January 22, 2017

How To Practice Self-Love

How To Practice Self-Love

“Accept yourself. Love yourself as you are. Your finest work, your best movements, your joy, peace, and healing comes when you love yourself. You give a great gift to the world when you do that. You give others permission to do the same: to love themselves. Revel in self-love. Roll in it. Bask in it as you would sunshine.”

~ Melodie Beattie

# 1. Start where you are right now

Mindfulness – the capacity to live in the present and act with awareness - is a beautiful practice of self-care and offers many ways to enhance our sense of well- being.

One of the most important and healing things we can do for ourselves and for our relationships is to become embodied in the present moment.

To be here, fully here, right now. To show up and connect with ourselves and others, with whatever is real now, is a very respectful way to be, both in relation to ourselves and others.

Alternatively, we are very often caught up in default mode, that is, ruminating about things that happened in the past or that might happen in some future which doesn’t yet exist!

Take a moment to tune into your body, notice the sensations that are there without judgement.

Tune into your mind, notice the quality of awareness, is it busy and tense, sleepy and dull, clear and awake? Notice your emotions, name them and watch them. Continue this exercise by noticing your environment. Listen to the sounds or the silence. When you practice this tuning in to what is going on within and around you regularly, you notice a shift. Try bringing the quality of compassion and friendliness to what you notice. When you practice this you will be able in time to be less reactive.

To practice pausing, noticing and watching your own judgements, emotions and bodily sensations creates a sense of space. In time the more we do this the more we connect in with a deeper sense of peace and also of a capacity to be with what is.

Do you allow everything to be as it is or do you tend to judge it or fight with it?

See if you can allow things to be just as they are right now in this moment. Notice your breath and how it anchors you to the present moment. Don’t try to change it but sense in to notice it as it moves through your body-is it shallow, deep, short or long? In time there will be a sense of contacting a limitless awareness, a sense of space where it is possible to observe thoughts and feelings without being run by them.

We can do this over and over all through the day and like anything, the more we practice the better we become. It is like literally learning to exercise a new muscle. And by doing so, we change our brains and impact our health. For more exercises on creating genuine connection with ourselves and others, please go to my new book, Mindful Relationships, available from all good book stores and on Amazon.

Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com

# 2. Learn to enjoy being alone

If you want to take good care of yourself, you absolutely have to learn how to be alone and like it.

Why?

Because if you don’t like being alone, you will spend time with just about anyone – even people who aren’t good for you -- to avoid it. Learn to enjoy being alone and you will be much more discerning about the company you keep, which means you will only socialize with people who are positive, supportive, fun and otherwise add rather than take away from your life.

It’s impossible to take good care of yourself if you don’t feel comfortable enough with yourself to choose being alone over social options that don’t completely resonate with you. The very foundation of self-care is protecting yourself from social situations that are anything less than healthy.

The best way to learn to enjoy being alone is to practice.

The first step is to ask yourself honestly whenever you have a social opportunity if you really, truly want to participate or if you’re tempted to say yes just to fill time on your calendar. If the opportunity really does sound good, then go for it; otherwise, turn the invitation down and challenge yourself to use that time to strengthen your courage to be alone with you.

Wondering what you can do by yourself?

Start with these ideas: watch a movie, read a book, cook your favorite meal, take a walk, listen to music, sketch or paint, write in your journal, catch up on emails, put everything you no longer want and need in a pile and take it to Goodwill.

Like everything else in life, the more experience you get at occupying yourself, the more natural it will feel. And I promise you, the more you choose yourself over a lukewarm or worse social option, the more confident and well cared for you will feel.

Dr. Amy Wood – www.amywoodpsyd.com

# 3. Know the depths of your Self

The depths of the self are as infinite and immeasurable as the universe. The complex layers of every human being are continuously peeled by provocations and experiences that occur during the course of everyone’s life. The deeper we go, the more we learn. Yet, we must bow to the great mystery of the self and explore it with objectivity and curiosity.

When we observe our internal world from a mindful, impartial place, we learn about ourselves and we know ourselves more deeply.

Only through mindful investigation and mind/body awareness can we begin to explore the depths of our self. Taking a step back and staying curious allows us to detach from reaction and gain a larger perspective and understanding of who we are. With compassion, not judgement, we can move more deeply into our self.

There are many common reasons to stay on the surface of the self, including fear of inner judgment, losing control, looking foolish, or having an emotional outburst. We must have the courage to explore within, as well as the self-trust to love ourselves through whatever we find. As you become more aware and traverse the deeper regions of who you are, you will find that beneath the endless litany of judgment and fear, there is only love, beauty and pure light.

