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Do not brush over this term. With where we are at during this time of year, in this day and age, self-love is severely lacking around every corner. Self-love should never be interpreted as narcissism, selfishness, or vanity. Balance in self-love breeds understanding, compassion, and truth, which is something we talk about a lot here at Santa Cruz Ayurveda. In these next few months, we are going to need an increased effort for improving this area of our lives.

When I think of self love, some words that come to mind are soul, expansion, contemplation, intimate, tenderness, intrinsic, evolution, grace, truth, unyielding, freeing. Self-love should be gentle and understanding but can differ from person to person. Providing this love for yourself comes in all forms; feeding yourself nutritious foods, spending time in nature, drawing, sleeping a little longer, seeing an old friend, taking a day off to do your favorite hobby.

What does self-love feel like?

Self-love can feel really good, but can also feel not so great sometimes. This means there is growth that needs to happen. Self-love might be the creating of safe space for you to express emotions, both positive and negative. Self-love can be taking you to therapy and working through trauma and deep hurt. However, it can also be a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly treat you give to yourself. Positive and negative experiences happen within all relationships, but your relationship with yourself is the most important one to follow through these ebbs and flows. So how does facilitating self-love take place? How do you know if what your doing is self-loving?

There are NUMEROUS ways you can fill your own love tank, but because everyone is so different, not one thing will work for every person. However, if you are having a hard time knowing what would work for you, here are some healthy, constructive habits to inspire you.

Quality Time – There is nothing more important than the quality time you spend with yourself. Quality time and undivided attention in your outside relationships are important, but not as much as the undivided attention you need to give yourself. This could be sitting in quiet and reading, meditating, looking at yourelf in the mirror, walking in nature, all of self-care. Finding time to be alone and doing something you enjoy is quality, undivided attention. This does not include sitting on the couch, scrolling through social media or emails…but it does include the following list of intentional actions you can do to work on developing more self love.

Sleep – Giving yourself enough sleep every night should be the first step in giving yourself more love. Don’t stay up late when you know you can feel better by going to bed just an hour earlier. Find ways to improve the quality of your sleep by reducing your caffeine consumption late in the day or relaxing in a warm bath or shower before bedtime.

Diet – Feed that magnificent machine you have for a body nourishing, life giving foods. Sleep and a full, healthy diet are the top two ways to show yourself love. Rest and nourishment are what we seek from the moment we emerge from the womb, so supply your body with the best, organic, seasonal food this earth has to offer.

Release expectations – There is no other sure fire way of becoming disappointed than when you have unrealistic expectations. As humans in the 21st century, we tend to develop irrational and unattainable expectations for ourselves. How high of a standard are you holding yourself to? Are these sustainable goals and standards that you feel you can achieve? Or have they been placed on your by someone else other than yourself? Releasing an unrealistic standard that has been placed on your by anyone other than yourself can open your vision to the bigger picture of what YOU need, not what someone else has in mind.

Exercise – Research shows that walking everyday increases mental clarity and longevity of the body and mind. Walking in nature is also extremely beneficial since this is where the mind, body, and soul feel most natural. Moving the body can be an extremely loving practice, as long as you are not pushing your body too hard. There is a balance you can achieve in movement where you are not putting your body into a fight or flight mode, and this is how you know what you are doing is loving, and not inflicting stress. Moving the body releases hormones that benefit the brain and make you feel happier towards yourself.

Hobby – Have a hobby that you feel like you just don’t have time for these days? Take a day off and give yourself a few hours to enjoy some time doing what you love, guilt free.

Nature – Undivided attention and solitude in nature is an encompassing and ancient practice that will serve your mind, body, and soul at all levels. This can be an extremely uncomfortable thing for people to do as fear and insecurities take over and convince the mind otherwise. However, the deepest healing can be found in nature. Sit on the sand and watch a sunset with some tea or walk barefoot on the earth. Reconnect your body, the manifestation of all the elements, to this planet of Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.

Cultivate gratitude - Keeping a gratitude journal of what you’re thankful for can have a big effect on your mindset. Research has shown that incorporating gratitude into your daily life can help ward off stress, improve sleep, and cultivate more positive social relationships.

Smile at everyone - Smile to strangers passing by or say “good morning” to everyone who enters the office, make an effort to acknowledge those around you when you see them. You might find yourself feeling more present and connected to those around you, even if you don’t have a close relationship with them. Offering this small act of kindness will have a larger ripple effect than you will ever know, but will always find its way back to you.

Digital detox – Step away from your phone either for a few hours or even take the entire day off of devices. Instead, try getting outside and connecting with nature, or meeting up with friends for a meal together. Remember: Even a short break from your phone can help you unwind and focus on what brings you joy.

Positive self-talk - It’s easy to get caught up in being overly harsh and critical of your perceived failings and unrealistic expectations. This negative, unproductive self-talk can lower our overall motivation and have a negative ripple effect across our entire day and life. Positive affirmations do really play a key role in uplifting motivation and self-confidence. There is no one rooting for your harder than yourself, whether you know it or not! Your body and mind are always doing their best to provide you with life and energy and wants you to succeed. Don’t let it down because your perceived outlook may not always be true.

Accepting Yourself Right Now – You have gotten yourself here. No one else did you, you did. Where has that brought you? Maybe its great and feel a sense of accomplishment and strength. Maybe your immediate thought it that you should be doing more, you should be in a different spot or more successful. However, the only thing that is important for you at this moment is that you brought yourself here, and that’s not an easy task. Who is this person? What has this person had to endure in their life to find themselves alive right now? It is a miracle and exceptional that you did it. So whoever you are at this moment, it is important and there is a purpose for all of it.

Communication - Free yourself from toxic relationships and unhealthy life roles by being direct in your communication with others. This can begin with being honest with you. What is it that you need in your life? Maybe its for your friends to not drink around you as much, maybe you need to tell yourself that you aren’t happy in your current career. Whatever the situation is, finding your truth is important. Once you know your truth, your mind, body, and soul will do everything in its power to make it real.

Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve. It can mean something different for each person because we all have many different ways to take care of ourselves and we all have different ways of loving.

You can’t give if you are empty!

Taking time right now to give yourself the love you deserve in this quiet, transient but elemental time of year will create abundance and expansion for the year that is coming to an end, and the new year that is beginning.

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