Nine Easy Self Love Exercises.
Self-love is an important part of our mental health and wellbeing. It is an ever-evolving concept of ourselves which may see dramatic shifts when we go through personal changes. Unfortunately, periods of abrupt change, failure, and other challenges can leave us being pretty hard on ourselves. And the bad news is, that beating ourselves up doesn’t really help. Criticism has a profound impact on the way that our brains work and stifle creative problem solving in favour of critical thinking, It causes us to catastrophise problems and become over-whealmed. We produce more stress hormones and fatigue our adrenals, eventually burning out. This can be associated with Anxiety, Fatigue and Depression, so, we need to currate a positive attitude toward ourselves at our core.
At the end of the day, whilst a supportive spouse or financial security or other external factors are great, they may not always be there for us to rely on. At the rock bottom times, we only have ourselves, so if your foundation with yourself is shaky, you’ll suffer a loss far more profoundly than if you genuinely treat yourself with love and respect.
Just as we go through many phases in our lives, our concepts of ourselves evolve and ebb over time, and this means that we should work consistently to make sure we are sustaining positive mental habits.
Here are a few really simple, essential mental housekeeping exercises you can use to carry you through the challenges you may be faced with and help you build a positive relationship with yourself.
"OMG, Cringe!" That used to be MY response to attempting mirror work! I would say “I love you.” to myself in the mirror and it just didn’t move the needle for me at all, until I found this extra hack.
If you think about it there’s a reason why you’re here, reading this. Something/s has/have happened to make you think less of yourself. Your mind, in an attempt protect your physical body and basic needs, has pointed out the areas that you might not be doing so well by your own distorted standards. It’s the ego (and central nervous systems) job to look out constantly for threats to your safety. It does this with lots of things like dangerous situations and menacing people, but also by constantly evaluating any threats to your status in your social network. (including, anxiety over how you’re performing.) Because it’s wired to look out for threats, it really struggles to let in the good feedback, at times. In this exercise we are letting go and loving in spite of that stuff. For many people the words “I love you (to self)” don’t land because your nervous system is so busy looking for information to combat that. Especially in nervous, anxious or stressed people. It thinks: you’ll push yourself, self-improve and give you the best life possible if you’re always criticising yourself, but it actually doesn’t work out that well, especially in cases of chronic, long term stress. In this exercise we are soothing the ego/nervous system with gentle acknowledgement saying, Yes, I see the problem, thanks for letting me know, but, I know about it, and you can calm down. It’s cool to love myself, even despite this.
Place yourself in a private space in front of a mirror.
Ask yourself: What is going on that I haven’t accepted or forgiven myself for?
Figure out a way to say that. Eg. “I haven’t forgiven myself for being single.”
Look at your face
State: “Even though... (eg. I am single)... I love myself.”
Repeat this over and over.
There is nothing, no thing, that should interfere with you loving yourself. This is the real work. You can expand your capacity for love and forgiveness with this process.
Tears may come up, you might have to repeat this for hours, you might need to forgive yourself for hundreds of things. Stick with it.
* As a bonus, you may wish to put a post it on your mirror that says “I love myself” to remind you every day.
We are wired to attempt to constantly self improve and pay more focussed attention to our imperfections with the idea that we need to fix ourselves constantly. The things you spend your time focussing on about yourself calculate to your self concept. When we dig through the archives of our brain with the intent to recall things about ourselves which we are grateful for, we recall positive memories of ourselves, which are then brought front of mind and recalled more often in daily life. (Just like our brains delete the files for pythagorean theorum if we don’t use them, we forget nice stuff about ourselves without a few gentle, consistent reminders.)
30 things you’re good at
30 nice things you have done for other people
30 nice words you would use to describe yourself
I also sell a 21 Day Gratitude Course here if you're interested.
The Hawaiian healing practice of Ho’oponpono is a great tool. It is generally used for forgiveness, blessing others, healing others and healing Karma and regret for past actions.
This practice involves sending positive intentions to people with whom we have had problems.
I’ve suggested it here because its actions for self love are manyfold:
Relieving negative feelings towards others makes us happier and proud of our inner strength
Doing selfless acts feels good and is profoundly valuable to others
Relieving regret is a vital ingredient in loving and forgiving ourselves for our perceived “failures”
The better we forgive and accept others the better we in turn accept ourselves.
Ho’ponopono states that everything (including other people) are our own creation. When we accept responsibility, forgive ourselves and others and send them positive intentions, people and situations transform for the best and highest good.
Simply think of a person who wronged you, or who you wronged or who needs help in a problem in their life.
