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I think you’ll agree with me when I say, learning how to love yourself isn’t something that happens overnight. It took me many years to realize and feel the effects of not loving myself.
The moment of realization was heartbreaking for me. I didn’t have a road map on how to mend my heart, but I did have an unbreakable determination to find the way.
My search led me to several teachings and ways of practicing self-love.
Today, I can honestly look myself in the mirror, and say, ‘I love you.’
In this article, I’m going to teach you ways you can grow, expand, create well being, create balance, improve your knowledge base, and tap into your creativity. By applying this formula to your life, you too will learn and experience the joy of loving yourself.
1. Read More Books
Research conducted by Quick Reads found that people who read for pleasure have higher levels of self-esteem and a greater ability to cope with difficult situations.
Readers also feel happier about themselves and their lives when they read.
An article written in the Wall Street Journal also confirms these findings.
Their research found that reading for 30 minutes a week could:
Similarly, books have the power to reveal answers to some of life’s most difficult questions. In any given moment we may feel “stuck” and need guidance to release us from that state.
A few years ago, I found myself desperate for healing and even more desperate for answers. I sought the help of many alternative and holistic healing professionals, even a few western medicine doctors.
Yet, what I later realized was that I received more help and understanding from several books I read. They contained lifetimes of wisdom that I needed to know.
To find books that interest you, perform an online search by the book category of your choice, such as “self-improvement.”
Take a sneak peek at some of the pages, and read reviews from other readers. You could also go to an online forum or browse through various blog posts for recommended reading.
If you don’t want to commit to buying yet, visit your local library or ask your family and friends to borrow one. Whichever book(s) you decide upon, take in what you can.
Reading has the potential to make a huge impact on your life and your personal development.
Links to Related Articles & Research
2. Say Affirmations
A study published by the Oxford University Press found that “affirmations can decrease stress, increase well being, improve academic performance and make people more open to behavior change.”
It shows that affirmations work because of neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to rewire and reshape itself.
To receive benefit from affirmations, they must be stated in positive terms because the subconscious mind is not rational. If you say, I am not a failure, the mind only focuses on failure.
Instead say, I am a success.
From the books I’ve read on affirmations, another important point to make is to always state your affirmations in the present tense.
For instance, if your dream is to become a prolific songwriter, you could say. I am a prolific songwriter. As opposed to saying, I will become a prolific songwriter.
The mother of affirmations, whom I learned a great deal from, is Louise Hay. She believes the most fundamental affirmations are learning how to love yourself.
The following are some of my personal favorite affirmations from Louise’s books:
She recommends focusing on one affirmation at a time. Repeating the mantra of choice over and over again. As many as 300 to 400 times a day!
Although affirmations have worked for me, there is some mixed research on the value of affirmations. Some studies show positive results and others don’t.
The original creator of the blog explored this topic and found that positive-affirmations don’t work. For example, the studies said positive affirmations could lead to a decrease in self-esteem.
I’m not a spiritual teacher, guru, or scientist. All I can speak from is my personal experience. But, as with anything in life, what works for some, might not work for all.
As always, trust your instincts and do what feels right.
And another type of affirmation is expressing gratitude for all the positive things in your life. This journal can help you do this.
3. Travel Alone
One of the best ways to change your life’s potential is to travel alone.
It can break you free from your comfort zone, increase your confidence, and further develop your intuition.
In one study, many participants admitted having friends that could go with them on a vacation, but, they chose to travel solo for personal reasons. Their reasons were; self-discovery, personal growth, bravery and meeting new people.
In particular, female participants were proud of themselves when undertaking holiday solo travels. This suggests that traveling alone could be a source of self-development or self-growth.
If you are debating solo travel, start simple to test the waters. Visit a friend who lives in another state. You’ll have a guide to show you around, and the bonus will be visiting your friend.
After that successful trip, consider a bigger holiday out of the country. Experiencing a new culture, in a new land can expand your viewpoint of yourself and humanity.
You never know who’ll you meet and what self-discovery you’ll make.
Links to Related Articles & Research
4. Live in the Present Moment
Sidebar: One way to live in the moment is through the practice of mindfulness. And you can use this year-long journal to create the mindfulness habit.
