Whether you're holding yourself to unrealistically high standards or your spending all your energy focusing on others, it can be easy to fall into a pattern of feeling down on yourself. As part of cultivating a healthy mind and body, we need to start combating those feelings by participating in habits that encourage self-love. Constantly feeling inadequate can not only wreak havoc on your mental health, but it can affect your relationships, your career, and even your physical body.
Self-love can mean a lot of different things, but it boils down to feeling good about yourself, even if there are moments when you're disappointed. "Self-love is all about building your self-esteem and self-image," says psychoanalyst Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. to Bustle over email. "The idea is to use your ideal self as your guide, not expecting to reach it, but to give you direction and a hopeful outlook. We often depend on others for validation, but it’s important to have your own internal compass."
We all struggle with self-esteem issues here and there, but if you want to have a consistent positive relationship with yourself, you might need to put in a little work to get there. Try adopting these 11 habits that help encourage regular self-love.
1. Prioritizing Self-Care
"Take some time out for yourself each day to do something just for you," says psychotherapist Kristen Martinez, M.Ed., Ed.S., LMHCA, NCC over email. "If you're super busy and don't envision yourself being able to squeeze in a trip to the spa every day, you're over-thinking it: you can take 15 minutes to read a chapter of your favorite book with a fresh cup of hot tea, and that is self-care. Whatever you want to do, that is nourishing for your body and soul, do it."
2. Practicing Mindfulness
Research from Griffith University in Australia found that regularly practicing mindfulness, such as being present in the moment, letting thoughts and emotions enter and leave without reacting to them, and having a non-judgmental attitude, helps secure self-esteem.
3. Respecting Your Body
"People who practice self-love respect their body by eating healthy and exercising," says personal development coach Trevicia Williams, Ph.D. over email. "They view their body as a sound board, a place to tune into and listen. Doing so helps them prevent harmful activities or refrain from eating unhealthy foods."
4. Taking It One Day At A Time
No change happens over night, and the same goes for cultivating your self-worth. "Take each day one at a time, and as you move through it, pat yourself on the back for small and large accomplishments," says Hollman. "Keep in mind that it’s not just what you’ve done or finished, but the process of expressing yourself in these different ways."
5. Allowing Yourself Forgiveness
We all know it, but sometimes we just need to remind ourselves that nobody's perfect. "A deterrent to self-love is holding onto regrets or shame even about mistakes from the past," says Maria Sirois, Psy. D, a clinical psychologist at The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. "Finding a way to forgive yourself for the past while committing to improving your behavior or living more closely to your values will increase self-love."
6. Developing Long-Term Plans
Since loving yourself is a process, allow yourself to make some concrete goals on how to accomplish this. "Develop some long range plans for going towards what might inspire you," says Hollman. "It may be what you do in your work or something new you want to learn. Give yourself credit for being open minded about where you’re headed."
7. Stopping Comparison To Others
"Anytime we spend time in our heads thinking that we are 'less than' because others have more, look differently, or somehow are 'better' decreases self-love," says Sirois. One study from the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that comparing your life to others on Facebook can lead to feelings of depression and loneliness, so try not to hold yourself up against others, on social media or otherwise.
8. Focusing On Your Self-Talk
"If you notice that you're constantly beating yourself up in your own head, zero in on these thoughts," says Martinez. "Find ways to counteract them that are more loving and compassionate in nature. What would a beloved friend say to you during this time? What would you say to your younger self if she was going through this experience? Show yourself that there is another part in the conversation."
9. Relishing Your Alone Time
Many of us fear being alone, as we find ourselves lost in our thoughts without distractions, but instead, learn to use this time as a tool. "Take time to spend alone in sheer contemplation," says Hollman. "Relax your shoulders and take a break even during hectic times. Those moments of introspection and easing into a comforting place will motivate you to continue forward building your self-love."
10. Surrounding Yourself With Positive People
"If you are trying to cultivate self-love, it can be extremely difficult to sustain this practice if you're wading through a constant wave of Negative Nancys in your life," says Martinez. "Are your friends open to treating themselves with love, compassion, respect, and dignity? If they are, great! If they're not, try to find others who might be more understanding and can give you more peace of mind when you're around them."
11. Doing More Things You Love
"If you are subsisting on a mindless, boring job just to pay the bills, that's totally okay — what are you doing during the rest of your day that can nourish you?" says Martinez. "What are your hobbies, interests, things that you're good at? Keep in mind your skill set and your unique talents that you bring to the world." Engaging in activities that make you feel good activate an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, which controls how we feel about life, according to Temple University's School of Medicine.
The more you love yourself, the happier you will feel, and the more motivated you will be to accomplish what you want in life.