Awareness of our body is the key to feeling more fully into the depths of our self.

It is ultimately this vast energy and beauty of the mind/body connection that energizes love and compassion for oneself. When we slow down, listen and offer our body love, we feel more confident and cared for. This is the only body you have for your entire life, love it fiercely!

Moving through life experiences, we will all encounter layers of negativity, anger, guilt, frustration, envy and/or greed at one point or another. It is these layers that bring up judgment. If we can understand and accept these emotions as part of the human experience, we can begin to drop any judgement we have and adopt more compassion for our self. The layers of negative self are not viewed in the same way when looked at with understanding, compassion and unconditional love. Our perspective on our inner world changes drastically and we find courage to know and love ourselves more deeply.

The natural process of our universe moves at its own pace, as should we in this process. We must have patience with ourselves as we navigate our inner world comprised of both love and ego. Move slowly without pushing or forcing to go deeper. Set an intention to know yourself more deeply and the universe will automatically nudge you lovingly in the right direction. If it feels like a huge shove, honor your process and the experiences your journey offers. Stay patient and loving with yourself and continually connect with the pure love and inner power only found in the depths of your self.

Dr. Lisa M. Templeton, Phd - www.interpersonalhealing.com

# 4. Learn to accept yourself

I define self-acceptance as loving and appreciating yourself no matter what flaws may exist.

Self-acceptance refers to balancing different facets of yourself, holding onto the features you like about yourself, along with those you'd like to change. .

How you define our "self" is an important piece of this concept. When you hear the term “self-acceptance” what self do you think of first?

The self in the mirror? There is more to you than meets the eye.

One key to accepting yourself is to balance all the qualities that make you the unique individual you are.

Not long ago, I found some old journals from high school and sadly, nearly every page of every journal was about my weight.

I thought if I reached some magical number on the scale, then life would be perfect. I believed I could change the way I felt about myself by changing my appearance.

I was wrong. I had to figure out what was eating “at” me, instead of focusing on food.

I learned that if something’s wrong, you can’t starve it away or stuff it down, and no amount of make-up in the world can cover it up. You cannot measure your true value on a bathroom scale.

A range of qualities make you the unique person you are - intellectual, creative, playful, relational, spiritual, and more. When you identify, embrace and nurture all these parts of yourself, you will feel better about yourself.

I doubt you’ve ever said, “I love my friends because they’re so…. thin.”

Of course not. You love your friends because they’re nice, fun, supportive, warm, great people. What if you saw those same qualities in yourself?

If you're waiting to be "perfect" before you consider a romantic relationship, change jobs, go back to school or leave your marriage, you're defining perfection by a number on a scale.

Often, that definition of "perfection" changes as you near your goal, the finish line moving farther out of reach, along with your willingness to take risks.

When you accept imperfection, it's easier to start now.

Self-acceptance also has a direct impact on the quality of your relationships. If you feel good about yourself, it’s easier to believe that other people will, too. When other people accept, admire, respect and cherish you, believe them!

Conversely, if you judge yourself, you're susceptible to accepting criticism from others and even staying in unhealthy relationships.

When you give up an idealized view of perfection - in terms of your appearance, your achievements and more. – you will find a lasting sense of self-acceptance, and with it, greater happiness.

Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin - www.winthedietwar.com

# 5. Accept imperfections

We now live in a society focused on the “Bigger, Better Deal”. We have grown accustomed to not being satisfied with ourselves and our lives, and as a result we’re always seeking out more.

Always wanting more leads to depression, anxiety, and feeling like we’re not enough “as is”.

One way to immediately shift from a mindset of lack to abundance is by accepting our imperfections.

Dr. Brene Brown shares her research findings in her talks and in her books about vulnerability and "accepting our flaws as being the birth place for creativity, innovation, and connection.”

By accepting our imperfections we begin to live a life of authenticity and truth.

Living with transparency brings others closer to us, leaving us feeling connected and accepted.

Brene Brown discovered from interviewing thousands of people, that the only criteria which distinguishes people who are living bravely and “whole heartedly” are the ones who believe they are worthy of love and belonging.

By accepting our flaws as parts of being human, we can better connect with ourselves and with others, thus leading to a more fulfilling life.

The first step is to identify what I like to call your “circle of care” or the people in your life whom you trust and feel safe with.

These are the souls you can reveal your imperfections to because as Dr. Brene Brown states: “they have earned the right to hear your story”.

