A lot of time when we think about love, we think about feelings or emotions or a state of being. You feel love, you are in love… but love is more than just this. Love is demonstrated and experienced through action. This means love is not just a feeling, but an intention and a practice.
You are practicing love when you make your partner’s lunch for the next day, when you care for your sick child, or when you put on your rain boots to take your dog for a walk in a downpour. Think about it – if you have zero affinity for these things, you wouldn’t be driven to perform these actions. We do these things out of love for the people who are important to us.
Now let’s change gears for a moment... when was the last time you had a shower? A GOOD shower, where you take your time to really enjoy the warm water and use all your favorite products? This is not to be confused with a quick hop under the shower head before the water is completely heated to quickly push shampoo through your hair before you head to work or take your kids to school. Next question – what foods have you been eating? How have you been eating them – are you sitting down and focusing on your meals, or are you eating them on the go or while multitasking? When is the last time you did something you love for you – read a book, go for a walk, watch a movie?
You get the picture.
We suffer from a scarcity of self love in our society. We are so busy trying to love others that we rob ourselves of love. But this is a vicious cycle – the less we love ourselves and take care of ourselves, the less we are inclined to love those important to us. When you’re sick or tired or cranky – haven’t slept well or eaten well or done laundry so you’re wearing those pants that don’t fit quite right – do you really demonstrate love and care for your people as well as you do when you feel happy and rested and healthy?
We have to practice self love. It’s imperative to loving others. Without it, not only are we not living the fullest existence we can, we are limiting the love we can give to those that we hold most dear. So right here, right now, commit to your practice of self love. This routine is just as important as making sure your children get to school on time and you meeting your deadlines at work and all the other things in your life, because without this routine, those routines also suffer. Everyone’s practice of self love is different, because we are all different. However, there are three broad steps that you can use to begin shaping your practice of self love – mind, body, and spirit.
Mindfulness is a big buzz word right now. It is simply the act of bringing your attention to the present moment, rather than focusing on things that have happened (rumination) or what could happen in the future (worry). Rumination and worry have been linked to depression and anxiety, but studies have shown that mindfulness-based interventions actually help reduce these by decreasing the amount of time we spend focused on the past or future. When you are focusing on the present moment, you have time to appreciate it, and also check in to see how you’re feeling. When you are present to your thoughts and feelings, you can better navigate your way through them, coming from a place of intentionality rather than reactivity.
2. Self care
This is a big one. It seems simple and straightforward, but it seems to be something many people struggle with. We often put ourselves into a deficit to keep others out of one. We’ll sacrifice sleep to help our children with a project. We’ll skip a meal to finish a last-minute work assignment. The biggest thing about self care is time management, and this is where having a routine comes in. Not every shower is going to be a luxurious 20-minute affair with a deep conditioner and face mask. But you can try to schedule one in every weekend, to give yourself the pampering and quiet time you deserve. You might also be surprised how much more time you have when you begin practicing mindfulness and gratitude – when you aren’t spending time worrying about how little time you have to make and eat a sandwich… you can use that time to make and eat the sandwich. We waste so much time worrying about not having time! Stop worrying, start doing. Pencil in your self care – meals, adequate sleep, time for grooming and chores, etc – and make everything else work around it.
According to Brené Brown, gratitude is the antidote to practically every negative emotion and feeling, including fear, anxiety, worry, and shame. Gratitude, just like love, is a practice. Gratitude is similar to mindfulness, in that it requires you to get present, but it takes it another step further and makes you reformat your thinking. When you find yourself in a place of self doubt or insecurity, flip your thoughts around to gratitude. For example – if you are unhappy with the curve of your belly, think about how grateful you are to have a body that works and has carried you through life this far. When you feel fear about a job interview, change that to how grateful you are to even have this opportunity to try out for this position that other people would love. When you confront negative self talk with gratitude, it dissipates as quickly as morning fog burned off by the light of the sun, leaving you with nothing but happiness for where you are.
You don’t have to do all of these things all at once. Start with one thing today. As you begin to practice self-love, the other steps will come along, and you will find yourself practicing self-love naturally.