The incessant chatter of the mind and our many daily responsibilities can make this task seem rather difficult. Yet, for those struggling with anxiety and stress, being present can help dissolve those unpleasant feelings.
Studies have shown that remaining present can make us happier, healthier, and more equipped to handle negative emotions such as anger and fear.
One study conducted by two Harvard Psychologists found that of the 2,250 subjects studied, nearly 47% of the time, their minds were wandering.
I remember the profound effect a mindfulness walk had on me. While living at an ashram in south India, we would do this once a week. The walk took place 30-minutes before sunrise. Talking was not allowed.
In the silence, I observed the beauty of nature, the sounds of walking over a dirt road, the birds singing, and the subtleties of a rising sun. By remaining silent, I was able to have this type of awareness.
Here are a few tips to bring you back to the present moment.
Eckhart Tolle made some incredible points on this topic in his book, The Power of Now:
“As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.”
Being present can quickly take you out of a funk. If you only practice one technique from this list, bring your awareness back to your breath.
After all, breath is life.
5. Make Friends with a Stranger
Oddly enough one of the best ways to practice loving yourself is simply to try making friends with strangers.
Ok, so you don’t actually have to become best friends or anything. But! When you engage in conversation with a stranger and show genuine interest, it could have positive effects on your daily happiness.
One study found this to be the case among participants who chose to engage with the barista at their local coffee shop. The participants noted that they’re usually reluctant to talk with strangers.
Yet, they felt happier when they struck up a conversation with the barista.
Many of us, unfortunately, spend a lot of time on public transit commuting to work. How can we make this experience tolerable, or even enjoyable? Again, try to resist your introverted ways and have a chat with a stranger.
Two behavioral scientists, Nicholas Epley, and Juliana Schroeder conducted a simple experiment in Chicago and put this suggestion to the test. Half of the participants who took the train to work conversed with the person sitting next to them. And the other half kept to themselves.
At the conclusion of the train ride, the commuters who talked to their neighbor reported a more positive experience than those who didn’t.
What do you think of these studies?
Give it a try the next time you’re commuting, at the coffee shop, or at an event that ‘forces’ you to sit next to a stranger. You could end up pleasantly surprised!
Links to Related Articles & Research
One of the best ways to improve your career potential is to network. Many of us have heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This saying illustrates the power of your network. And not only your professionalism but your personal network as well.
Two studies found that networking correlates to job satisfaction and salary growth.
These two measures equate to career success.
So, the next time your company extends you an invitation to a happy hour or holiday party, you might want to consider attending.
If you happen to be a freelancer or digital nomad, for instance, I recommend networking with groups on Meetup and Facebook. Both can offer a community of like-minded folks who can be supportive and encouraging.
If you want to get out there in person, Meetup is great because groups come together once a month, or even a few times a week.
7. Listen More, Speak Less
Invest in yourself by learning how to become a better listener. During my Business Comm class in college, I learned about effective verbal and written communication. But, learning how to be an effective listener wasn’t part of the curriculum.
Hopefully, that has changed in the last 10 years since I graduated. Why?
Because to be a good listener means being a better networker, entrepreneur, co-worker, friend, spouse, teacher, and so on. Listening gives us the ability to connect and understand someone else.
According to Entrepreneur, one of the most important parts of a conversation you can respond to is the emotional tone and content. Responding to emotions expresses engagement and begins to build a relationship.
To become a good listener you can:
While learning how to become a better listener, you can also learn to become better at listening to yourself. In essence, follow the voice of your intuition. Intuition is there to guide you.
We can always get advice from family, friends, social media outlets, articles, studies, etc. Yet, to achieve our fullest potential, we must learn to rely on and trust our own intuition.
Be silent, stay aware, ask questions, to help your intuition grow and become your best adviser and of course, love yourself.
8. Learn the Art of Communication
Thich Nhat Hanh, the famous Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, said the following about communication. “Once you can communicate with yourself, you'll be able to communicate outwardly with more clarity. The way in is the way out.”
So, this begs the question, how do YOU communicate with yourself? Before thinking about your communication with others, try to answer that question first.
If you concluded that your self-talk, the dialogue you have with yourself, needs improvement, here are some tips that may help improve communication.
