How to Love Yourself: 16 Ways to Forever Change Your Life’s Potential
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 blog, 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:
- Produce greater life satisfaction.
- Enhance social connection and sense of community spirit.
- Help protect against and even prepare for life difficulties.
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 favorites from Louise’s books:
- Loving others is easy when I love and accept myself.
- I am grateful for my healthy body. I love life.
- Love flows through my body, healing all dis-ease.
- My life gets better all the time.
- I forgive everyone in my past for all perceived wrongs. I release them with love.
- I trust my intuition. I am willing to listen to that still, small voice within.
- I am very thankful for all the love in my life. I find it everywhere.
- I am healthy, whole, and complete.
- Only good can come to me.
- I prosper wherever I turn.
- I am deeply fulfilled by all that I do.
- I forgive myself and set myself free.
- I trust the process of life.
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 other 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 decreased 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.
3. Travel Alone
One of the best ways to change your life’s potential is to travel alone.
It can break you free from comfort zones, 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
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’s a few tips to bring you back to the present moment.
- Focus on your breath.
- Practice using all 5 senses in a given moment.
- Throughout the day ask yourself the question, “Am I present now?”
- Write in a gratitude journal.
- Practice mindfulness meditation.
- Move slowly - talk, eat and walk slowly. Observe each action.
- Write down your thoughts as they wander. Schedule a time to review them later in the day and create an action plan on how to deal with them.
- Practice Tai Chi - a form of movement meditation.
- Practice yoga - while warming up or during the asana series, on your inhale say, “I am breathing in.” On your exhale say, “I am breathing out.” Then on your next inhale say, “I am here,” and on the exhale say, “This is now.” Repeat this mantra throughout the practice.
Eckhart Tolle made some incredible points on this topic in his book, The Power of Now:
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.” - Eckhart Tolle
“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
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!
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 professional 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
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” ― The Dalai Lama
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 relationship.
To become a good listener you can:
- Stay completely engaged.
- Don’t think about your response while they’re still talking.
- Allow the person to finish their thought before speaking.
- Don’t cut someone off in the middle of their thought.
- Ask questions, and show interest in what they have to say.
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 and trust our own intuition.
Be silent, stay aware, ask questions, to help your intuition grow and become your best adviser.
8. Learn the Art of Communication
Thich Nhat Hanh, the infamous 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.
- Speak with integrity and honesty at all times.
- Learn how to love yourself.
- When you can truly love yourself, you respect, cherish, and accept the person you are. These are the tools to assist your efforts in being conscious when you speak to yourself.
- Be comfortable with who you are.
- Check-in with your emotions and feelings.
- Ask yourself “why?” Why do you say the things you do, why are you being cruel to yourself, why are you being inauthentic? Once you find the answers, you can be on your way to correcting the negative patterns of your mind.
- Find realistic and actionable ways to reduce your daily stress load.
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.
Links to Related Articles & Research
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 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:
- Free write. Whatever comes to your mind write it down and see where you end up. It’s not about quantity of course. Yet, filling up several pages can be a clear sign of how much you needed to release.
- Buy a coloring book and embrace your inner child.
- Draw, even if you are not an ‘artist’
- Plug in your earbuds and dance until your heart’s content.
- Create a collage with magazine pictures.
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:
- Knowing how to be relatable
- Having strong communication
- Being patient and trustworthy
- Demonstrating leadership abilities
- Using active listening skills
- Being flexible
- Displaying good judgement
In regards to improving your technical abilities, you can consider some or all the following possibilities:
- Attend lectures, workshops, and presentations
- Sign up for classes
- Read, read, and read some more
- Network often
- Spend time with your mentor
- Listen to podcasts/TED talks
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.
- Download a fitness app and take your workout anywhere you want.
- Sign up for a dance class; such as Zumba or ballroom dancing.
- Find an awesome yoga teacher on YouTube and take his/her classes.
- Walk through a park or around a lake for 30 minutes every day.
- Ride your bike to the coffee shop instead of driving there.
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
A routine is more flexible in nature, compared to a schedule let's say. Yet, the benefits of having a routine are still beneficial.
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.
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.