Loving yourself is the best decision you’ll ever make.
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “loving yourself”? A well-intentioned stack of self-help books destined for the dark recesses of a dust-covered bookcase? Perhaps a room packed with the scent of patchouli and remarkably bendy people?
The truth is self-care encompasses far more than the current parade of in-vogue fads.
Maya Angelou once said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”
And it’s our experience that the people we meet each day are often far more comfortable caring for others than themselves.
They are the first to care for their family, their friends, their neighbors, and those in their community, often putting their own similar needs on the backburner as a result.
Here are 7 ways to practice self-care and loving yourself as much as you do others.
1. Practice self-compassion.
It’s easy to extend compassion to others, especially those we hold closest to our hearts. We see the best in them and want them to be happy. However, we are far harder on ourselves, often being stubbornly unforgiving of our personal flaws and berating ourselves for even the smallest mistakes.
Learning to practice self-compassion is the single most important way we can practice self-care. Extending compassion to ourselves helps us lower stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. In turn, we gain a more positive outlook on life and an overall increase in happiness.
2. Prioritize preventive care.
We never want to see those we love in pain or ill health, so we encourage them to take care of themselves by scheduling their routine health appointments and spending time each day on healthy habits. We do so knowing how much the small actions we take today add up over time to create a long and healthy life.
Yet, when it comes to ourselves, these same preventive habits are continuously pushed off to an indefinite tomorrow. Make them a priority now to save your future self from aches, pains, chronic illness, and pricey medical bills.
3. Ask for help.
You’re always the first to offer help to others. But how often do you reach out to others for help yourself? Asking for help can feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. We run the risk of opening up and facing rejection. But mustering up the courage to ask for help also opens us up for connections and an equal exchange of support. Asking for and receiving help from others helps to cement our feelings of self-worth and value—both to ourselves and from those we love.
4. Spend time alone.
Spending time alone increases creativity, mental strength, and productivity. It’s also time to reconnect with yourself—your likes, dislikes, hobbies, and values. Doing so not only gives you time to rest and decompress, but it can also help you actively lead a life you love.
When you’re tuned in to your own desires and dreams, you are better able to make decisions for yourself that align with your personal goals. This can be through exploring a hobby, writing in a journal, or taking solo walks in nature.
5. Improve your sleep hygiene.
Sleep. We all love it. And most of us need far more of it. Whether you aren’t getting enough from staying up late working through an endless to-do list filled with other people’s asks, dealing with a racing mind that can’t quiet down at night, or both, a lack of sufficient shut-eye time compromises our health, mental well-being, and even our ability to care for others. When we are burnt out, lacking focus, and cranky, we aren’t able to give ourselves or others our best effort.
Improving sleep hygiene may be as simple as quitting late night TV binges or investing in a blackout eye mask. It can also require a more layered approach, calling on other forms of self-care, such as practicing self-compassion and asking for help. It may require taking on fewer tasks each day or implementing a regular mindfulness practice.
6. Balance your plate.
And we aren’t referring to the daring act of plate spinning, though it seems many people would prefer to pick up this unique talent rather than a forkful of leafy greens. But eating a balanced, nutritious meal doesn’t have to be a dreadful, bland affair. Self-care is a practice, not a black-and-white way of being.
This means you don’t have to swear off sweets or your favorite steak dinner forever. It simply means making a continuous effort to put more nutrition-packed foods on your plate, like a fresh kale salad alongside your ribeye or an extra glass of water between cocktails. Just as you encourage a child to eat their vegetables to grow up big and strong, you should encourage yourself to do the same for continued health in the years to come.
We know. We know. You’ve heard it a million times. Exercise is one of the best things we can do for our bodies and well-being. It reduces stress, anxiety, depression, chronic inflammation, and risk of developing chronic diseases. It increases happiness, energy, strength, lifespan, and sex drive. If you could fit all those benefits in one pill, it would be called a miracle drug!
We encourage our children to get off the couch and run outside in the fresh air. We remind aging parents to go for nightly walks or follow their doctor’s recommended regimen. Yet, all too often, we give ourselves extreme ultimatums, that for ourselves, exercise must come in the form of 30-day extreme challenges or pricey memberships. Moving our bodies can be as simple as kicking a ball around the yard with the kids or joining coworkers for an after-lunch walk.