Six Ways to Practice Self-Love for a Healthier LifeApr 30, 2021 11:00AM ● By Nadia Noori
Self-love is critical for a truly healthy lifestyle. Studies have found that people who treat themselves compassionately have better health habits and outcomes. Loving ourselves means we’ll be more in tune with what’s going on in our body and mind, more likely to realize when there’s a problem and more likely to seek care. Self-love also leads to a happier, less stressed life.
Self-care and self-compassion are two big components of showing ourselves love. This can include activities like treating ourselves to a long bath or a massage, but it also applies to how we treat ourselves daily, in a broader sense. It’s about making decisions that benefit us, even when they are difficult or inconvenient. Self-compassion doesn’t mean setting low expectations or standards for ourselves; it means we don’t beat ourselves up when we make a mistake, miss an opportunity or something doesn’t go our way.
We can think of it as treating ourselves with the care, attention, understanding and kindness we’d give to our closest friends and family. Not sure where to start? Here are six ways to practice self-love.
1. Meditation and mindfulness. From the ability to lower blood pressure to helping people manage anxiety, depression and pain, mindfulness meditation has many science-backed benefits. In simplest terms, this practice involves sitting, focusing on the breath and noticing when thoughts or feelings arise without getting caught up in them. It can help us relax in the moment, but also carries over into how we process and deal with the stresses and challenges of everyday life.
Meditation is a great self-love practice in part because we are actively carving out time that’s just for us, even if it’s five or 10 minutes a day. In our hectic world, that can be powerful. For first-time meditators and those looking to cultivate a regular practice, technology can help. Apps like Headspace ease into meditation from the ground up, and can make sticking to a practice easier. There are also great guided meditations on Insight Timer, plus a basic timer for those not looking to do a guided practice.
2. Set boundaries. Knowing when and how to say “no”, not overextending ourselves and not making commitments that are harmful to us, are important parts of self-love. This means acknowledging which situations and people have a negative impact on our well-being and minimizing exposure to them.
Boundary-setting can be difficult and guilt-ridden if we’ve always been the one everyone else counts on, or are used to giving of ourselves without limits. An important part of setting boundaries is reminding ourselves that we have a right and obligation to put us first, because we are the only person who can take care of us in the best ways.
Pay attention to which environments and people cause feelings of stress or exhaustion, and which give positive energy or feelings of calm and safety. We should avoid the exhausting, stressful ones as much as possible, and make a conscious effort to immerse ourselves in those that make us feel good.
3. Avoid comparing to others. We are bombarded with messages—from the media, society, our social circles—about what others have and accomplish, and can start to believe that if we don’t do or have those same things, we’re lesser. Whether it’s a celebrity’s “summer body”, a friend’s successful startup or a sibling’s “perfect” nuclear family, we’re constantly nudged in the direction of comparisons that negatively impact our well-being.
We can fight the urge to use anyone else as a measuring stick for who we should be or how we should live our lives. Everyone is unique, and it’s through that uniqueness that we’ll make our impact on the world. Let’s take stock of our strengths, the things we’re good at, and work to make those central to our day-to-day life, career, hobbies and relationships. We should get involved in activities that interest us, learn things we’re curious about and do what makes us happy and whole.
4. Practice gratitude. As the saying goes, “It’s not happy people who are thankful, it’s thankful people who are happy.” Gratitude is another powerful way of loving ourselves. Similar to when we take stock of the positive aspects of who we are, taking account of the good things in our daily life can boost our mood and make us more resilient in trying times.
There are many ways to practice gratitude, including keeping a gratitude journal where we write a few things for which we’re grateful each day. We can also take gratitude notes on our phone, or make the notes entirely mental ones. Another great option is to do a guided gratitude meditation. The point is to pause and reflect on the positives in our life, however large or small.
5. Eat a healthy, nutritious, balanced diet. One of the best ways we show ourselves love is through the food we eat and how we consume it. If we’re constantly putting things into our bodies that leave us feeling lethargic or weighed down, and we’re inhaling food while doing three other things at once, we are sending ourselves the message that we aren’t worth the time and energy to fuel ourselves with good things in a deliberate and present way. And of course, diet has a huge impact on our overall health.
It’s important to be mindful about what we eat, really paying attention to how certain foods make us feel. We can start by keeping a food/feelings diary to record what we’ve eaten, and also track how we feel. Patterns may emerge over a few weeks or a month. It can also be a good idea to have a doctor run tests to determine whether we have any food sensitivities or allergies we may not be aware of. A great way to get into the swing of things regarding a healthy diet is to ask for help. Sometimes a little guidance and structure is all it takes.
6. Schedule needs and take care of them. Oftentimes, our calendars fill up with things we have to do for people and situations outside of ourselves: kids’ sports practices, grocery shopping, work meetings, friends’ birthdays. Before we know it, we’re booked up and spent, with no time or energy for ourselves.
Part of self-love is taking care of our needs, not just our wants or responsibilities, and committing to choices that benefit us down the line. That sometimes means doing things we’d rather postpone, like getting an annual checkup, or even seeing a doctor when we feel sick. Neglecting our needs sends the message that we’re not worth it, which is the opposite of self-love. So, make that doctor’s appointment, set a reminder, and go to it.
Schedule big tasks, but make sure to also set aside time for all the everyday practices that make up self-maintenance. This includes blocking out time for exercise, meditation, play and whatever else helps us feel cared for. Recognize when some “me-time” is needed, and make it a priority.
Dr. Nadia Noori, of the Shalva Clinic in Westport, received her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine. Her areas of specialty lie in optimizing gastrointestinal health and brain health with a focus on neurodegenerative and neuropsychological conditions. She strongly believes that when provided the optimum environment and care, the body possesses an innate ability to self-heal. Connect at
203-916-4600, [email protected] or ShalvaClinic.org.