How to Develop Self-Love
If we’ve learned anything over the past couple of years, it’s that the importance of developing self-love and taking care of your mental health is something to take seriously. It used to be common to dismiss self-love as some ‘silly hippie’ concept. But self-love isn’t just some trendy phase. Self-love and compassion have been proven to be essential components to maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing.
Now for the one million dollar question, how do we practice self-love? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as reading self-help books and saying a couple of affirmations one day. Each person’s journey to finding self-love and compassion is different. The good news? There are plenty of ways to practice self-love, challenge your inner critic and feel happier in your everyday life, it’s all about what works for you. Here are some simple ways to start developing self-love.
What Is Self-Love?
Self-love doesn’t have to be some huge, intimidating concept. The Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation defines self-love as “a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth.” They also explain that that can look like taking care of your own needs, recognizing your worth and putting an emphasis on taking care of your own happiness and well-being.
Essentially, self-love is about recognizing the immense strength and worth that you have to offer. When you realize this, it’s easier to live a life that’s inline with your values.
The Benefits of Self-Love
At first, the idea of loving yourself may seem trivial, but it actually has a huge impact on your mental health, physical health and wellbeing. Here are just some of the benefits of self-love.
- Lowers levels of anxiety and depression, especially if you’re able to practice self-compassion during difficult periods in your life
- Increases resilience
- Improves immune function
- Practicing self-compassion exercises has been shown to lead to higher parasympathetic activity, something that can help reduce stress and regulate your emotions
- Increases confidence
- Better sleep
- Increases self-esteem
How to Practice Self-Love
It will be different for everyone. To find what works best for you, try out some of these common practices.
Stop Comparing Yourself
It’s all too easy to hop on social media and compare yourself to everyone else on your feed. And as cliché as it sounds, you never know what someone is actually going through from their photos. Our social media feeds are like our individual highlight reels. No one is going to post a photo of them stressing about their job or crying in their car. Even in real life, everyone wants to make it seem like they are doing better than they really are. We are all going through our individual struggles, and just because someone’s life may look perfect doesn’t mean it truly is.
Focus on the Strengths You Have
We live in a society that is constantly trying to get us to improve. You need to workout harder, be more productive, be healthier, look better etc. When you’re only looking at the things you don’t have, you miss out on the amazing things you already have. Try writing down a list of your strengths, even if it starts with just one line!
Just like focusing on your strengths, focusing on the things you already have in your life that make it great is an amazing way to improve your mood and well-being. Try starting a gratitude journal and try writing down just three things you’re grateful for each morning.
Challenge Your Inner Critic
We all have that voice in our head that tells us we need to be better, or that we’re doing something wrong. The first step to challenging these negative thoughts is to be aware that you’re having them. If you’re feeling stressed or upset, check in with your thoughts. What is the thought exactly? Now, imagine one of your loved ones told you they had that same thought about themselves. What advice would you give them?
We’re always harder on ourselves than others - and for no reason! Talking to yourself like you would talk to a loved one is a great way to challenge your inner critic.
Other tips you can use to practice self-love
- Meditation can help make you more aware and non-judgemental of your thoughts, you can find specific self-compassion meditations to help start you off
- Take time for yourself by practicing self care (reading a book, taking a bath, watching your favourite tv show, going for a walk etc.)
Remember, developing self-love takes time! You’ll often hear it referred to as “practicing” self-love because it is exactly that, a practice. Some days will be harder than others, so don’t be discouraged if you find yourself at square one some days. Being kind and loving yourself will only become easier and more natural the more you practice it.
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