“Be thine own palace or the world’s thy jail.”
What a strange world where loving yourself isn’t second nature. Perhaps everyone is born with the capacity to love themselves, but the vagaries of life steal attention from this sacred task. Luckily, with a little awareness and effort, you can consciously reconnect with the gift of loving yourself.
Take a moment and ask: How do I show myself love?
If you already use self-acceptance, gentleness, positive self-talk; if you rest when you are weary, eat when you are hungry, go off alone when you crave solitude, welcome company when you seek connection; in other words, if you habitually nurture your mind, body and spirit congratulate yourself. You are in the minority.
If treating yourself lovingly, kindly, and patiently does not come naturally, you might want to write a list of 100 things you could do to show how much you cherish yourself.
There is a special technique for this exercise.
Title the first page: 100 Ways I Show Myself Love
Number the lines from 1-100.
Set a timer for 20 minutes.
Write as fast as you can without pausing.
You may repeat things as often as they occur to you.
When you are done notice major themes. How many times did the same thing come up? By writing a list of 100, it’s easy to take a percentage of the most frequently occurring items and see which ones really speak to you. The next step is to do those on a regular basis.
As the yogis say: What we practice we become. If you practice paying attention to what you body-mind-spirit wants or needs and provide it, not only will you get in the habit of attending to yourself; but, you will notice cues sooner, be more in touch emotionally, and take time to rejuvenate before you start running on fumes.
Adult life is full of responsibilities that require time and energy. It’s all too easy to let your to-do list take precedence over your desire for stillness and self-replenishing. Once you commit to a daily dose of self-care you will be amazed at how time will suddenly expand to allow for revitalization.
This is a far cry from self-indulgence. Just as sleeping gives you energy for the next day, these activities allow you to pause and pay attention to what you are feeling, thinking, and experiencing. There is an abundance of research showing how mindfulness practices lower blood pressure, increase productivity, boost immune function, and help stabilize moods, all of which benefits everyone in your life.
Here are a few things for which you might find time, even in the busiest of days.
As my friend Stephanie does, every morning and evening, resolve to be good to yourself.
Eat delicious, nourishing food, including dark chocolate. (See: chocolate’s healing powers) It is not just ingesting the chocolate that’s helpful, it’s taking the time to savor it.
Pay attention to your automatic thoughts. Are they self-downing, critical, or negative? If so, consciously replace them with a positive inner dialogue. To jump start this new way of thinking check out: affirmations.
Drink herbal tea. It forces you to slow down and focus on something besides your tasks or thoughts. All hot beverages stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system helping you relax.
Take a three minute break to stare out the window, open a door and breathe in some fresh air, or close your eyes and tune into your breath.
Try a yoga nidra practice. This is an ancient guided meditation that can take from 15-60 minutes and will leave you feeling relaxed and energized.
(There are many to choose from. One of my favorites is available free from Elsie’s Yoga Class, an iTunes podcast. It’s #62 of her offerings.)
Give yourself the gift of long, slow, deep breaths throughout the day.
Spend 10 minutes writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Just the way a bath cleanses your physical body, this practice helps clear the mind.
Regularly re-read your list of 100 Ways I Show Myself Love and do them. If those practices don’t seem helpful, take the time to re-write your list.
Listen to what your heart, mind, and body want, and act on those yearnings.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang