Learning how to love yourself and practicing extreme self care are two keys for lasting health and happiness. If you are ill (and even if you aren't), practicing unconditional agape love and kindness toward yourself and others can make a critical difference in your recovery and sense of well-being.
Knowing how to love yourself is easy. Learning to show yourself and others real love in meaningful, tangible ways as a daily practice is more challenging. This is a lifelong process of transformation that doesn't happen over night. It starts with developing a vibrant, nurturing relationship with your authentic self that then spills over to bless others as well.
The words engraved on that stone are as true today as they were two thousand years ago. You don't have to be religious or even spiritual to embrace them. Imagine how wonderful the world would be if we loved ourselves and others, including all sentient beings, unconditionally. It would be a taste of heaven on earth for all of us.
Loving yourself is about valuing your needs and your dreams and giving yourself the care you need in mind, body, and spirit. Especially if you are ill, it takes another step into the realm of extreme self-care.
What unconditional, or agape love, is not, is ego-centric. It is not care that comes from puffing yourself up or putting on airs to cover up lack of self-worth or to appear what you are not.
It comes from your real inner self, your heart. It may take some uncovering, but its there inside you and worth getting in touch with.
Sometimes, it's a challenge to give yourself the care you need. You may not feel that you deserve it. You do. It is not selfish. You can only truly give what you have. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. That's okay. Your brain will make new neural connections and it will become real and natural. You are worth it.
Learning how to love yourself requires knowledge, willingness and commitment. Just like learning any other skill, it becomes easier and more natural as you practice. Look over the list below to see where you are already excelling and which ones would benefit from more of your attention.
Together they all equal extreme self-care. This is what you need to be your healthiest, happiest self. This is the self who can touch the world in a positive, profound way.
If you are just learning how to love yourself and are not sure what that means or looks like for you, start with this simple exercise.
An added bonus, as you begin treating others with love and kindness they will generally reciprocate in kind. Energetically, as you embody those qualities, you attract more people with those same qualities into your life.
If the idea of truly loving yourself is challenging, enlist the help of a trustworthy friend or professional. Ask him or her to support you in learning how to love yourself in a healthy way.
Care for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs with acceptance, compassion, love and kindness. Take time to listen to your body and mind and give them the good things they need.
Reduce and eliminate stressful and unhealthy habits, thoughts, interactions, and behaviors. Introduce yourself to habits, thoughts, interactions, and behaviors that support your true desires and promote mind, body, spirit health. Practice them often. Live your life on purpose, not by default.
As much as possible, do not compromise in this area or guilty for putting your self-care first. It is important to truly believe in your heart that it is good to give yourself permission and freedom to do this, especially if you are ill. You do not have to justify practicing extreme self care or taking time just for yourself. It is vital for true healing and happiness.
Not sure where to start? Take the wellness quiz available in the members area. Not a member yet? Sign up here to get your quiz and other valuable resources.
The three most important factors in vitality and longevity are feeling listened to, cared for, and supported. Sharpen those skills within yourself and nurture relationships with people who provide those needs for you.
Humans are meant to live in community with others and to feel that they are valued members of that community. Read more about the benefits and tips for developing connections with others here.
Even when you have loving people in your life, there is something special about sharing a connection with animals. They have much to teach about how to love yourself and others.
A pet, especially a dog, models unconditional love. They will teach you what it looks and feels like. Companion animals such as a dog, cat, horse, rat or parrot reciprocates your affection and care with much love in return.
It's perfectly wonderful to give yourself a hug or a massage. Don't worry about what other people might say about it. Rub your arms, legs, neck and face. Put your hands on your heart and take a deep breath.
Hug a loved one for at least 10 seconds. Snuggling is a great stress-buster and it feels wonderful. It also prompts your brain to release the feel-good, health protective hormone, oxytocin.
Forgive yourself and others. Be free of grudges, resentment, guilt, blame, and shame. These emotions benefit no one and block healing. Use them to identify areas you need to heal and then let them go.
Freeing yourself of guilt can be a tough one, especially when grieving the loss of someone or something you really cared about. We tend to look for ways to blame ourselves. Own what you could have done better and forgive yourself. Share what you learn so others can be the beneficiaries of your wisdom.
Be kind, forgiving, and honest with yourself and others. Be generous with your appreciation and praise. You teach people by your tone and example how you expect them to treat you.
Here is one of life's paradoxes. In giving of yourself to others, even in little ways, you receive. We are all connected in the great web of life scientists call the field.
Make a habit of giving love and kindness freely from your heart to other people, animals and even plants and the earth. It's fun to spontaneously do kind things. Do it often. It will feed your soul and lift your spirits. And show yourself some little kindnesses, too.
One of the best ways to practice self care is to experience nature. Nature connects us to our origins, exposes us to healing negative ions, and realigns the molecules of the body in a more harmonious manner.
