A lot of us devote time to improving our relationships with others, but it's less common that we work on growing our love for ourselves. In fact, many people even feel guilty about spending time on their own self-improvement. But self-love is the foundation for your relationships with other people, as well as your overall happiness. So, devoting time to yourself isn't just OK; it's beneficial to the people around you.
For this reason, personal development coach Maria Johanna created a seven-day self-love challenge for the week of Valentine's Day. Her goal was to help people, whether they were single or in relationships, take advantage of the holiday by getting in touch with their true selves. "The more you love yourself, the more you start to become who you really are," Johanna tells Bustle.
So that anyone could achieve this goal, Johanna emailed out a meditation, writing exercises, and challenges each day to people who signed up for the free self-love challenge. These exercises push people to think about what they want in life and how they can take better care of themselves.
This February, I decided to complete the challenge for myself. Here's what I learned from it and what it entails in case you'd like to try it yourself.
Day 2: Put Yourself First
For the second day of the self-love week, you make a list of things in your life that you want to say "no" to and things that you want to say "yes" to. I was surprised by how many things I wasn't saying "no" to when I wanted to, because I think of myself as a very independent decision-maker.
I was also surprised that, once I thought about it, there were a lot of things I wanted to say "yes" to that I had not been able to because I hadn't been proactive about seeking them out. This exercise reminded me that we have more control than we think over how we spend our time — we just have to take some time to think about what we want and go after it.
Day 3: Self-Acceptance
We all need to learn to accept ourselves as we are if we're to behave confidently around others. To help with this, Johanna created a self-acceptance meditation and an exercise: Think of a situation you're having trouble accepting, and determine what about it you can and can't control. Then, let go of what you can't, and create a plan for what you can do. If there's a situation you can't control, ask yourself how you can stay positive in it.
Day 4: Self-Care
The importance of self-care has become a cliché, but it really is that important. To step up your self-care on the fourth day, Johanna recommends re-evaluating how you eat — not just what you eat, but whether you eat with other people, take the time to enjoy your food, and know what you're eating. The cliché stuff, like getting a massage or a facial, can be a great addition to these basics.
Day 5: Happiness
Being happy is a choice, even if some circumstances make it very hard to choose it. You can find happiness in any situation. But an easier way to go about becoming more happy is to put yourself in more situations that make you happy. So, for the fifth day, you write down a list of things that make you happy.
And, since music is such a quick and simple source of happiness, you can create another list just of songs that make you happy — then listen to them! I was surprised by how much listening to some old songs that remind me of happy times uplifted me.
Day 6: Gratitude
Numerous studies have shown that gratitude makes you happier and combats anxiety and depression. So, for day six, you write down things that you're grateful for. I was going through a rough time when I did this exercise, so it was hard to come up with things to write. So, I resorted to extremely basic things, like my arms and legs and eyes and food to eat, and I realized I do get a great amount of enjoyment out of all those things! We all have things to be grateful for and things that we're not grateful for, and our happiness is dependent on which of those we focus on.
Day 7: A Love Letter To Yourself
We all deserve a love letter, and whether or not we're getting one from somebody else, it's a great idea to write one for ourselves because we know ourselves best. So, on the last day of the self-love challenge, you write yourself a letter about your best qualities, what you bring to the world, and all the good things you deserve. My own ended up being a letter to my inner child, and I could feel her smiling up at me.
I'm not usually one for cheesy-seeming things like self-love exercises, but I was surprised to actually get a lot out of these ones. If you're interested in doing it, don't wait until Valentine's Day — any day is a great day to love yourself.