Achieve a relaxed meditative state and say aloud:
I love you
Please forgive me
I forgive you
And see them living a very happy, blessed life, and being happy for them.
Repeat as desired.
Note: One Psychologist: Dr. Hew Len PhD. successfully rehabilitated numerous clinically insane patients with this one, simple tool, so respect its power, and the power of your thoughts to affect your life and the lives of countless others.
4. Body Language
There is a well known reflex relationship between our posture & expressions and our mental state. When we are sad, lacking confidence, depressed etc. the emotions we feel affect our physical bodies. The electrical currents through our bodies are impacted, altering muscular tension and specific facial muscles are triggered involuntarily to reveal the state of our emotional bodies in real physical terms on the outside. The good news is, we can effect this in the opposite direction.
Forced laughing smiling and specific postures communicate to the body to produce the related emotions to the posture, crazy, huh?
I want you to imagine for a second that you really love yourself. Like, really, really love yourself, so much nothing could change it. Imagine being so profoundly at peace with everything about yourself, always.
In your minds eye, notice, what exactly is my posture like when I embody that feeling? How does my face look? How else am I holding my body differently? To me, what is the posture that epitomises profound and eternal self love?
Go through your body adjusting your position and releasing any places where you are holding tension, hold the position of self love. Physically stand that way for five to ten minutes visualising unconditional self love.
5. Catch and Scramble Negative Thoughts
Part of self-love is recognising and releasing negative self talk. Not every negative thought that you have about yourself is making you a better person, nor is it necessarily true. This one can be a little tricky to get into the practice of, but I want you to train yourself into noticing when you have just said something negative to yourself. (The easiest way to notice is that you feel shame, or bad about yourself.)
Notice the thought eg. “I’m going to die alone.”
Say to yourself immediately: “Stop. Not true.”
Wiggle your eyes all over the place while humming a simple tune, like; “Mary had a little lamb.” for ten seconds.
This scrambles your brain, releases the negative charge, and resets you.
I would then immediately attempt to recall something nice from your gratitude list you did earlier, In the posture of self love to clear it and do the mirror work immediately after.
6. Make “What would I do if I truly loved myself” your Mantra.
One hundred times a day run your choices through this metric. It doesn’t mean that you’ll give up or start acting selfishly, because, ultimately that isn’t going to serve you in the long run, either. which leads us into..
Self love is actually about taking the actions in the short term that you know have positive long term results.
Read that again.
Self love is taking the actions in the short term that you know have positive long term results.
If that’s all you take away from this article, it has been of value. You know what you “should do” is usually going to be the healthiest for you.
Exercise. Commit to the necessary effort of taking healthy, beneficial actions at every opportunity.
Self esteem is about how we evaluate ourselves to our peers, either positively or negatively. To have high self esteem we need to feel special or above average to other people around us. Self compassion is the opposite, but more effective for building a healthy self-concept. Self-compassion means letting go of additional damaging self-criticism in the midst of some perceived failure.
Imagine you have a wound. Would you go and rub salt in it? Would you rub dirt all over it and pick it larger? We tend to not have nearly the same awareness about caring for ourselves mentally as we do physically. Negative self talk exacerbates traumas like failure or loneliness. Instead of piling on criticism to a wound, we need to care for our wounds by sensing the urge to ruminate on an imperfection and choosing to let it go and support our own healing, instead. Remember: We are all human, and we all make mistakes
Just as you would encourage a friend not to worry and not beat themselves up, you must act toward yourself with this regard.
Embrace vulnerability. Although it’s uncomfy to be imperfect, the most charismatic people have come to terms with their failings.
Choose to forgive yourself and practice self compassion.
Exercise: Can you imagine if your self talk was you talking to a good friend? Be your own best friend. Be tolerant, compassionate, forgiving and practical, instead of demonising and berating yourself.
Just as the metric of what would I do if i truly loved myself means taking the action that has long term benefits, it sometimes means balancing high performance with habitually practising nurturing activities. You’re not a robot.
Exercise: Get out a pen and paper and look at your week. Create your schedule to include enough attention to the basic things related to self care:
Pampering yourself eg. Taking a bath or reading a good book
Getting Wellness treatments like Massage.
Investing in your self development
Final notes: While self love takes some practice especially at certain times, it is so valuable. Can you imagine if everyone was psychologically healthier, not buying into comparisons. Feeling self-confident, content and compassionate? If they took care of their emotional health, looked for ways to forgive, bless and accept one another and knew how to overcome failure? Self-love is not selfish, so please, lovingly and compassionately invest in yourself and do the work..