Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, but have we fostered the love we have for ourselves? Qiraat Attar explores nurturing the tenuous bond we share with our inner self and how we can honor it
There’s a saying that goes – Love makes the world go round. In our world, the love between couples, with parents, kids, friends, even strangers is celebrated. But we seldom talk about our longest, most enduring relationship, one we carry through our lifetime – and that is our relationship with ourselves. This relationship is to be nurtured with love too but is often forgotten.
As we continue to navigate a complex, hyperconnected world where we are scrutinized and judged to the extent that we lose ourselves, self-love becomes harder to cultivate, especially consistently. However, not exhibiting kindness and care towards yourself can have a detrimental impact on your mental health, your perception of the world and your relationships with others.
Bestow yourself with the art of self love this Valentine’s Day, and learn to prioritize your bond with yourself through these simple habits.
‘Embrace the emptiness
The human attention span and focus has fractured since the advent of connected technology. Notifications interrupt any moment of quiet. Meditation, or ‘dhyaan’ has exploded in our world as a reclamation of calm amid the chaos. It doesn’t need you to be a sage; simply make an intention to clear intrusive thoughts which run amok in your mind, and focus on your breath. There’s plenty of YouTube videos to ease you into the process. What starts as a tenuous struggle to keep your mind at ease will evolve into you enjoying the stillness it brings. With proven benefits for mental health issues such as anxiety, this practice is a much needed act of self-care.
Flow with Yoga
Most people feel pressed to take on physical activity to look fitter or thinner, but what about how you feel? Instead, opt to move in a way that nurtures your body and fuels your soul. Yoga is a tremendously intuitive practice to feel grounded in your body. It also comes bereft of prerequisites, such as fancy equipment or yoga wear. The various asanas are designed to stretch and strengthen, a surefire way of loving yourself and a great investment in your long term physical health. Win win!
In fact, any gentle movement like walking, jogging, pilates, or swimming is a guaranteed release of endorphins that will uplift you and work your body in a way that honors your spirit.
Put pen to paper
Hundreds of thoughts run through our head all day, mostly all on autopilot. Over time, we may have let hateful opinions about us take root in our minds without correcting them. What we focus on grows, so you want to make sure it’s positive and constructive thoughts. A great way to do so is journaling!
Seeing your thoughts on paper helps understand where they come from so you can weed out those that don’t serve you well. You will notice what aren’t your thoughts at all, are merely projections of fears and insecurities, or judgements of the world that have become part of your internal monologue. Journaling is a great way to replace them with more fruitful affirmations, or simply gain a better understanding of your psyche.
Watch your time
Have you noticed that when you miss a meal, oversleep, or procrastinate on a project, you don’t feel very good about yourself? While it may appear contradictory to gentle self-care, discipline is a potent act of self-love, a gift you give your future self. It is a way of telling yourself that you value your time, your space, and your goals.
Inculcate it in the little things – going to bed at a fixed hour or no electronics past a certain point. Plan your upcoming meals or ensure you take time off for yourself for some relaxation without fail, denying the urge to work till a burnout as our culture often subtly demands. Prioritize yourself and allot time to all aspects of your life, and watch your self-love grow rapidly.
Well-fed with love
Nothing hinders one’s unique journey to accepting ourselves more than diet culture. If every meal you eat is focused on losing weight alone, you are probably denying yourself the simple joy of food and being miserable in the process.
Instead, eat for joy, nourishment and to celebrate yourself. A great way is incorporating seasonal fruits and vegetables in your meals and avoid patterns of disordered eating to triggers such as stress and anger. Be kind to yourself if you find yourself failing diets or eating so called ‘junk’; the self-beration is worse than whatever nutritional deficit that food puts you in. Understanding your instincts and honoring them is crucial in the path of self-love.
Seek a helping hand
No one has it all ‘figured out’. People’s picture perfect lives on Instagram with fancy vacations and fairytale romances may have you feeling like the ‘odd one out’, but our existence is characterized by challenges, and overcoming them gives our life meaning. There is no shame in seeking professional help when it is all too overwhelming for you. Find a kindred counselor to discuss your issues in confidence and seek solutions. As the burden begins to lighten, you will harbor a renewed appreciation for your own strengths and capabilities.
In part, self-love arises from contentment. It’s not about having everything you want, but rather being content with whatever you have. To consciously bring it into your life, cultivate gratitude. Every morning, list 3 things that you are grateful to have in your life, and soon you will notice everything you are blessed with – a roof over your head, a family that cares about you, or simply the light that comes in the window. Once you shift the focus away from what you lack to the abundance you have, it will inspire a wave of self-love and contentment in you.
You may have noticed that none of them are quick-fix solutions. That’s because folks, there is no shortcut to self-love. Every day is different. We are humans with biases, negative beliefs, some passed down over generations or stubbornly held on to for decades, so don’t expect them to be solved in a day. The foundation of this practice is to forgive yourself little things and knowing that self-love is not a constant. True love comes from embracing someone, flaws, and all, and that someone is you, worthy of this divine feeling as you are.