Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of how we approach and structure our days. Like many people, I was raised in a world in which the alarm clock and the timetable of those-in-power dictated my life. I would often find myself running around, shallow breathing, judging and criticizing myself for imperfections in performance, timeliness, and appearance. In order to survive, the world seemed to demand my full attention and best presentation at all times. There was little room to examine myself, let alone discover that I was subconsciously unloving and disloyal to myself.

All that changed when I went through a heart-wrenching breakup with a boyfriend in my early 20s; because of this I entered into a 12-Step program for Sex & Love Addiction. Thanks to this painful experience of breaking up and the circumstances surrounding it, I finally came in touch with the cruelty of belief and behavior I had been acting upon for so long. As I began to heal from that relationship, I realized what I was actually healing was my relationship to myself.

As I ventured forth into unchartered inner worlds, I came to understand that love of the self is crucial to any healing process. Through compassion practices, self-love gestures, and joyful celebrations, the brain releases powerful neuro-chemicals that assist in healing responses and activates our parasympathetic nervous system, leading to experiences of calm and serenity that enable more efficient physical regeneration of cells in addition to reducing stress. The more I chose to do small self-loving acts, the more I found resiliency and courage. Where I was panicked, I found peace. Where before I would have melt-downs or turn to addictive behaviors, now I could save myself simply by pausing and loving myself super deeply.

I’ve compiled a few of my favorite self-love practices that are easy to do every single day even amidst a hectic lifestyle. And to be clear, you definitely don’t need to hit rock bottom to start self-caring! In fact, it might make it a lot easier to smoothly move through life changes without having to totally fall apart. (No guarantees, though.) Since we all have such individual needs and personalities, I’m sharing these as suggestions and to encourage us all to take inventory of how we self-care/self-love. I hope one of them speaks to you!

  1. Leave love notes: This is one of my favorites. You can use any kind of notepad, or even invest in stationery, and each morning or throughout the day you can write yourself a note and stick them into your wallet, textbook, on your fridge, bookshelf, etc! The act of writing and the later rediscovery of the notes is a great way to make self-love and appreciation more fun and, in my case, possibly very silly in a good way.

  2. Make a cup of tea: There is something grounding about drinking a warm beverage. Offering a cup of tea to someone who has just experienced a trauma gives them an opportunity to come back into their body; sharing tea with a friend is a beautiful way to connect. Making and sharing tea with ourselves is an intimate act of caring and love with our very own heart.

  3. Hugs! Hugging is a powerful act! Someone once told me that if you hug someone for more than 11 seconds it releases feel-good hormones in your brain. Is this true? Maybe it’s the secret to why I love to cuddle. Anyway, hugging MYSELF was a revolutionary practice when I first entered recovery. I learned I could create feel-good emotions and a sense of safety by hugging myself. We can do this every day every day!!

  4. Put your hand on your heart. Even simpler than self-hugs, placing a hand over my heart is an act of reassurance and connection to my inner self. Often I do this when my inner child needs comforting. Any connection to the heart space is a way to stay in touch with our emotions and needs. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

  5. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Smiling is contagious, and it can be super fun to play with your own smile by looking in a mirror and changing your relationship to the mirror. Many of us (and I mean “us” as in all humans) were taught to criticize ourselves in the mirror, to peer deeply into our pores or cellulite, or curves, or bones, or what-have-you and see imperfection and therefore, shame or disgust. Changing my relationship to my body and therefore, my self, has meant that when I look in the mirror not only do I see the beauty and things that I do appreciate, but I make eye contact with myself and smile. I look into the portal of my own eyes to see the perfection of the Universe…. Or to laugh and get silly with all the weird faces I can make.

  6. Self-massage. This doesn’t have to mean a sexual massage, though you could certainly incorporate self-loving touch into your life as it has many benefits. But, for those of us who are looking for something simpler, you can start with just massaging your neck or upper shoulders, your legs, or your face–the jaw, temples, sinuses. If you want to get fancy and more sensual, you can use some warmed coconut oil, sesame oil, or almond oil. If you want to really get into it, make sure you include some sounds of pleasure to accompany your blissed out self-love practice…

  7. Acknowledge something you did well. Again, we’re so good at criticizing and judging ourselves. We often have these stories running subconsciously about our lack of adequacy or imperfections, and then act on them through self-deprecating language or self-harming behavior. By acknowledging something we’ve done well, or some talent or gift that we have, and by doing so on a regular basis, we can begin to shift those underlying thought patterns. Plus, we give ourselves the gift of a loving moment that could shift our entire day.
So whatever your self-care practice is, keep doing it! Maybe you’re going through a difficult transition or a period of struggle, or maybe you are riding the self-love train and looking for more you can do. Whatever it is, the possibilities are endless. Ultimately, any cultivation of self-love through thought, word, or deed will make a difference in our personal wellbeing, which can ripple out into the world.
I’m so inspired to go self-care now with a wonderful cup of tea!
Much love, Diana

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