THE BLOG
06/08/2014 07:00 pm ET | Updated Jun 09, 2014

The Unexpected Key to Loving Others

"Stand guard at the portal of your mind." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

We all know that love is a powerful emotion that has the ability to lift us up, inspire us and make us feel at peace. Studies show that being in love can actually lower your blood pressure and protect against heart disease. There is no disputing that love has positive benefits for our emotional and physical health, which is why so many people expend vast amounts of energy seeking love and doling it out to others around them. Yet how many people invest as much energy into loving themselves as they do in trying to love others around them?

Just as an experiment, I ask you to take one minute and think about what you truly think about yourself. How do you talk to yourself on a regular basis? Do you praise yourself for your achievements, or chide yourself for your failures and shortcomings? When you're feeling down, do you treat yourself with tenderness and care or anger and frustration? Do you take care of yourself physically or have tendencies to neglect your health? And finally, would you speak to other people you care about the same way you speak to yourself?

If you leaned toward the latter in any of the above, it may be time to think about directing some love back at yourself. Self love is the essence of all love, as this is where you truly begin to cultivate kindness and compassion. And although the saying, "You must love yourself before you can love anyone else" may be a tad overused, there is a great deal of truth in this notion.

Once you begin to love yourself, you develop a much deeper understanding of how to care for others in a way that is healthy and healing. Although there are many ways you can learn to love yourself more, I suggest starting with the basic notion of a mother's love for a child. A mother is constantly tuning in to her child's emotions to determine what the child needs, then attending to those needs with kindness, gentleness and compassion. A mother will support and encourage her child through thick or thin and attempt to be a positive guiding force throughout the child's life.

If you can be a loving steward to your own thoughts and emotions and a gentle calming voice much like a mother or guardian angel might be, then you will soon find that your loneliness starts to dissipate, your self-esteem rises, and you will be filled with a great deal of love and compassion to give back to the world.

Once you learn to love yourself, you can then offer that love to others in the same form -- that is, tender words, a gentle glance, a kind touch and the ability to inspire self love in others. By doing so, you are not only benefitting your own health and well-being, but that of others around you as well. In fact, even something as simple as a soft touch can have benefits for physical and emotional health.

A recent study by doctors in the UK shows that human touch is vital to brain development in children and key to facilitating a healthy sense of the body and self. The study also suggests that a caressing touch can lower anxiety levels, and that affective touch at every stage of life is important for emotional health. Thus, even the smallest gesture of kindness can have a profound effect on well-being.

In addition, the Harvard School of Public Health reports that positive emotions, like enthusiasm, hopefulness and optimism, can greatly reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and depression. These positive attitudes can be cultivated by self-regulating behavior as well as having a supportive network of family and friends. So by offering someone encouragement and support, you may also be lowering their risk of disease.

If we truly want to create a world where love, caring and compassion comes first, we have to start at the source -- ourselves. It is only through self love that we can begin to give ourselves to others in any beneficial way. To leave you with another Emerson quote that sums up this notion perfectly, "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

Self-love is where the journey truly begins and where divine abundance comes from. To learn more about how to cultivate self love and how to reactivate Your Vibrant Heart, visit drcynthia.com or obtain the book, Your Vibrant Heart: Restoing Health, Strength & Spirit from the Body's Core.

This blog is a part of the launch series for our new Love Matters section. To find out more, click here.

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