A 2014 study by the American Psychological Association, discovered a connection between self-talk and social stress. They found that “small shifts in the language people use to refer to the self influences their ability to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and behavior under social stress, even for people who are dispositionally vulnerable to social anxiety.”
We often hear about the importance of communication.
Yet, without studying the ‘how’ and putting it into practice, our communication skills won’t reach their full potential.
9. Embrace Your Creativity
We’re all creative beings. And that creativity does best when it's expressed. Even if you’re an accountant, you can tap into your inner artist.
I say that will the most love and respect. In my previous life, I was an accountant and a CPA. Everyone loved to comment, oh, “you must be good with numbers!” Yes, that was true.
But, it also limited my belief system of what I was actually capable of. I wasn’t confident enough to see I had other gifts. It helped to think back to childhood, which I recommend doing.
Besides loving all things sports, I also spent a good amount of time coloring. So, fast forward to today, and that is one way I let the creative juices flow through me. And I’m not the only one who has experienced benefits.
Research has also discovered the benefits of creativity.
A 2016 New Zealand study of 658 participants said, “finding ways to encourage everyday creative activities, not just masterworks of art, could lead directly to increased well being. People felt more enthusiasm and higher flourishing following days when they were more creative than normal.”
Ways to express your creativity:
The point is, art is whatever you make it. And creativity is more than a form of expression, it can lead to happiness and fulfillment.
Links to Related Articles & Research
10. Nourish Yourself
Maintaining good health is something we hear about all the time. Eat right, exercise, get adequate sleep, and so forth. But, if it was that easy everyone would be healthy.
So why is that not the reality?
Maybe it’s not about what we eat, but how we eat it. And it’s not about food alone, but other things that enter our personal space.
From the thoughts we have, the TV shows we watch, the people we hang out with, and the words we say. They all have an impact on our complete health.
I studied everything under the sun on this topic. As a fitness-obsessed freak (past tense), I wanted to know everything about health. Only until I reached the age of 29 did I realize there is more to health than nutrition alone.
Here’s what I discovered and experienced in my own life. “Our mind can play an important role in healing our body — or in staying healthy in the first place.” The Scientific American found evidence of this in their study, bringing validity to the mind-body connection.
Of course, staying healthy involves many variables. But, one thing is for sure, nourishing our minds is as important as feeding our bodies whole, real, food.
11. Improve Your Skill Set
To excel and advance in your career, developing new skills is essential. Staying open to learning opportunities is one of the best ways to invest in yourself. As far as skills go, soft skills can be as valuable as technical ones.
In fact, one survey found that the number one soft skill to have is the ability and willingness to learn new skills. Other important areas to develop in and give you the edge up include:
In regards to improving your technical abilities, you can consider some or all the following possibilities:
One of the best ways to have a long-lasting, rewarding career, is to continually grow and develop. All the time spent sharpening your tools will help strengthen your knowledge muscles.
12. Practice Meditation
Meditation is a powerful technique to reduce stress. Studies show that meditation can increase the calming hormones, melatonin, and serotonin while decreasing the stress hormone, cortisol.
A regular meditation practice can restore balance, and teach you how to love yourself.
When you meditate you remove all distractions, and create a sacred and calming space. You alone are taking time to bring the body and mind back into balance. In the process, you can learn more about yourself.
For many of us, meditation was never part of our upbringing. And if it was, you are damn lucky! So, it can feel unfamiliar and strange at first, but anything new usually feels that way.
I’ll share a quick story about a memorable meditation experience of mine. Again, it occurred at an ashram in India. This time it was at the Osho meditation center in Rishikesh.
Osho, a controversial and even misunderstood guru, believed that meditation should be dynamic. As a student of the ashram, I participated in three to four meditations daily. All meditations required some form of movement, dance, humming, or song.
At times we even shouted, howled, cried, laughed, or hit pillows against the wall. We did whatever was necessary to release the negative feelings and experiences we held onto. I have to say, after the first three days, I had never felt more alive.
Through the active movements, I ‘set free’ many feelings I had suppressed my entire life.
Fear was gone, and love its took place. Removing blockages and releasing trauma is a helpful step towards self-love. And that’s exactly what meditation does for me, and can do for you.
The more open you are, the move you allow for things to come inside. Which means, move over fear, stress, and insecurities because love is kicking you to the curb.
13. Move Your Body
Most of you could have guessed that exercise would make this list and you guessed right! Fortunately, the benefits of exercise go far beyond having a nice figure. Science has shown how powerful the effects of exercise can have on our well being.
In the Harvard Health Letter, Heidi Godman says:
“Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors. Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep and reduces stress and anxiety.”
Sounds almost like a miracle drug, no?
But what if you hate exercise, then what?
I can relate. Playing sports and being a frequent gym-goer, were always a part of my life until they weren’t. Some people love the gym and others detest it. Fortunately, we now have access to hundreds if not more methods of staying active and fit.
If you’re currently in a workout lull, here are some recommendations to get you moving again.
Instead of buying a gym membership, first, think about a physical activity that actually gets you excited.
For example, riding a bicycle, dancing, hiking, playing basketball, or beach volleyball. The chance of maintaining an active lifestyle is higher when you find a form of exercise that is fun.
As long as you find something you love to that can keep your heart rate up, be moderately challenging, and doesn’t feel like a chore – you found a winner.
14. Prioritize Rest and Sleep
Ever heard of the term, circadian rhythm? Well, it’s a biological process that tells us when to rise, eat, and sleep. For simplicity’s sake, it tends to follow the pattern of the sun.
When the sun rises, so should we. When the sun is the strongest, we should eat our largest meal because digestion is at its strongest point. And when the sun sets, turn off the artificial lighting, take rest and later prepare for bed.
One study conducted in the UK found a “reliable association between circadian disruption and both risk of mood disorders and worse subjective well-being outcomes.”
If you only make one good decision all day, make sure it’s going to bed early and getting a good night’s rest.
15. Establish a Routine in Your Day
Establishing a routine in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day.
A routine is more flexible in nature, compared to a schedule. Yet, the benefits of having a routine are still beneficial to self-love. Say you decide to have one healthy meal a day. Or spend 15 minutes under a tree in quiet contemplation. Or even commit to free writing for 30 minutes.
If you can take on a goal each day for an extended length of time, it can start to become a habit. Even more, it can lead to a healthy lifestyle change. That change can improve your mood, productivity, and energy levels.
A healthy routine, in general, is fantastic. If you can schedule that routine in the morning even better. Psychologist Ron Friedman believes establishing a routine in the morning, sets the tone for the rest of the day.
Rather than taking on the daunting task of changing everything at once, start slow. Self-improvement happens over time. There is no rush, only a desire to want more for yourself.
Links to Related Articles & Research
16. Spend Time Outdoors
At times it feels impossible to get away from our computers, phones, or any other device and unwind. Research from the University of Utah made an interesting connection between nature and technology.
In the study, participants were divided into two equal groups. Both groups were given a creativity test to take.
One group took the test after a four-day backpacking trip in nature, completely disconnected from technology. The other group took their test before the trip. The group who took the test after their nature trip fared far better than the other group.
Also, Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix, makes the same point about nature.
She says, “we don't experience natural environments enough to realize how restored they can make us feel. Nor are we aware that studies also show they make us healthier, more creative, more empathetic and more apt to engage with the world and with each other.”
The results may or may not come as a surprise to you. I guess there is only one way to find out. Commit to spending 5 hours a week in nature to see if you reap the same rewards that science backs up.
Final Thoughts on How to Love Yourself
Loving yourself is not selfish or egotistical. It's about recognizing your own worth and treating yourself with the kindness and respect you deserve. More importantly, it is an ongoing process that requires intentional effort and practice.
Although the practical tips we provided will help your self-love journey, your sincerity and mindset will determine your success. Start by choosing yourself first.
If you're looking for more resources on how to love yourself, check out these blog posts:
- 71 Quotes About Loving Yourself First
- 8 Best Self-Love Exercises to Elevate Your Mood
- 70 Affirmations for Self Worth and Love Yourself More
Finally, one proven way to improve your happiness and life satisfaction is to focus on goals that truly matter. To get started, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allie Murphy is an avid traveler, seeker of the unknown, and lover of paperback books. She loves spending time with her beloved pup and fiance. When she’s not practicing her sun salutations, she’s writing poetry and enjoying her favorite drink, masala chai.