At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: to be loved, accepted, and to feel like we belong.

By avoiding our imperfections and flaws, we lose parts of our humanity which results in people not connecting with us.

Self-love is about accepting all of ourselves, even the parts we wish to hide. After identifying the people in our support network, we can begin to take the mask off and reveal our true selves. Living truthfully fosters love, acceptance, and connection in our lives.

Be brave. Be you. Be vulnerable. Accept yourself as is. It’s the only way.

Brooke Campbell, MA, LCAT - www.creativekinections.com

# 6. Believe you are worthy of love

It seems counterintuitive to think we may not believe we deserve love! However, most people walking around today have that belief residing way down in the recesses of their subconscious. When we have a core belief that we do not deserve love we will find our selves unable to attract a partner, or we will find ourselves in relationships with people who are emotionally unavailable, or that don’t treat us respectfully.

To know if you have this as a core belief, sit quietly with no distractions and ask your self “Do I deserve love?”

The first, immediate, sometimes softest answer is your truth.

When it is an answer I don’t like, I say, “that can’t be true, no way” and wait for an answer I like. Even when I play these games with myself I always end up back at the truth, so save your self some time and accept the first answer even if it is unpleasant.

If your first, immediate answer is “no”, then you have gotten to the core of why your relationships are not working. Congratulations!

If we are raised with abandonment, shame, fear, or judgment we likely don’t believe we deserve love. Love is the brass ring so to speak and when we get the message that in some way we are not good enough, then we develop a belief that we are not lovable. We don’t deserve love.

To change this pattern, we must first learn to love ourselves.

There has been much written about how to do this so I will not go in to it here. Next, you have to be willing to open your heart, to truly be vulnerable, to be willing to be hurt, and to know that at some point the relationship will end. This last one gets a lot of people who tell me they don’t ever want it to end. Life is not a fairy tale. All relationships end at some point, the only question is when and how. Will it be next week through cheating or 100 years from now in a deathbed scene? Knowing that there is an ending helps us to not cling to the person, which will smother a relationship to death.

Finally, routinely tell yourself that you are worthy of unconditional love.

Some people call it developing a mantra but I don’t think it needs to be that formal. Replace the mindless chatter that goes through your head with “I am a person of value and deserve to be loved unconditionally” or “I am worthy and deserving of love”. Say it over and over. Within a few days you will see and feel a difference.

A word of caution, if you skip the first and second step you will still attract unfulfilling relationships. True love doesn’t come from the outside in; it is from the inside out. Infatuation comes from the outside in and doesn’t last. And if you don’t open your heart to hurt, your heart will not be open to pleasure.

I hope this helps, good luck!

Cynthia Pickett, LCSW – www.cynthiapickett.com

# 7. Appreciate your humanness

In the quest towards spiritual and personal growth, I have one entreaty: Resist the urge for sanitizing. Resist the desire to achieve airbrushed perfection status. Just say “No” to exquisitely arranged living rooms and Martha Stewart-esque fruit tarts and children’s gorgeous birthday parties.

You are human. Messy, dimpled, tender and jealous. Your car is filled with empty yogurt containers or crumpled tissues. You had a spat with your husband this morning and your library books are two days overdue. Your children drool on their pillows while they dream their sweet, soft dreams. Your thighs jiggle.

It’s too easy to get off track on the path towards your dreams and goals if you forget that humanness will make tangents, roadblocks, and delays inherent in the process. Humanness is not a state to surmount, but one to embrace.

In the insidious sanitization of life in the media, we can forget how wonderfully sticky life is. How it’s the quirks that make us unique and related.

Shame and secrecy about our human troubles are energy sucks. They keep us from connecting, normalizing and therefore from moving in the directions of our dreams.

I’m not recommending against striving to be stronger, smarter, kinder, or neater. I’m just saying be conscious about internalized pressure to hide your bumps and bruises. They are your battle scars. Your awareness of them and your love of them are in direct proportion to the openness of your heart. It is your strength. It lies in your radical acceptance of your brilliantly rumpled humanness.

Make a pledge to be radically human.

To notice your self-criticism and replace it with light-hearted motivation. Keep as open a heart towards yourself as you do towards your dearest friends. And if you can’t, just hold that intention. Practice it. Keep practicing it. It will happen.

Rachel Weinstein, MA, LCPC – www.theopenheartspace.com

# 8. Know that loving yourself is NOT selfish

In my psychology practice, I work with individuals every day who struggle with loving and accepting themselves and who fear being selfish. None of us wants to be selfish. I believe selfishness comes from a place of insecurity, fear, and a feeling that what we are getting from others or our life is not enough.

