THE BLOG
02/15/2016 05:34 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2017

Self-Love Must Come First: How to Love Yourself

Imagine how you treat yourself on a daily basis as if you were another person, in a relationship with you.

Are you good to yourself? Is your mind kind to your body and soul?

In my practice and my own psycho-spiritual journey, I see that at times we all:

*Beat ourselves up with cruel self-talk
*Set ourselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations
*Deprive ourselves of things we deserve through self-sabotaging behaviors
*Abuse our bodies through neglect or harmful choices

These behaviors wreak havoc on our mental and physical health, our relationships, and our careers. We must choose a different path.

After 20 years of counseling individuals and couples, as well as doing my own inner work, I've come to believe that perhaps our greatest life lesson is learning how to fully accept and love ourselves.

For only when we are truly aligned with our own beautiful and unique spirit, can we completely and authentically give and receive real love. This is because when we love ourselves we know that we can give without becoming resentful, exhausted and depleted, and we can receive because we know we deserve it. Self-love is the prerequisite for complete immersion in the abundant flow of light and love in the world around us.

But how does one love oneself?

In The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, he identifies the five ways in which we can give and receive love. Below, these languages are applied to self-love with practical suggestions:

1. Words of Affirmation: Think Self-Love

*Practice daily affirmations. Our thoughts precede our emotions and behaviors.
*Recite mantras that encourage self-compassion. Bring your attention to being good to yourself.
*Journal your strengths and everything about you for which you are grateful. Document everything you accomplish, feel good about, do right, like about yourself, etc.
*Keep your self-talk positive. Turn down the volume of your inner critic and choose to be your best coach or cheerleader.

2. Acts of Service: Do Self-Love

*Prepare healthy meals for yourself. Put thought and effort into grocery shopping and meal preparation.
*Create an organized, clean and aesthetically pleasing home environment for yourself. Love where you live, even if on a budget.
*Schedule regular physical, dental and mental health check-ups. Address any health concerns in a timely manner if they arise. Without your health, you have nothing.
*Groom yourself with love and care. Put yourself together so that you feel like the beautiful person that you are.

3. Receiving Gifts: Absorb Self-Love

*Buy only what you love. Don't allow things in your home and closet that don't bring you positive vibrations. (While you're at it, purge that which does not bring you joy.)
*Gift yourself with an experience on your bucket list. Always wanted to sky dive or go whitewater rafting? Budget it out and plan it. Enlist the help and support of friends as needed.
*Invest in your education and advancement. Want to pursue a higher degree? Take a cooking class? Learn how to be a yoga instructor? Do the research, apply for grants and scholarships, volunteer to learn new skills. Gift yourself with knowledge.
*Treat yourself to the wisdom and perspective gained from travel. Limited funds? Consider volunteer or service work or pooling together resources with friends and traveling on the cheap.

4. Quality Time: Be Present with Self-Love

*Set aside time for daily mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. These devotions will help you connect with your highest self.
*Make time for leisure and hobbies. Time for play and enjoyment is an important aspect of celebrating the gift of life.
*Prioritize sleep and exercise. You must reboot and revitalize your physical being.
*Do not over-schedule, over-book or over-commit. Your life is worth more than being a gerbil on a wheel...

5. Physical Touch: Feel Self-Love

*Stretch your muscles and give yourself a massage with a foam roller. Relax into your body.
*Release toxins by taking a hot bath with epsom salts. Release the stress and soak in the love.
*Moisturize your skin with lotions or oils. As you touch your skin, thank each body part for all it does for you.
*Give yourself a spa treatment: manicure, pedicure, facial, deep conditioning treatment, etc. Know you are worth extraordinary care.

Self-love is a journey. It takes dedication, devotion, and practice. Resolve to love yourself each and every day and watch your best self blossom and your greatest life unfold! Self-love is an exponential force.

"You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection." -- Buddha

What do you do to practice self-love? I'd love to know!

Twitter: @Joyce_Marter and @Urban_Balance

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