Learn to love yourself for a happier, healthier life
With Valentine's Day coming up this weekend, we're all thinking about love and romance (even if you don't have anything special planned) - but you don't need to be happily coupled up to focus on love. We're talking about self-love, one of the most important things in life, that's fundamental to your health and happiness. Whilst other people and external influences can make you happy (or sad), your relationship with yourself is what should bring you happiness at the end of the day. Being more mindful and in touch with your emotions can help you to grow as a person and lead a more positive life, filled with happiness. That's all very well in theory, but how do you put self-love into practice?
Take a time-out
We all need time to think and reflect, but when work deadlines are looming and you feel stressed, it becomes too easy to run around like a headless chicken. This constant cycle of work-eat-sleep-repeat will leave you feeling worn out and could even cause depression and anxiety. Remember that this is YOUR life, so whilst it can often feel like you're not in control, you actually are, and you have the power to say no. So take some time out of every day that's just for you. Read a book, watch a film, catch up with friends, try yoga or walk the dog - whatever it is, make sure it's something you love. What works for one person might not work for another - you might feel more energised and focused after a morning run or workout, whilst others re-energise with a hot bath and a good book in the evening. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, this is your time.
Learn to love you
Being more mindful starts with getting to know yourself and how you feel, and you can practise mindfulness everyday, even when you're at work. Stop what you're doing for a few seconds and think about your mind and body - how are you feeling? Are you sad, happy, anxious, depressed..? Once you've identified how you're feeling, you can work on making changes to make your day a more positive one. We love using apps such as Headspace to boost mindfulness when we're busy. Short guided meditations combined with regular reminders to 'check in' with yourself can ensure you're more aware of what's going on with you. The more in touch with yourself you are, the more you'll love yourself. We know you're busy - we all are - but your health and happiness should always come first.
Turn off technology
If you're anything like us, we bet you have a load of gadgets at home, from your smartphone and tablet to a games console (or two), e-reader, PC, laptop - the list is endless! We love our technology; it makes life easier, but it can also stop you living in the here and now. Emails don't stop arriving just because you're asleep, but spending all of your free time checking your inbox, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram could leave you feeling tired and depressed. Facebook can leave us unfavourably comparing our lives with others, leading to anxiety and feelings of loneliness. So get into the habit of scheduling a time to check emails and social media everyday and switch your phone to airplane mode in the evenings and whilst you're asleep. This way you'll focus on the present rather than the past or the future - Facebook will still be there when you wake up!
Embrace your flaws
It's way too easy to be super-critical of yourself, both physically and mentally, and many of us find it hard to love ourselves - how do you expect others to love you if you don't love yourself? Praising yourself and practising self-love can make us feel more positive about ourselves, developing our sense of self-worth. There's no point in beating yourself up just because you skipped a day of healthy eating and gorged on ice cream, or didn't bother to go to your yoga class. Use these experiences to motivate you to do better in the future and remember, you're only human. At the end of the day, forgiving yourself and being kind to yourself helps you to feel happier and be healthier!
How many times have you felt sick of listening to people moaning about all the things they don't have in their life? We want more money, faster cars, bigger TV sets, more perfect bodies - but what about all the positive things we're lucky enough to have in our lives? Buddhists practise gratefulness, and we should too. You might remember a while back we mentioned the 100 Happy Days Challenge; it's sort of like an online gratitude journal. The challenge encourages you to take one photograph a day of something positive - this could be anything from a super-yummy, healthy breakfast that you really enjoyed to cuddles with your cat or dog. Practising gratitude in this way helps lift your mood and encourages you to focus on the positive, rather than dwelling on the negative. If you'd rather, you could keep a gratitude journal, where you write down 3 positive things each day, or a gratitude jar, where you write one positive thing each day on a piece of paper. At the end of the year, or whenever you feel a bit down, you can read through all the positive things that have happened!
It might sound cheesy, but you should learn to put yourself at the top of your list of priorities - taking care of yourself and loving yourself is the key to happiness and satisfaction with your life; great experiences, good friends and exciting opportunities will follow. So whether or not you're celebrating Valentine's with the one you love this weekend, make sure you do something lovely that's just for you - show yourself a little self-love!
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