The antidote to selfishness is actually self-love.

When we learn to treat ourselves the way we want others to treat us and the way we ideally treat our close friends and family, we can relate to those who matter most to us with confidence, security and love.

Ways to start loving yourself:

1. Make a list of all your qualities or characteristics that make you a quality family member or friend (no negativity allowed). Post these somewhere or on your phone and review them every day.

2. Tell your close friends and family members you are working on a self-growth project and need to know from them what they like, admire or love about you and put these on a separate list to review every day. Say them out loud to yourself: “I love myself because ___(friend or family person) says I’m ___(quality or characteristic)”.

3. After you’ve practiced #1 and #2 for a week or more, begin treating yourself as if you were your best friend or loving family member. This will mean stopping to examine your thoughts about yourself and paying attention to critical self-talk or judgements, replacing them with examples from above, and responding to yourself in a gentle, kind and loving manner.

As you learn to love yourself, you will experience more confidence, security and that love will emanate from you to all those you encounter. How can this possibly be selfish?

Dr. Lou A Lichti - www.cityparkpsychological.com

# 9. Forgive yourself

Imagine if you will a relationship. Within the relationship, one party constantly berates, criticizes, and emotionally abuses the other. The “abuser” meticulously reminds “the abused” of past mistakes, shortcomings and weaknesses. Ask any logical individual and he or she would readily tell you that this is an unhealthy relationship and yet; several people are experiencing this type of relationship with the man or woman in the mirror everyday.

Self -love often starts with self-forgiveness.

It is difficult to embrace oneself while simultaneously rejecting oneself. Without forgiveness, we reject the other party by holding emotional grudges. In this scenario, an individual holds an emotional grudge against him/herself. The problem with emotional grudges is that they emotionally paralyze us.

Without being able to move forward, we are literally stuck in our pasts.

Many people try to form meaningful bonds with others and yet this becomes a fruitless effort when said individual does not first create an environment of self-love through forgiveness.

In order to form and nurture self-love through the process of forgiveness, individuals must be willing to

1. Love oneself “flaws and all,”

2. Acknowledge; yet not be defined by past mistakes, and lastly,

3. Be open to the freedom that self-forgiveness produces.

To be able to look at oneself and make a deliberate choice to be loving and kind despite imperfections is the most basic (yet often most difficult) step to self forgiveness. By realizing the uniqueness of imperfection, we give ourselves permission to be human. Once we accept that it is “okay” to have flaws and make mistakes, we then are ready to acknowledge lessons learned from past mistakes. Rather than viewing mistakes as problems to overcome, we start to see them as opportunities to learn and grow. Once we remove the weight of the pressure of un-forgiveness, we experience freedom. That freedom, ultimately leads us to the permission to love ourselves “on” and “with” purpose.

Dr. Kirsten Person-Ramey - www.freshstartmind.com

# 10. Forgive others

Forgiveness is for you, not the other. Forgiveness is a source of power and strength. It is a gift you give to yourself. Forgiving is not condoning or allowing yourself to continue to be mistreated or abused. Forgiveness is an essential part of your own healing, for creating your own peace of mind. It frees you from negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. It enables you to leave behind the effects of perceived injustice or betrayal and not carry them into other relationships, allowing you to be capable of love and trust. Without forgiveness we are victims of the past.

The Aramaic word for "forgive" means literally to free, to release, to "untie. Forgiveness enables you to release yourself from the pain caused by impotent rage, fear, and despair. Harboring hostility or resentment is corrosive and requires energy that could be better spent. As you learn to forgive, to release or let go, you feel less stressed and angry and become more hopeful and compassionate. You can learn to wish the other well, hope the best for her or him.

The ability to forgive is connected to long-term mental and physical health. Studies have shown that not only does this lead to emotional wellbeing but it is also physically healing. When you release yourself from an emotional burden your body responds. Numerous health benefits of forgiveness are supported by research. The stress caused by bitterness, resentment, and anger can result in muscle tension, an upset stomach, headaches, increase in blood pressure or depression… You can stop injuring yourself.

Dr. Mary Ella Viehe, PhD, LMFT - www.makingloveinmarriage.com

# 11. Manage family of origin issues

When clients come to me for support with self-image issues, the first thing we examine is their family. So much of how we feel about ourselves and the messages that we internalize come from what we experience as children. Some caregivers give us really positive messages. For example, “You’re so smart!” Or, “You’re so pretty!” Unfortunately, not everyone gets those messages. Some children are taught that they aren’t good enough, don’t measure up or that everything is their fault.

