Learning how to love yourself and practicing extreme self care are two keys for lasting health and happiness. If you are ill or unhappy (and even if you aren't), practicing unconditional agape love toward yourself and others makes life healthier and happier for everyone. It can make a critical difference in your recovery and sense of well-being.
Knowing how to love yourself is a lot easier than putting the how-to's into practice. Showing yourself and others real love in meaningful, tangible ways as a daily practice is 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 of St. Paul to the Corinthians explains the power and nature of unconditional love. The words engraved on this 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, in this way. It would be a taste of heaven on earth for all of us.
This love is authentic. It comes from the heart and a mind that keeps the ego in its place. It is your true spiritual nature. Getting in touch with this part of you may take some uncovering and practice, but it is there inside you and worth the effort.
Loving yourself is not the same thing as building self-esteem. A healthy self-esteem develops naturally as you respect, honor, and care for yourself and others with love. This is a lot different than pumping up your ego and putting on airs, which only cover up feelings of poor self-worth.
When you love yourself, you value your needs and your dreams and nurture the well-being of your mind, body, and spirit. Especially if you are ill, this commitment to yourself enters the realm of extreme self-care. You may have to become the primary receiver of your own kindness, compassion, and attention, and the receiver of that care from others as well. Accept it with grace and appreciation, knowing that you are blessing the giver by receiving, which is much different than taking and expecting.
You may not feel that you deserve to lavish yourself with loving self care. You do. It is not selfish. You can only truly give what you have. If your bucket is empty you have nothing to pour out to others, at least not anything that is genuinely given. Sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. That's okay. The following tips and exercises will help. Your brain will make new neural connections and sharing unconditional love will feel 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. Choose a few tips to practice and see how they add to the quality of your life and your relationships.
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 and change 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 yourself the good things you 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 your well-being. Practice them often. Live your life on purpose, not by default.
As much as possible, do not compromise in this area or feel guilty for putting self-care first. It is important to truly believe in your heart that it is for the best that you give yourself the 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-once you identify your area of greatest need, follow the links to pages with tips to help you in that area- yours as a free "Thank you!" gift when you subscribe to Val's newsletter. Sign up here to get your quiz and other goodies. Unsubscribe anytime.
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. Stick to the Golden Rule and you can't go wrong: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.
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. Dogs teach you what agape 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.
An enjoyable way to love yourself is with 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 few deep breaths.
When you hug your loved ones, enjoy the hug last for at least 10 seconds. Really put your heart and attention into it. You will feel bonded and as a bonus you each get a health-enhancing, feel-good dose of oxytocin, the love hormone. Longer snuggles are even better for relieving stress and feeling good.
One of the most important ways to love yourself is to forgive. Forgive yourself and others. Be free of grudges, resentment, guilt, blame, and shame. These emotions benefit no one and block healing. Use those emotions 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. learn the lesson, and let it go. The past is over.
Be kind, forgiving, and honest with yourself and others. Temper your criticisms and judgments. Hold your tongue. Be generous with your appreciation and praise. You teach people by your tone and example how you expect them to treat you. When you model how to treat you well, there will be less to forgive.
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 spontaneously showing kindness freely from your heart to other people, animals, the plants and the earth. It's fun to give into the loving kindness impulse and do something nice for someone. Make this a habit. It will feed your soul and lift your spirits. And show yourself some little kindnesses, too.
One of the best ways to practice loving 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. Go for walks and hikes with friends and family in the fields and forests. 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.
Some people act in 'toxic' ways and are not healthy to be around. You can be sure these 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. You can still practice agape love toward toxic people in a way that does not compromise yourself. 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.
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 with all that is. 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 the Source of love 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 and love yourself 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 loving 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, and relationships.
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. It feels the pain of another and takes action to make things better. Do this for yourself as well. 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.
Expand your circle of compassion beyond yourself and your loved ones. Imagine what it is like to be that homeless person, or a prisoner without judging how he got into that situation. Imagine what it is like for that dog in the local shelter or the chicken in a factory farm. Put yourself mentally in their place. How does it feel?
Who does your heart go out to most? What can you do to alleviate their suffering?
You cannot change the whole world, but through your choices and acts of compassionate giving and service you can bring positive change to the parts of the world you touch. You can make a world of difference to one person, one animal or one cause at a time.
Here's an easy way to practice compassion. Vote with your wallet by only purchasing fair trade merchandise and humanely sourced animal products.
P.S. Your life purpose often lies with the cause that most touches your heart.
Whether we realize it or not, self-love manifests in how you take care of yourself. 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. Indulge in a few of your favorite "soul foods, but don't overdo. Treat yourself to healthy treats. They taste good too.
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. Let your inner child come out to play once in a while. Incorporate activities that gave you joy as a child into what you do now. You are worth some of your own time and effort. Smile, have, fun, laugh.
The most loving thing you can do for yourself is doing what matters most to you. Do what gives you a sense of meaning and 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.
Criticism rarely changes anyone in the long run. More often, faultfinding leads to negative changes. Critical 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 of how to love yourself and others because "Love heals".