Find ways to connect with nature. Watch the birds, feel the sun on your skin, ground yourself to the earth. Open your windows and let the fresh air in. Hug a tree.
Bring nature into your home, too. A vase with a single flower or a well-cared for potted plant can lift your spirits and add life to your space.
Go out in nature if you need a place to start. Marvel at the stars and the fact that you are on a tiny planet spinning at thousands of miles an hour as you travel around the sun. Marvel at the perfect flowers of many colors. Feel the peace and serenity and connection. Even though I come from a religious background, this is how true spirituality started for me.
Be authentic in your beliefs and spiritual practice.
It's okay to admit you don't know everything or even anything about spiritual matters, including what to call God because really who does? There are great mysteries of which we sometimes get a personal glimpse. Don't let that stop you from having a meaningful spiritual life and a connection with that which is beyond and within you.
This metta, or loving kindness meditation, guides you though a beautiful prayer type meditation from the Buddhist tradition. You bless and wish the best for yourself and others. May I/you be happy and peaceful, may I be safe, may I live with ease in this world, may I be healthy and strong...
Learning how to love yourself starts with self acceptance for who you are and where you are in your life journey right now. There is something pure about accepting yourself. You acknowledge the truth about yourself and love yourself enough anyway. This is the stepping stone to make move forward in your life.
Self- improvement looks and feels much different when approaches from a mental space of love and acceptance. Ironically, it becomes easier. It's one thing to try to force yourself to change from a space of fear or self-loathing. It's quite another to be inspired and motivated because you care about yourself so much that you want to gift yourself a healthy mind, body, environment, relationship, etc.
You honor your humanness when you show yourself mercy, tolerance, patience and empathy.
You may think the only way to motivate yourself to change and 'do better' is to criticize yourself. Not so. That is not how to love yourself. Actually, in the long run, just the opposite is true. Compassion is nurturing and constructive. Criticism is destructive and stressful. Let it go.
Studies show that people who are compassionate with themselves suffer less from stress, pain, anxiety, eating disorders, and depression. They are more motivated to exercise and look after their health.
Some people act in 'toxic' ways and are not healthy to be around. You can be sure toxic people do not love themselves, despite their big egos.
Limit your time with them as much as possible. Explore your role in these relationships.
Part of learning how to love yourself is establishing healthy boundaries. Be firm about them. Patterns of emotional or physical abuse of any kind are never love by any definition. Just because someone says they love and need you does not mean they really love you in the agape way. It's usually more about themselves. Reject manipulation and cruel remarks. Avoid unsafe, unhealthy environments.
Whether we realize it or not, self-love manifests in how you take care of yourself physically, as well as mentally. Stop dangerous habits like smoking, doing drugs, driving too fast and stressing over little things.
Do something nice for yourself instead. Eat better. Exercise a few times a week. Get enough sleep. Meditate. Smile.
Are you waiting until the stars line up a certain way or your ducks to get in a row? Are you waiting until everyone else is taken care of?
Strive for balance. Be happy and fulfilled now.
Nurture yourself by having fun, either alone or with others. You are worth some of your own time and effort. Let your inner child come out to play once in a while.
The most loving thing you can do for yourself is doing what matters most to you. Do what gives you a sense of purpose and makes your heart sing. Make a habit of doing what brings you great joy and meaning. You will have more to give others, while feeling so much better about yourself.
Much of learning how to love yourself has to do with the talk that happens between your two ears. All the limiting beliefs, patterns, and negative self talk you have about yourself and the world produce major blocks to learning how to love yourself and others.
Negative thoughts take many forms, but they all have the same effect. You feel badly about yourself. You may sabotage your efforts to take care of yourself and fulfill your conscious desires.
Attack thoughts sound like this: 'I hate my thighs, nose...', 'I don't deserve, am not worth...', 'I'm alone, unloved, no good...'
Unload your emotional baggage and enjoy better feeling thoughts with one or more of these techniques.
There is truth to the statement, "If you look good you'll feel good." This applies to yourself and your space.
This may be one of the easier, fun tips about how to love yourself. You can involve others in the process, too. Yes, unworthiness issues may arise. Bless and heal them.
Mindfulness brings you into the present moment. It is also about loving and accepting loving yourself exactly as you are.
Notice and focus on exactly how you are feeling in the moment. Have the intention that you are going to stay with these feelings no matter what, just like a good friend. Part of learning to love yourself is allowing and honoring what you are feeling.
Give these mindful meditation exercises a try to relieve stress and feel more present whether you are out and about or being still.
In the long run, the physical and spiritual well-being that comes from learning how to love yourself, practicing self care, kindness, acceptance, and compassion as your top priorities may be the very best thing you can do for yourself and for those you love. Agape love will improve your health, your meaningful relationships, and your quality of life. It will spill over into all areas of your life and touch those you interact with in a positive, healing way.
Remind yourself often, "Love heals."