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Love as Daily Practice

Dr. Stephanie Waitt reflects on not celebrating Valentine’s Day.

This post is by Dr. Steph, an eating disorder specialist and lead clinician at Texoma Specialty Counseling and founder of The Recovery Academy, a psychoeducational support program for those struggling with, or recovering from, eating disorder(s) and/or body image issues.

In a business meeting last week, a member of my team asked how we were planning on talking to the community about the upcoming holiday. What holiday? We just finished the holidays. Oh, you mean Valentine’s Day!? I then realized Valentine’s Day was just a few days away, and I had nothing prepared. That’s because my husband and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Love as Daily Practice

I think the idea of a day of love is fantastic, but, on the other hand, I personally believe in choosing—and practicing—love every day, not just one day a year. Valentine’s Day is a great day to start from, but I feel love, particularly self-love, should be a daily practice.

Love is not always as easy as just loving yourself. We build up a lot of defenses to avoid getting hurt, and sometimes the hurt we experience makes it difficult to accept ourselves for who we are. Love is a feeling we experience. Love is also an action. The more you take action, the more you can experience feelings of love. SO, while feelings come and go, our job is to experience them as we feel them. Valentine’s Day can be a great reminder to feel that love, and a place to start your daily practice.

Practicing Love Every Day

Identify your top five values. These values are the principles that drive you, the reason why you get up and go each day. Write these values down, and place a reminder somewhere you will see it often. When you notice your values list, stop for just a moment, take a deep breath, and realign with your values. Ask yourself what one step you can take to align yourself with at least one value on your values list today.

Love as a daily practice. Prioritize a time each day for you to connect with the values you’ve identified. You’ll start to see when you are living in alignment with your values, you are doing good for others. Practicing love on the daily with the people in your life can also help you learn to practice love for yourself. The more you take time to act on these practices in your daily life, the more you will experience the feeling of love you’ve connected with them. It can be helpful to schedule 30-40 minutes each day to purposely take action with a value in mind.

Prioritize love as an intention. When you encounter a stressful situation during the day, remember your intention to love. Like we said, love is an action—a daily practice—and it’s also a feeling. The thing about feelings is they are not always present for us, or even obvious. Self-love is the feeling of knowing you are loved, while not always having all those funny tingly love feelings in your stomach. It is knowing, ultimately, you are not alone. Love is about accepting those feelings of belonging and connection will come and go.

Practicing Feeling Love

Accept that feelings of love come and go. Just because you do not feel it in the moment doesn’t mean you’re not loved, or incapable of loving. Find evidence of love in your life. Write it down to help you see the truth of that love.

Practice the Reverse Golden Rule. Treat yourself the way you treat others. You do a lot for people. You show up in a lot of different ways, offering kindness, respect, care, and compassion to family, friends, and even co-workers. If you want to experience feeling loved, try treating yourself the way you treat those you love.

Learning to Feel the Love

Feeling love is not as easy as loving yourself. You are deserving of love as you are and allowing someone to love you can help you practice love toward yourself. It’s also OK to learn to love yourself, as it will only make your feelings of love stronger overall.

As an eating disorder specialist, I teach individuals that loving the body and, ultimately, the self, is a feeling that exists on a spectrum. One extreme of this is love, and the other is hate. Daily love exists somewhere in the middle, and, the more steps you take in that middle space, the more steps you will take toward experiencing love.

To move toward love, start with respect. Practicing respect for yourself and the people you are interacting with each day, can foster the feelings of love you may feel you are missing.

To move toward love, practice appreciation. Notice things you are grateful for, both about yourself and your loved ones, every day. What can you thank yourself for? What can you thank your loved one—or even the people with whom you casually interact—for, every day?

To move toward love, practice grace. Practice grace toward others, and grace toward yourself, by giving up the idea that love is perfect. Love means you accept the good and the bad, the quirks and the strengths, and that you recognize mistakes—both yours and others—do not define value or worth. Practice giving yourself a break when you mess up in just the same way you would forgive a loved one for making a similar mistake.

The actions of love are imperfect, but the feeling of love is! The more love actions you take each day, toward yourself and others, the more you can consistently experience the joy of love in your life. Be sure to practice love today, Valentine’s Day, and I really want to encourage you to find a way to practice it again tomorrow too!

© 2021 Stephanie Waitt / Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved

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