As it’s Valentine’s Day this weekend I thought I should take some time to talk about self-love. I know that this may sound like a strange topic to lots of you, but it’s really so important. We’re all so used to focusing on how other people make us feel that it’s easy to forget that we don’t always need external influences to be happy, and that actually our relationship with ourselves is so fundamental to our own happiness. Being in touch with your own emotions and feeling in control of your goals really makes life so much better. We all need to remember to take the time to connect with ourselves no matter how busy we are or how crazy life gets
The idea of taking time out to think about you and your needs everyday sounds so strange but it’s done wonders for me. I found that last year I got so overwhelmed by work that I ran around non-stop and never took the time out to think, reflect and breathe. Now I make sure that I take this time everyday and it has honestly done wonders for me. The most important thing to remember is that it is all about you and you just have to find an activity that helps you escape life. So if sitting in a candle-lit room doing a facemask doesn’t appeal to you then that is totally fine, just find something that does – whether it’s taking some time out to just read a book, see friends or family, go boxing or take the dog for a walk it doesn’t matter, just find something that helps you re-energize and relax. I find that working out, doing yoga, taking walks and baths are the best mediation for me and I always push myself to get up earlier everyday to make sure I find this time as it helps me focus for the rest of the day. This should really help deal with stress too as it allows you to take a step back from your day, which also helps you think in a clearer way.
One of the biggest obstacles that we face is technology and it really can put a dampener on our ‘me time’. Most of us spend all day sitting in front of a screen, connecting to a virtual world of people, projects and plans. There is so much focus on the past and the future that the present just ends up passing us by without thought. The problem is that the world of technology never stops and there’s no such thing as emptying your inbox, as it will just start filling up again five minutes later – so you have to make it stop. Turn your phone off or onto airplane mode for a few hours in the evening and while you sleep to make sure that you actually connect with the real world and the people around you. The other issue with technology, especially social media, is that we’re constantly surrounded by the knowledge of what everyone else is doing and this can really warp our perceptions of how life really is. Social media can make you feel lonely and give you unrealistic comparisons, which are not an accurate reflection of other people’s lives! It is so important to remember that people choose what to post and you don’t always get the full picture. Everyone else has good and bad days and so it is totally OK for you to have those too.
One way to feel better is to take a minute or two a couple of times a day to just be more mindful of what is going on around you and how you feel. It sounds like the smallest task but just stopping work, breathing deeply and thinking about your body and mind for a few seconds is so helpful. It helps you realize if you’re stressed, anxious, sad etc and just knowing how you feel is a great start to generating a positive outlook on the day as it stops you from being in autopilot. There are some really helpful apps out there that help with this; I use one called Mindfulness Daily, which sends you gentle reminders throughout the day to check in with yourself. I’ve been using it for a while and it really helps me. I’ve tried Headspace too, which is also really popular and again easier to fit into your life as it doesn’t require a crazy time commitment. I think that’s the thing, lots of us want to be more mindful but we just don’t know where to start so having an app can really help. Another simple, not-too-scary way of building mindfulness into your life is a gratitude journal.
Gratitude journals are an awesome way to help you appreciate your own life, the people around you and the things you have achieved. You can use the journal as you like, but I like using a notebook just to write down 3-5 positive things that happened that day. These don’t need to be monumental accomplishments, they can be really small details but it’s nice to take sometime at the end of the day to reflect on the things that made you smile and feel good about life. Then when you’re having one of those days where life just feels a bit too much or you feel a little lost you can go back through the journal and remind yourself that life may not be as bad as it seems and even on the worst day something good always happens. I find it helpful writing these things down, but if you don’t feel that you’re ready for this then just thinking through the positive points of the day is great – we all have to start somewhere. Mindfulness and meditation are great tools for everyone; so don’t be afraid of incorporating them into your life. I promise that they’re not just about sitting crossed legged on a yoga mat chanting – you can just take time out anytime and any place to reflect, whether this be in the bath, your walk home or in a special spot at home.
One of the other issues that really gets in the way of happiness is our own critical nature. So many of us are so quick to talk down about ourselves and look at our flaws first that it’s hard to be positive. It’s a habit that lots of us have, but it can be pretty detrimental, as we can’t really expect other people to warm to us if we can’t warm to ourselves! Finding a way to praise ourselves for the things we are good at brings a more positive focus to the way we think about ourselves. I’m not trying to instill arrogance here, just a little self worth and confidence. We should focus on the good bits about us first and see our flaws as things to work on, rather that unchangeable negatives. Allow other people to see the great things about you and take compliments graciously, accept that it is OK for people to say nice things about you! We’re all just trying to be the best versions of ourselves and allowing other people to build your confidence is a great step – although always easier said than done. Be kind and forgiving to yourself too, we can’t be perfect all the time so don’t beat yourself up for missing a gym class, staying up too late or eating pizza – it’s not the end of the world and we’re all only human.
While self-love is all about you, the people around you do of course play a part in your happiness. Surrounding yourself with people that bring out the best in you is so important because positivity is contagious. People that understand your value are worth so much more than those that bring you down and you really can choose who to spend your time with. If you don’t want to go to that party and would rather hang out with someone else, or yourself for that matter, then that really is OK and anyone that questions doesn’t deserve your energy. This also applies to what you do with your time; doing things that you love will serve you so well. If people make fun of you for loving juice and yoga then that’s totally their issue, as long as you’re not judging them or criticising them there shouldn’t be a problem. If there is a problem, maybe it’s better to surround yourself with people that are happy to support your life decisions.
I know this post is a bit gushy and some of you may think that I’m mad, but I hope that it has inspired you to think about how awesome you are this week! Just remember that taking care of you isn’t selfish and self-love isn’t arrogant, it’s a really important thing – the happier you are in your relationship with yourself the happier you will be in your relationships with the people around you.