In honour of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to talk about love. Not the typical gushy, smoochy-smoochy kind of love, but the kind that is a catalyst for all other love: self-love.
We spend a lot of time thinking of others and our external relationships, and how they make us feel. We want others to be kind and respectful towards us, and we like it when others take a break from their busy days to spend quality time with us. So it makes sense to treat ourselves the same way, right? It’s easier said than done! There is so much pressure in this day and age to always be in go-mode, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of being busy and trying to reach our professional and personal goals, that what ends up being compromised most is our own mental and emotional well-being. It doesn’t help that we are continuously connected to the virtual world, forever absorbing updates on our friends and acquaintances, subconsciously comparing ourselves to the –often elaborated— lives of others. Like it or not, these are negative motivations to keep pushing ourselves harder, and before we know it, we fall victim to the “disease of busy”, and lose our ability to live in the present. This weekend, I encourage you to take a few deep breaths, check in with yourself and shower yourself with self-love.
Check In With Yourself
I’m not very good at meditation, but before my favourite app helps me pick a guided meditation, it encourages me to tune in with body and soul. Turn off all distractions, and have some quiet time to yourself. How do you feel physically? Great? Or so-so? Next, focus on your emotional state. What are the first 5 emotions that you feel surface? So often we lose touch with how we are truly feeling because we’re focused on the next step in the day’s to-do list. Taking even five minutes out of your day to discover if you feel anxious, insecure, etc. helps improve your outlook, but most importantly it forces you out of auto-pilot and brings you back to the present moment.
There are a plethora of benefits to meditation, not least of which that the act inspires warmth, love and compassion. Perhaps your meditations direct those feelings towards loved ones. Either way, when a meditation is complete, it is normal to feel calmer, and approach the rest of your day with a more positive outlook. Consider meditation on yourself – on your strongest qualities, on challenges overcome, and being grateful for the bounty of goodness and beauty in life. Focus on accepting yourself, loving yourself, and absorb all that warmth, love and compassion with which you leave a meditation.
Personally, when I’m stressed, feeling unmotivated or like I need to reconnect with the present, running is my reset button. Nothing feels better than working up a sweat, or getting into that great running space where your body is moving, but your mind is –finally! — still. I always feel refreshed and restored after a good long run, but the same could be said about any exercise that releases some endorphins! Take the time to treat your body to some physical exertion. Sweating will help your body detoxify both physically and emotionally. Even a half hour jog, or a brisk walk around the neighbourhood will help give your brain a much needed time out, and help you focus on how you feel in the present moment.
Be Kind To Yourself
We are our own toughest critics. Sure, in the quest for success, it is important to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, and to work on the latter. But focusing on personal flaws and thinking mean thoughts about ourselves damages our outlook on life, our relationships with others, and our relationship with self. Next time you’re going to give yourself a hard time about something you dislike about your work or even your body, question if you would continue a friendship with someone who would say those means words to you. I know I’ve had some pretty mean thoughts about myself and it’s a tough vice to break, but it’s important to learn to extend the same kindness to ourselves that we would to our friends and family.
Sometimes the best way to make yourself feel loved is by spoiling yourself a little, and of course this has different meanings for different people. For some, it may mean curling up with a great book, while for others it may mean spending some quality, tech-free time with a loved one, watching a comedy, or going for a hike with their dog. Whatever feels right for you in that moment! I’m not saying everyone should spend an hour of their weekend in a candlelit room listening to Dido, writing in their gratitude journal, but do take some time to appreciate yourself, give yourself some down time, and restore your body, mind and soul to the present.
Okay, so in the end, self-love does sound as gushy and cheesy as the Hallmark type of love you’ll see all over this Valentine’s Day weekend. It may even seem a little self-indulgent and downright selfish sometimes. In fact, it’s just the opposite! Taking the time to treat yourself well and take gentle care of your well-being is an important step in extending compassion to your external relationships, and growing as an individual. So while you may be counting on a special card, gift, or sweet gesture from someone else this weekend, take a moment to reflect on the way you can show yourself some love.
Credits: Illustrations & Lettering by Linda Dieschbourg.