateful for and appreciative of can be immensely uplifting and is another way to practice self-love.
- APA Dictionary of Psychology. Self-love.
- The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. Self-love and what it means.
- Rudolph DL, McAuley E. Cortisol and affective responses to exercise. J Sports Sci. 1998;16(2):121-128. doi:10.1080/026404198366830
- Self-Compassion: Dr. Kristin Neff. Definition of self-compassion.
- Dreisoerner A, Junker NM, van Dick R. The relationship among the components of self-compassion: a pilot study using a compassionate writing intervention to enhance self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. J Happiness Stud. 2021;22(1):21-47.
- Toussaint LL, Shields GS, Slavich GM. Forgiveness, Stress, and Health: a 5-Week Dynamic Parallel Process Study. Ann Behav Med. 2016;50(5):727-735. doi:10.1007/s12160-016-9796-6