You hear the advice of “love yourself first” from so many sources throughout your life.
But what does that actually mean?
While I think that it’s wrong/damaging/ridiculous to tell people that they can’t be loved by others until they love themselves (*ahem*… of course you can… you not loving yourself doesn’t make someone else’s love for you not exist), there does seem to be a lack of solid, actionable advice on how to actually achieve a state of loving ourselves.
So, How Exactly Do You Love Yourself More?
In it’s simplest form, loving yourself comes down to your ACTIONS.
More specifically, loving yourself is about consistently carrying out actions that feel aligned with your heart/gut/intuition.
If you merely tell yourself that you’re working on loving yourself but you’re a workaholic drug abuser, existing on less than three hours of sleep per night, secretly resenting yourself for breaking that person’s heart a few years ago, and living off of fast food and energy drinks, well, you’re going to be sending a different message to your heart through those cumulative actions.
Imagine that there is a sensitive, loving, thin-skinned inner-child (say, 4-5 years old) who lives inside of you. Now imagine that you are responsible for taking care of this child.
What kinds of things would you do to take care of this child? To love them, honour them, cherish them, and occasionally protect them from the world?
I’m sure you already have a few ideas flooding your brain.
Now, conversely, what kinds of things could you do that would make this child feel neglected? Uncared for? Resented? Like they were a nuisance?
For this part of the process, a different set of behaviours are likely coming to you.
This inner child is your heart.
The more you love, cherish, and honour your inner child, the more they flourish, come alive, and feel safe and energetic.
The more you ignore, neglect, and abandon this inner child, the more your self-love and self-esteem will downward spiral.
So if we know that loving ourselves more comes down to our actions, what are some of the highest leverage actions we can take to make ourselves feel more loved?
11 Easy Ways To Actually Love Yourself More
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Here are eleven simple actions that you can start carrying out today in order to actually love yourself more.
1. Move often
When we move we allow the various forms of energy in our body the space to shift around.
If we’re couch potatoes, watch too much TV, or spend all of our day sitting in front of a computer, then our creative, emotional, sexual energies tend to get trapped in our bodies.
And when we’re chronically stagnant with our bodies, that stuck energy often turns into anxiety and sadness.
So instead of sitting in an office chair or couch all day, get up and move as often as you can.
Whether that’s getting up early and walking outside for a few minutes, or having a mini-dance party as a break from work, or going out and spending forty minutes in a gym… find some form of movement that feels compelling to you, and make it a priority.
2. Care about nutrition
The food that you put in your body is your fuel.
If you’re constantly putting in junk fuel, you’re going to feel like junk. On the other side of the spectrum, if you’re completely depriving yourself of foods that you derive enjoyment from, then you’ll feel like a robot that eats to live (as opposed to balancing it with some of the ‘live to eat’ side of the equation).
So eat clean. You already know what to do. Drink water, eat lots of veggies, nuts, seeds, and fruits, consume complex carbohydrates, and limit intake of any processed foods.
3. Limit the junk food that your brain consumes
Just like your body feels grumpy if you feed it awful things consistently, so too does your mood suffer when you feed your mind garbage.
– Stop watching the news. Somewhat depending on which country you live in, there’s a good chance that the majority of news that is presented to you is shitty, useless, and fear based. Stop consuming it as much as possible. Instead, consume the brain-nutrient equivalent of organic, nutritious information. Examples? Try this book, this website, and this page.
– Stop watching ‘reality TV.’ I used to watch Jersey Shore. Then I stopped because I felt gross when I watched it. It doesn’t serve you to watch people so you can secretly judge their behaviour and feel superior to them.
– Unfollow or unfriend people in your social media newsfeed that only spread negativity. I have a few thousand friends on Facebook but I only subscribe to less than 20 of them. Be as intentional about cultivating the information that you consume as the food that you put in your body. They both matter more than you think they do.
4. Invest in your sleep
You spend roughly a third of your life sleeping, so you might as well get good at it.
The way we sleep can either deprive us and deplete us, or it can energize and uplift us.
Get some high quality blackout curtains, limit any exposure to electronic light within two hours of going to bed, and keep any cell phones/computers/TV’s out of your bedroom. When the lights go out it’s time to cuddle or have sex, not check your Instagram feed.
5. Be intentional in how you spend your time
Enforce real boundaries in your life so that you carve out time for the things that matter the most to you.
Say no to people you don’t like spending time with. Say no to work projects/paths/opportunities that don’t serve you and your core values. Spend time with your favourite people on a regular basis. Carve out time in your calendar to make time for fun, lightness, and playfulness.
The more you honour yourself in how you spend your time, the more your inner child will feel seen, understood, and loved.
6. Regularly make time for rest and relaxation
Between all of your healthy meals, optimized sleep habits, and playfulness, you want to make sure you’re also allowing yourself the time and space to breathe and relax.
