At this time of year, there is a lot of talk about love and romance, and loving others. What we don't hear a lot about though is self-love and the importance of loving yourself. And I'm not talking about the egotistical or narcissistic type of love, I'm talking about the self-acceptance and loving-yourself-just-the-way-you-are type of love.
Why is it important to love yourself? Sit with this question for a moment and notice what comes up for you when you ask yourself, "Why is it important to love myself?"
Notice what arises. What are your thoughts? What do you feel in your body? Is there a resistance to it or judgements about it? Are you dismissive? Or do you easily answer this question with a list of supportive statements? Do you feel an expanding energy in your heart center? Or does your heart center contract and close down?
Take a moment to tune into your heart center and notice what arises for you. If this is uncomfortable, just be gentle with yourself and allow any feelings of discomfort to rise up and move through you, allowing the energy to shift.
By tuning into why it's important to love yourself, you are raising your awareness around what it means to be loved and how you personally need to be loved. You'll become aware of the places in your body and soul that are full of love, and those places that are in desperate need of being loved, seen, and accepted. Once you begin to understand how you need to be loved, you can begin to meet your needs through a variety of different practices.
Some days can be harder than others, so it's helpful to start small. Be patient with yourself and begin again when you have forgotten these practices or you don't feel worthy of loving yourself; building new habits takes time and repetition, and remembering that you are worthy of love at all times. Here are a few of my favorite self-love practices to get you started. Feel free to get creative and have fun with the variety of ways that you can love yourself!
1. Love in Action
There are SO many ways you can take action to love yourself! Taking a hot bath, reading a good book, practicing Restorative Yoga (my number one go-to!), attending a Sound Healing event, taking a walk or hike out in Nature, exercising or working out at the gym, traveling to your favorite location or discovering a new destination, going to the farmers market, listening to your favorite music, getting a massage, taking a nap, dancing to your favorite song, singing in the shower, talking with a close friend, going out and socializing, cuddling with your pet, etc., etc. Make it fun!
2. Loving-Kindness Meditation
Meditation is a powerful way to love yourself and calm your mind and nervous system, bringing you into a state of balanced harmony. If meditation is new to you, you can sit comfortably and just focus on the sensations of your breath as you slowly breathe in... and slowly exhale. Sit for 2-5 minutes to begin with, and then work your way up to 10-15 minutes, or even longer if you are enjoying this practice. I find it very calming and grounding, especially when my mind is anxious and running lots of random thoughts.
Another awesome one is a Loving-Kindness Meditation. Again, find a comfortable seat, hands resting comfortably in your lap or over your heart, close your eyes or look down, then begin to send kind wishes to yourself, saying silently in your mind, "May I Be Happy, May I Be Peaceful, May I Be Filled With Love." Repeat this mantra a few times silently in your mind.
Then begin to direct your attention to someone close to you, sending them kind wishes, "May You Be Happy, May You Be Peaceful, May You Be Filled With Love." Repeat this mantra a few times silently in your mind.
Then start to expand your kind wishes even farther out, sending these kind wishes out to the entire world and to all living beings, even those you have difficulty sending kindness to because everyone is worthy of being loved, "May You Be Happy, May You Be Peaceful, May You Be Filled With Love." Repeat this mantra a few times silently in your mind.
Then begin to bring your awareness back to yourself, sending yourself kind wishes once again, "May I Be Happy, May I Be Peaceful, May I Be Filled With Love." Repeat this a few times silently in your mind. Then open your eyes and bring your awareness back into the room. Notice what has shifted for you and how you feel in your heart center. Does your heart feel expanded? Do you feel loved? Do you feel more grounded and present? More peaceful? Just notice what has shifted for you. I find that my heart feels expanded and full of joy and gratitude after practicing this meditation, and I also feel connected to the all that is. Take a few minutes to give it a try and see how it feels for you.
In a culture of putting others first, it can be challenging to remember to have compassion for yourself. When things aren't going right, or when you're having an emotional or frustrating day, try this. Stop and take a deep breath, and Empathize with your situation. Say to yourself, "this is a lot for one person manage, it's no wonder it's so stressful...", or something like, "it's okay to be emotional about this, I'm genuinely feeling sad (mad, frustrated, etc.)." By honoring your emotions, you are accepting all of who you are and it can help you shift your awareness in these challenging moments.
Acknowledge the situation you're in, name the emotion, and then empathize with yourself so you can support yourself through the situation and get to the other side of it. As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it, "Empathy has no script. There is no right way or wrong way to do it. It’s simply listening, holding space, withholding judgment, emotionally connecting, and communicating that incredibly healing message of ‘You’re not alone.’" Such incredible wisdom! When we stop along the way to love ourselves, then we can get back on our feet and shine our biggest light out in the world. Such a gift!
4. Creative Expression
This is one of my favorites! Getting creative can be so fulfilling! Whether it's creating a Vision Board, painting a small canvas to hang on your wall, gardening, cooking, baking, or writing a poem, there are so many ways to express your creativity! My favorite part about the creative process is the realization that what you created now exists because you created it! So cool!
If all of this seems overwhelming, or you don't know how to get started, just begin by sitting for a moment and connecting with your breath. Close your eyes or look down. Place your hand over your heart and feel your heart beating. Feel your feet firmly on the ground. Say to yourself as you inhale, "I am Peaceful," and as you exhale, "I am filled with Love." Just take a couple of breaths to begin with, and then add on more when you are ready to extend this practice.
Start small, planting seeds along the way, and you will begin to see that you can love yourself always, and in all ways, each and every day.