Self-love is a term we use oh so casually in our lives. ‘you need to practice self-love’ is a statement we all hear, from or near and dear ones – in a time of difficulty, self-doubt, confusion and every other spirit-wavering sentiment there is. Do we really know what self-love is? It is basically and very simply, having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. It means taking care of your needs, the way you would a beloved child or significant other. It means not sacrificing what you ‘want’ for a change. In very simple terms, it means ‘not settling’.
When we say ‘love yourself’, we do not mean consider yourself the smartest, most superior and supreme being in the room. It means to acknowledge, accept and work on your weaknesses, insecurities and triggers – these shortcomings are also a part of you, making you who you are. To have a sense of compassion for what you lack, and to work on its betterment, instead of locking it away. To take care of yourself like you would a friend in distress – giving yourself what your body, brain and soul need to run the marathon that is life.
For those that do not have the manual for it, how do we learn to love ourselves? This is simple, you simply take the time to notice how you react to and tend to your body’s physical needs in general – be it hunger, pain, dissatisfaction or emotion. Something as simple as staying up longer when all you want to do is sleep, or working through a fever where you can barely keep your eyes open, or just skipping breakfast and spending your morning with dizzying headaches; these are small steps to denying yourself of the love that you deserve.
Making ourselves a priority in our daily lives is imperative in order to feed our souls. It could be a 30-minute meditation session as you wake up or just sometime in the night to make a warm cup of tea and sit with yourself, going over the whole day’s activities – with yourself. And on some days, it could be two dense chocolate-chip cookies that you have been denying yourself for a healthier diet.
So, in my experience, it is always a good idea to break the hiatus and pamper yourself in some or the other way – whether it is with food, a spa day, or simply doing something without having a timer on. Here are six simple ways to begin your journey towards self-love without compromising your other activities and relationships:
Act as if – you are loving yourself
It is a known fact that we can sometimes speak things into existence. Manifestations are a real thing – sometimes your willpower may be so strong, that you can speak your success or achievement into being. Similarly, wake up every day and speak to yourself – tell yourself ‘I love you’ and ‘you will have a brilliant day today’. Don’t wait for someone else to do this – you are your own happiness!
A simple but effective technique to make this happen is by taking a pen and paper. Write on top of the sheet “I love myself, therefore” and begin to list down things that you would like to treat yourself with – whether it’s a bubble bath, a spa visit, an hour at night to ponder, a good evening of music, a light-fluffy movie or wholesome generous food. Make time each day to do one of these things.
Eat when you are hungry – not when your clock tells you to!
Hunger pangs are signals that your body needs nutritive attention – if you ignore them for too long, a host of health problems can arise ranging from lack of focus, irritability, nervousness and light-headedness. Wholesome food provides nourishment to your body in ways that a full day of work cannot. Take time out to feed yourself whenever your body calls out for it.
When you do something, do only that!
When you eat, only eat. When you work, work with focus. When you are out for a walk, do not distract yourself. Make sure your body responds to sensations the right way, do not confuse it. Be prepared to enjoy each activity 100% - no compromises. Once you begin to do this, pay attention to your body and how it feels. There is no comparison to any other feeling!
Slow and steady wins the race
We seldom have any good outcome from rushing things – eating, working, writing, driving, talking or listening. Give time to each thing you do – mindfulness begins with slowing down. Sometimes we have thoughts while doing things – but if we are doing things too fast, that thought is just fleeting. There is no time to process the thought. While eating, sit down, look at your plate, study the colours, enjoy each bite wholly and when a thought comes into your mind, learn to entertain it and examine it – does this work for me, do I want to do this, do I enjoy having this thought in my head. With a slower pace in every kind of activity, your mind has control over whether to entertain a thought or not.
What does your belly want – feed it that!
It’s the third week of your gluten-free diet and someone in the office suggests pizza for lunch! Mmmmm, yes, the idea is very appetizing. You are salivating, imagining each topping, the mushrooms sizzling onto the pizza, the cheese melting and browning - ready for you to eat!
But then, it strikes you that you cannot eat flour – you are on a diet. However, let me remind you, that it is completely okay to indulge in something your belly is craving. It is okay to have a cheat meal – perhaps just two or three slices – just enough to feed your soul and keep you happy. If you truly do not wish to stray, learn to understand the craving that your body is having. Which food kind is the necessary evil here? Then, try to find a healthier, more wholesome alternative to satiate this craving. The process starts with YOU.
Respect – treat yourself with the utmost respect – body, mind and soul!
Mindlessness is the root of all evil. Binge-eating, a shopping spree, weeks at the spa – these are not self-love. The key to having a good life is to give time to yourself to do things that make you happy – to indulge in them, but then to get back to your normal lifestyle.
When your body craves something sweet – you do not need to have an entire cake, a slice is just fine. Just enough to satiate the craving – to keep you happy. Similarly, when you feel like it’s a day to treat yourself to some new clothes – go to the store, take a walk around. Pick something you like – let it be one, or two things. When the quantity is limited, the enjoyment derived from the product is much better.
So, while I write this to you today, I have decided to treat myself to a Belgian Dark Chocolate bar from my range – because chocolate and a perfect mix of nuts and seeds is all that my soul needs. The perfect nourishment – the one go-to indulgence that I cannot resist. But, I shall have just one – and enjoy it with all my senses. I leave you with an impactful line by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a celebrated professor of mindfulness and stressless-lives ‘Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.’