Love is a universal human emotion that permeates all aspects of life. We love our families, our friends, our partners, and even our pets. We can also love our jobs, music, artwork, landscapes, and certain foods. Love can be defined as a strong emotional attachment toward another person or thing that can produce feelings of euphoria and joy—or sadness and despair. There is no doubt that love is one of the most powerful emotions a human being can experience, yet we spend so much time focusing on loving everything around us that we often forget the most important recipient of love: ourselves.
Although the connection may not seem obvious, love of self is directly related to heart health and well-being. When we love ourselves, we take better care of ourselves and are less likely to engage in harmful or unhealthy behavior like overeating, alcohol abuse, and neglecting the body. In addition, studies show that high self-esteem levels might even protect the heart by boosting your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Your PNS calms your heart by suppressing stress levels, lowering your heart rate, and fighting off inflammation, which in turn can protect your cardiovascular system. So when you love yourself, you nurture and revitalize both your spirit and your physical body.
1. Stop Beating Yourself Up and Start Being Kind to Yourself
We can all be our own worst critics, sometimes to our detriment. A certain amount of introspection is healthy, but when you constantly focus on your flaws or failures, you start to develop a skewed sense of self that can spill over into your external world. Instead of focusing on the negative, remind yourself of the things you like about yourself. Give yourself compliments and be compassionate toward yourself. When you are kind to yourself, that positive energy will shine through, making it easier for you to accomplish your goals and easier for others to treat you with the same kindness.
2. Spend Time With Yourself
The better you know yourself, the easier it is to love yourself. One of the best ways to develop a sense of self is to spend time alone. Schedule in some time every week when you turn off your phone and your computer and simply concentrate on you. Read a book, meditate, go for a walk, or take yourself out to dinner or the movies. The more time you spend with just you, the more centered and grounded you will become, and the better equipped you will be to battle negative emotions and to live life with more meaning.
3. Do What You Love
How many times a week do you do something you truly love? How many times in a month? A year? Part of loving yourself is nurturing your soul with the things that make you happy. This could be dancing, singing, traveling, learning a new language, or even just sitting quietly with a cup of tea and a crossword puzzle. Feed your soul with joyful activities, and that happiness and contentment will resonate through your life and extend to the people around you.
4. Choose to Be Around Positive People
The people you choose to spend your time with are a direct reflection of how much you value yourself. Surround yourself with positive people who are caring, supportive, and nonjudgmental, and you will feel loved, appreciated, and respected. Studies show that individuals who associate with cheerful people have a happier demeanor and consequently a better sense of well-being. If, on the other hand, you surround yourself with toxic people who bring you down, how can you not feel unloved and unappreciated? Life is too short to waste time with people who suck your happiness and energy, so make the choice to allot your time to those who encourage and inspire you.
5. Be Your Own Caregiver
At times it may feel as though your job in life is to care for and support those around you. But how can you properly care for others when you neglect your own health and happiness? Make an effort to take care of your body by eating healthily, getting plenty of rest, and exercising regularly. Manage your stress by meditating or making time for yourself. Instead of relying on others to take care of you, take the initiative to look after your own physical and emotional well-being, and your confidence and sense of self-worth will grow.
Loving yourself is not about being selfish. It’s about taking care of your own needs so that you can be the best person possible to yourself and others. When you truly start to love yourself, you will find that your health improves, you become happier and more balanced, and you are able to enjoy good people and good things in your life.
For more information about healthy living and balancing your body, mind and spirit, please read my comprehensive book on heart health, Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength and Spirit from the Body's Core. The book includes many more insights about how to nurture and care for your heart on both a physical and emotional level.
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