This Valentine’s day, regardless of wether or not you have a partner, I’m going to encourage you to get your self love on. Not that kind of self-love, get your mind out of the gutter. That’s a different post for a different day. I’m talking about taking the kindness and compassion that you show for your friends and family and directing some of that towards yourself. Why is it that loving ourselves, and being kind to ourselves takes such effort when it flows so effortlessly towards our loved ones? As someone who is habitually hard on myself, I wanted to get some clarity on this topic. There is a new area of psychological research emerging around the area of Self-Compassion. For perfectionists, the sensitive, the ones who can’t get back to sleep after feeding the baby at three AM because your obsessing over the fact that in your exhausted stupor you forgot to tip the barista at Starbucks that morning and they MUST think your a horrible person…..just a hypothetical..ahem… here is what the research shows. It will shed some light on the importance of self compassion, and hopefully inspire you to give yourself a break and a big old dose of self-love this Valentine’s day.
1. According to Dr. Kristin Neff, the leader in this field of research, people who find it easy to be loving and compassionate towards others, often score the lowest on tests for self-compassion. They have a greater tendency to beat themselves up for their perceived imperfections. Sound familiar?
2. On the flip side of that coin, research found that those who scored high on Self compassion tests had lower levels of anxiety and depression, tend to be happier and have better health overall.
3. Research also showed that self compassion was conducive to motivation. This was an interesting finding because the research showed that most people feared that being self compassionate would lead to being too self indulgent and actually impair motivation. Self compassion actually improved self control. A study cited in a New York Times article from research done at Wake Forest University showed that a small self compassion exercise had a positive effect on eating habits. 84 women (college students) were asked to partake in a “food-testing”. They were given doughnuts to eat. One group was told “not to be hard on themselves, as everyone in the study has to eat these doughnuts”, and also told there was “no reason to feel bad about it”, while the other group received no such messages. Later these same two groups of women were asked to taste test candy from large bowls. The women who had prior issues with feeling guilty around forbidden foods, and/or women who had a history of regular dieting who received the positive messages ate less then the women who did not receive those same messages from the instructor. The theory is that the women who felt guilt about the doughnuts ended up emotionally eating and consuming more, while the women who gave themselves permission to enjoy them didn’t overeat.
So now that we know self compassion is a win win situation, how can we practice it on this day of love? Here are some ideas. Do them by yourself, do them with a partner, do them with a friend. Do whatever will make you happiest.
Get out into Nature
Nature is my go to when I’m in need of some calm, some inspiration, or some healing. It is my happy place, my quiet zone, the place where I can recharge. Either sitting by the ocean or walking amongst the trees at my favorite hiking spot, nature in any form is like a big hug from the universe. It’s calming, it’s soothing, and it tends to put things into perspective. Even just sitting outside in the sun in the middle of the city can recharge you and make you feel happier and more peaceful.
Walking in nature is one way. Exercise is another, though not my preferred way. My preferred way to love myself on V day? DANCE YOUR ASS OFF. You heard me. Close your shades, or don’t for that matter, put on your best dance mix, and shake it like a polaroid picture. Get downright embarrassing. In the immortal words of Prince “Let’s Go Crazy!”. I bet that man knows a thing or two about self love, so let’s worship at the house of Prince and Party like it’s 1999.
That could be meditation. It could be simply lighting a candle and doing some deep breathing, or it could be massage. If you have a partner, have them give you one (you will have to return the favor, it is V day after all), if you can afford to go get one, book yourself in at a spa and get pampered, and if neither of those are options for you HERE is a video an DIY foot reflexology. I know, I know, DIY massage? It’s surprisingly relaxing, don’t knock it till you try it.
Have an amazing meal
Cook it yourself, or if you don’t cook, order out. Just feed yourself whatever you find delicious and give yourself FULL permission to enjoy it.
Clean out the clutter
Clean out your house or at least a closet. I know that doesn’t sound fun or self loving at all, but there are few better feelings than the one you have when you have de-cluttered, organized and renewed your space. Not fun to do, but the payoff is so fantastic that I consider this a great expression of self love. What can I say, sometimes love hurts, but it hurts so good, know what I mean? If you haven’t already jumped on the Marie Kondo bandwagon yet, HERE is a great book to help you free up the energy in your home and life.
Self Love Lists
Make a list of all the things you want and a list of the things you want to let go of. Tape the list of the things you want to cultivate in this life up somewhere you will see it from time to time. Burn the list of things you don’t want and release them.
We can make healthy choices all day long, but sometimes the healthiest choice is to indulge a little. So do whatever makes you happy. If that means you want to curl up on the couch with a bag of chips and watch a Real Housewives of whatever marathon, then do it. Do whatever you want to do today, and do it with joy.
Here is a great inspirational TED X talk by slam poet Caira Lee to help inspire you to new heights of self love. Happy V day!!!