Take naps when you feel like it. Treat yourself to spa treatments when you want them. Let yourself soak in Epsom salt baths for an hour when the mood strikes you.
Rest and relaxation are vital in the self-care/self-love journey. Let your soul breathe. Occasionally allow yourself to have no plans.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to take a break, lie down on the floor, and just breathe.
(For more info/ideas regarding down time, check out this article on self-care)
7. Incorporate regular play into your life
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
One of the biggest changes that I’ve started to make in my life in the past year is re-prioritizing play into my life.
I took a play inventory (aka I sat down with myself and asked “What did I used to do for fun before life became so serious?”) and then started honouring the answers that came to me.
Ever since this revelation, I’ve started to take improv classes, take more photos, create more short films, I go skateboarding, and I’ve been going to the occasional dance class and dancing to Janet Jackson.
If play has taken a backseat to your very important, very stressful adult life, then you might need to check out this book on play, and re-prioritize some things.
8. Maintain an ongoing self-recognition list
Another thing that has helped me a lot over the past year is switching my mindset from “I’m always behind/I need to catch up/I’m not doing enough” over to “I’m doing so well.”
The highest leverage action step that I have taken to help myself accomplish this is to keep an ongoing self-recognition list.
It’s as simple as it sounds. I recommend you do it in one of two ways.
– Have a place where, every day, you answer the question “What am I recognizing myself for today?” with whatever thoughts come to mind (no matter how big or small the things that come to you are)
– Have an ongoing list where you write down your bigger achievements that are all trending towards one specific goal or are dedicated to one area of your life. An example could be an ongoing self-recognition list focused on your health goals, or your career building accomplishments. That way, when you look back, month over month, you’ll remember that you really have made a ton of progress in your life (even if it doesn’t always feel like it day to day).
Whichever one seems less intimidating and more beneficial, go for that one. Keep it simple. Just grab a journal and dedicate it towards this task, or start up a digital document on your phone or computer and start writing in it.
9. Spend time alone
Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or married, one of the best ways that you can cultivate a loving relationship with yourself is to regularly spend some time alone.
Regardless of your introvert or extrovert status, everyone can benefit from some genuine alone time.
Take yourself out to a restaurant by yourself (you can bring a journal/notepad/book with you for company if you need to).
Go to a movie by yourself. Take a lengthy walk in the morning. Lie on your bed and breathe deeply. Meditate in the evening for a few minutes.
Whatever alone time activity appeals to you, make it happen. You might be amazed at what thoughts and revelations bubble up for you when you give yourself the time and space to simply listen to yourself.
10. Forgive yourself for past self-perceived wrongdoings
One common barrier to self-love is that we all have some things in our past that we haven’t forgiven ourselves for.
Maybe we feel bad about how we treated an ex. Or we feel like we were too short with a family member, from a place of frustration or tiredness. Or maybe we have a whole streak of months/years in our lives that we haven’t forgiven ourselves for.
If any of these resonate with you, or if other past painful memories are popping up for you while reading this section, then some self-forgiveness work might do us some good in the realm of self-love.
You can journal it out, or you can meditate on your thoughts, or you can speak it out loud (to yourself, or to the people that you feel that you wronged when appropriate).
Having a mantra along the lines of “Even though ______ happened, I deeply and completely forgive myself for my actions. I did the best I could at the time, I couldn’t have known any better, and I will commit to acting differently in the future. I forgive myself entirely.”
Depending on what you’re forgiving yourself for and how much of an emotional wound there is for you, it can sometimes take weeks of this practice for it to really take hold in a deep and believable way… but it’s always worth it.
11. Invest in your most fulfilling relationships
Not only is spending time around your favourite people good for you, but investing your love into others (via acts of kindness and quality time spent together) also, in a roundabout way, funnels love into your relationship with yourself.
Love your closest friends, family members, and significant others fiercely and your self-love will magically grow as a by-product of being a good friend/sibling/child/lover to those who you’ve deemed to be worthy of your time.
Treating your favourite people with love and kindness makes you feel good in the same way that being intentional about how you spend your time (tip #5) makes you feel good. You’re essentially signalling to your heart/gut/inner child that “Yes, I care about you enough to put love into the places that I deem to be worthy of my time, attention, and love.” These are my core values, these are my core favourite people, and I will honour and respect all of them through my actions.
Loving Yourself, Made Easy
As always, get started with whichever tips seem either the easiest to you, or the most challenging, depending on where you are in your journey and what you’re looking to work on.
Start with one, focus on incorporating it into your life, and when you feel like you have a solid handle on integrating that habit, then start the work of adding another.
I wish you the best of luck in your self-love journey!
Dedicated to your success,
Ps. Looking for even more self love practices? Here are some additional resources that relate to many of the things that I mentioned in this post…
Pps. If you want to watch a quick video on exactly how to love yourself more, you can do so here.