Many of us are (rightfully) focused on taking care of our health, eating nourishing whole foods, and trying to be active, while meditating, flossing, and taking time to disconnect from devices.
These are wonderful acts of self-care, and they are necessary and important. But there’s one act of self-care that is very often neglected, and it might be even more important than all the others: the practice of loving yourself.
In fact, this is so often neglected that when I mention “loving yourself,” many people don’t know what that means. Many of us have never consciously done it. If we have, it’s so rare as to be a forgotten memory. But it’s my belief that we should do it throughout the day, like trying to drink 8 glasses of water. We should give ourselves at least 8 doses of loving ourselves every day.
What is this “self-love”? Imagine pouring the love in your heart to someone you care for dearly—what would that feel like? Now try doing the same thing for yourself. That’s self-love, and it’s a completely foreign concept to the vast majority of people.
Why It’s So Important
I coach a number of people, one-on-one and in small and large groups—and pretty much everyone I meet is hard on themselves in some way. The cause themselves stress and pain. Disappointed in themselves, angry at themselves, they constantly feel inadequate.
I think most of us can find these tendencies in ourselves. This is something most of us face every single day.
We stress out about uncertainty because we don’t think we’re good enough to deal with it. We don’t trust ourselves to stick to something, because we’ve formed a really bad picture of ourselves over the years. We get angry at ourselves for eating too much, drinking too much, messing up in a social situation, getting distracted and watching too many videos or playing too many games. We don’t like how we look, or who we are, or how we act, in too many ways.
This affects everything in our lives. It makes us more stressed, less happy, anxious, depressed, and stuck. It leads to procrastinating, unhappy relationships, a loss of focus, and a search for comfort in all the wrong places, like comfort foods, shopping, and sometimes even addiction. We seek relief from the stress and pain of being who we are.
But giving ourselves love can start to heal all of this. It creates a shift. With more self-love, we can better deal with uncertainty, chaos, and difficulty in a much more resilient way. Giving ourselves love is such an important act of self-care, and yet it’s rarely ever done.
How to Give Ourselves Love Often
Set reminders for yourself, everywhere you go. Put reminders on your fridge, on your computer, on your phone, on your bathroom mirror, in your car, at your desk, near your TV. The reminders only need to be two words: “Love yourself.” When you see the reminder, the act is very simple (even if it doesn’t feel natural to most people yet—give it time):
- Pause and feel any stress, pain, self-doubt, anger, frustration, or anxiety you might be feeling. Let yourself actually feel it, physically in your body, for just a few moments. It’s OK to feel this.
- Now give yourself the balm of love. As weird or silly as it feels, just try it. Imagine first that you are sending love to someone you love very much—your child, your parent, your best friend. Imagine them going through difficulty, and send love from your heart to theirs, hoping to make them better. Notice how that feels in your heart. Now try it for yourself, generating the same feeling in your heart, but sending it to yourself instead.
- Feel the love as a healing balm. No matter how little you’re able to generate, feel it wash over your stress, pain, anger, and doubt. Feel it like a thick, syrupy liquid soothing the pain. Let yourself receive this love like the love you’ve been craving.
It’s that simple. It only takes a few moments—feel your stress and pain, send yourself love, let yourself feel it. Do it eight times a day. Or a dozen, if you can. You need this care. Don’t hold it back from yourself any longer.
Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with over 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net