Whether or not you are partnered this Valentine’s day, we invite you to consider the most important relationship you are in—the one with yourself. Self-love isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a transformative practice that can significantly impact our mental health and overall well-being. In this blog post, we’ll explore the profound connection between self love and mental health and provide practical self-love tips to cultivate a deeper sense of appreciation and acceptance for your true one and only: you.

What is “Self Love”?

The definition of the term “self-love” is tricky, even for therapists and psychologists. This is because, historically, “self-care” is associated with health and wellness practices, while loving yourself too much (prioritizing or idealizing yourself to the detriment of others; i.e. selfishness and narcissism) is generally considered a negative. 

According to academic literature, however, self-love and narcissism are actually opposites [1]. Self-love can be broken down into 3 key themes: 

(a) self-contact, defined as giving attention to oneself; (b) self-acceptance, defined as being at peace with oneself; and (c) self-care, defined as being protective of and caring for oneself [1].

Understanding the Importance of Self-Love for Mental Health

Our mental health is intricately linked to our sense of self. When we neglect self-love, it can lead to stress, excessive worry, and a diminished sense of well-being [2]. On the flip side, fostering self-love can be a powerful tool in promoting mental resilience and overall happiness [2]. Practicing self-love can reduce inner suffering and promote better relationships with others. 

How Self-love Impacts Mental Health

Reducing Negative Self-Talk

Self-love involves challenging and changing negative self-talk. Constant self-criticism can contribute to feelings of inadequacy. Embracing self-love means treating ourselves with the same kindness and compassion that we would offer to a friend.

Try This: Practice positive affirmations. Start your day by affirming your worth and capabilities. Replace self-critical thoughts with empowering and encouraging statements. 

You can write your own affirmations to read and repeat daily, challenge yourself to think of 5 new ones each morning, or find a “morning affirmation” track on YouTube (or elsewhere) that you connect with and follow along.

Building Resilience to Stress

Self-love acts as a buffer against the inevitable stresses of life. When we prioritize self-care and self-compassion, we equip ourselves with the tools needed to navigate life’s challenges more effectively [3].

Try This: It only takes a moment to ask “what does my body need today?” What is the first activity that comes to mind that would meet that need? Maybe the answer changes daily, or maybe you have a go-to activity that makes you feel cared-for, joyful, grounded, or relaxed. It could be anything from reading or exercising, to simply taking a few minutes alone for quiet breathwork. 

If you are a person who thrives on routines, plan your schedule to include dedicated time each day to self-care activities.

Enhancing Emotional Well-Being

Cultivating self-love allows us to embrace our emotions without judgment. This emotional resilience enables us to experience a range of feelings without becoming overwhelmed.

Try This: Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness exercises, such as meditation or deep breathing, can help you become more aware of your emotions without being consumed by them. Again, if this is not a practice you are comfortable starting on your own, there are a plethora of free online resources, tutorials, and guided meditations to help you on your journey.

Improving Relationship Dynamics

How we perceive and treat ourselves influences our interactions with others. By fostering self-love and self-esteem, we create a foundation for healthier relationships built on mutual respect and understanding [4].

Try This: Set boundaries. Clearly communicate your needs and limits to others. Respecting your own time and your personal energy levels reinforces a sense of self-worth.

Boosting Self-Esteem and Confidence

Self-love is a catalyst for improved self-esteem and confidence. When we genuinely appreciate and accept ourselves, we exude a positive energy that attracts opportunities and positive experiences.

Try This: Celebrate your achievements. Celebrations can be shared or private, big or small. But, it’s important to pat yourself on the back, acknowledging your own accomplishments. This intrinsic, internal validation and positive reinforcement builds confidence over time [5].

10 Practical Self Love Tips for Better Mental Health

1. Practice Self-Compassion:

Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend facing a challenge. Acknowledge your imperfections without judgment and recognize that everyone makes mistakes.

2. Embrace Your Unique Qualities:

Celebrate what makes you unique. Your quirks, talents, and individuality are what make you special. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own journey and growth.

3. Prioritize Self-Care:

Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine. Whether it’s a warm bath, a leisurely walk, or a hobby you enjoy, carve out time for activities that nourish your body and soul.

4. Set Realistic Goals:

Break down your goals into achievable steps. Celebrate your progress along the way and recognize that setbacks are a natural part of any journey. Be patient with yourself. Check out our goal setting article linked here.

5. Surround Yourself with Positivity:

Choose to be around people who uplift and support you. Create an environment that fosters positive energy and minimizes negativity. This includes both relationships and the media you consume.

6. Unplug and Connect with Yourself:

In our digital age, it’s essential to disconnect from technology regularly. Spend time in nature, engage in activities that bring you joy, and allow yourself moments of quiet reflection.

7. Seek Professional Support:

If you find it challenging to cultivate self-love on your own, consider seeking the guidance of a mental health professional. While friends and family can offer support, they cannot always offer the knowledge and informed-honesty that a professional can. Therapy can provide valuable tools and insights to help you on your journey.

8. Learn to Say No:

Respect your own limits by learning to say “no” when necessary. Consider how saying “yes” or “no” to an event or task will affect your stress level, other commitments, and important relationships.

Some of us are typically quick to answer and then regret overcommitting. When someone asks a favor or extends an invitation, remind yourself to take time to think through all elements of the commitment before agreeing. It’s ok to say, ”let me think about that and get back to you” or “I don’t have time [or bandwidth] to help with that right now.” Setting boundaries is a powerful act of self-love that preserves your time and energy for the things that truly matter.

9. Practice Gratitude:

Cultivate a mindset of gratitude by regularly acknowledging the positive aspects of your life. Keep a gratitude journal and/or spend time daily reflecting on the things you are thankful for. People who develop a disposition of gratitude are generally happier and less likely to experience a low mood, hopelessness, and excessive worry than people who do not [6]. 

10. Forgive Yourself:

Let go of past mistakes and forgive yourself for any perceived shortcomings. Understand that growth involves learning from experiences and embracing the opportunity to become a better version of yourself.

The Big Takeaway

In the grand tapestry of life, self-love is the thread that weaves everything together. It’s not a one-time achievement but an ongoing journey of acceptance, growth, and compassion. By prioritizing self-love, we unlock the door to improved mental health, resilience, and a richer, more fulfilling life.

Remember, you deserve love and kindness—especially from yourself. Embrace the power within, and let self-love be the guiding light on your path to mental well-being.

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References

  1. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2021-90865-001
  2. https://www.proquest.com/openview/4fca83dcd733e27e14bc8e8b247bbb12/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
  3. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0022167805283779
  4. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2002-17391-007
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0720048X21005003
  6. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.878819/full