Like I wrote in my last post, I’m no expert on self-love. But I’ve definitely been improving over the past 6 months or so, and I think it’s important to share how I’ve started working on it because let me tell you, it’s not an easy feat.
1. Decide to love yourself
Like the cliche goes, “acceptance is the first step.” For years in high school I kept saying I would work on turning negative thoughts around, I would exercise, I would try and get better. But I didn’t really mean it, because there’s such a safety in complacency; I understand that. So the first step is you have to choose not to be miserable and to start on a journey of self-acceptance.
2. Listen to your body
I love fulfilling my body’s cravings – if I want some soda, I’ll get some soda. I love dessert. I have a HUGE sweet tooth and I don’t mind giving my body what it wants most of the time; needless to say, for the most part, it’s at appropriate times and I eat fairly healthily the rest of my life. I have to snack a lot because if I don’t, I’ll start passing out (and no one wants that). I sleep 10+ hours a night because that’s what it takes for me to feel rested. But my best friend has a really hard time doing those kinds of things; she gets sluggish and doesn’t feel her best self if she eats too much junk food or oversleeps, so make sure you learn about what your body really needs and what you can use as fuel and what you can’t.
I’ve written about how much I love the program Headspace in the past, and I still can’t get over it. I’ve been using Headspace for over a year now and I’m still obsessed. I feel like it really helps me get in touch with my emotions in a way that is controlled and safe, which is something that’s important for me with my anxiety. You don’t need to use Headspace (though I suggest you at least try it out), but try taking some time for yourself. It’ll help you stay calm in the face of stress and learn to ride out any unpleasant emotions you might come in contact with.
This is a really difficult one for me because in the past, I have loathed going to the gym. I competed in three sprint triathlons but I hated the training. I’ve discovered the key is finding things you enjoy. I hate doing one thing for a long time, so when I do cardio, I mix it up – 10 minutes on the erg, 10 minutes on the stairmaster, 20 minutes on a spinning machine, then do some lifting. But it also doesn’t have to be the gym – a walk can make you feel better. Yoga, jazzercise, pilates, boot camp, whatever you enjoy that gets your heart rate up helps your metabolic rate (which also helps with your ability to eat snacks – yesssss) and gets your mind focused on something else.
5. Take time for yourself
Go get a coffee. Read a book on your own. Listen to some podcasts. I like taking the bus somewhere and not telling anyone so I have alone time for a couple hours (the only problem being I live in a small college town and almost always run into people I know anyway… it’s the thought that counts). Light some candles and take a bath. Even the biggest extrovert can take some value in being by themselves for a while.
6. Help others
This is another one I’m still working on myself, but it’s helpful to take the pressure off you for a while. We often get so caught up in our own lives that we forget to go out of our way to make others’ lives easier. Volunteer somewhere. Go out with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Listen to what people need and try and find a way to do that for them.
7. Accept yourself
I didn’t say “love” yet. You’ve got to get to a place where you can be comfortable with you first. Force yourself to list good things about you. Get friends to write notes about your good qualities if you have trouble coming up with them. If you don’t like your physical looks, get naked and look in the mirror (I started sleeping without clothes on because I was so uncomfortable with my body – really hard at first, but it gets easier. I promise). List things you like about yourself. Post selfies. Write reminders about how beautiful you are on your mirror, even if you don’t believe it.
8. Don’t forget that it’s hard
Especially for those of us with mental illnesses that get in our way, it’s a journey. Don’t forget that. Don’t beat yourself up because you trip and fall off the bandwagon. Don’t get mad if you mess up and you hurt yourself. Remember it’s important that you’re trying.