It’s hard to love yourself when you carry around negative messages from your childhood. So a great way to start really falling in love with the person you are today is to examine who you were taught that you are.

Here are a few steps to help you do that.

1. Write down the messages you received about yourself growing up. Positive or negative.

2. Note who you received the messages from… Grandma? Mom? Dad? Sibling?

3. Determine whether that message is useful for you to be happy, successful and fully in love with yourself.

4. If not, think of a replacement message. For example, “You’re too fat” can become “You have gorgeous curves and a womanly figure.”

5. Then pay attention to the way you think about yourself. If it’s negative, pull out your replacement list and pick one to say about yourself instead.

Not everyone has the most positive people in their life to encourage them. That doesn’t mean you can’t be your own best cheerleader. It just takes consistent practice. There is a reason people say, “Fake it ‘til you make it.” Because if you consistently treat yourself better and embrace your whole self, blemishes and all; eventually, you will start to believe it. When that happens, everyone else will see you that way, too!

Teresa Petersen Mendoza, MS, LMFT - www.FamilySOSinc.com

# 12. Learn the art of self soothing

Our ability to self-soothe is vital for every area of our being.

This ability is crucial for the following:

​a. Self regulation of emotions

b. Discipline needed to effectively think and process

c. Stress free connection with our physical self

d. Ability to sit in silence and feel the connection to our spiritual self.

Sadly, this ability is being stripped from our culture. Children are attended to promptly and discomfort preempted by their caretakers. The child is no longer able to learn that discomfort is a vital and necessary part of maturation, on all levels. The links between one’s inability to self soothe, and both substance and process addictions, is overwhelming.

If we cannot bond and connect to ourselves and others, through our ability to self soothe, we WILL and MUST connect to something.

The unhealthy ways of self soothing are obvious (drugs, alcohol, shopping, gaming, gambling, etc.) and all too easily accessed in the 21st century. The healthy ways of self soothing are now usually taught in a counselors office, through mindfulness trainings, attending yoga classes, to name a few.

Self soothing often catches my clients out. They stumble when asked for examples of how to self soothe themselves. They are elated when they discover how simple it is!

Here are but a effective self soothing examples:

  • A warm bath with candles

  • Walking, either alone, with others, or with your dogs

  • Going out for a run or working out at your gym

  • Reaching out to a trusted friend

  • Allowing yourself to be hugged and cared for by those your love

  • Going out into nature

  • Getting a massage

  • Deep breathing for but a few moments, even if it means pulling your car over to the side of the road

  • Being still and listening to your inner voice

  • Cleaning and tidying your favorite area of the home

  • Listening to calming music

  • Reading

  • Praying

  • Meditating

So, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, out of sorts, anxious or nervous, please try one of the self soothing techniques listed above. I guarantee you, you won’t look back!

Beth Parks, MSc, LMFT - www.bethparkscounseling.com

# 13. Learn the art of letting go

Each of our lives has its own unique rhythm. There is an ebb and flow, and a time for stillness that continues to repeat itself throughout our lifetime.

The art of letting go is about honoring this rhythm.

About knowing when to hold in stillness, and when to move forward, even if the way isn’t clear. Letting go is really about opening to receive. It is living in this moment, honoring who you are. It is a process of trust and loving yourself fully in the moment.

When seen from the soul’s perspective, there is beauty and grace in the life story we play out. There is absolute perfection in each step of the way in what comes forward for us to handle.

Our soul works in cooperation with Spirit to bring exactly what we need in perfect timing.

And since our soul holds the blueprint for our destiny in this lifetime, it brings forward the people and situations that are necessary for our evolution.

When our soul has learned enough from a person or situation, it is ready to move on. It has absolute Trust in the way the journey unfolds.

The other parts of us, however, are not always on board with letting go. When we first receive that inner stirring or outer message that things are changing, we often go into a place of fear and resistance. Questions arise such as “what will happen to me? How will I survive? How can I live without him/her?” Resistance also takes the form of denial, dishonesty with self or others, or, hanging on to something even when the joy is gone.

So, we resist the flow of life out of our fears, and the belief that “I am safe only when I am in control, or when things stay the same as they are.” And the result is living in the shadows, not fully alive, yearning for something more.

Letting go can mean physically leaving a person or situation, or just shifting your perception. It can mean changing a lifestyle or giving up the need to be right. It can mean just surrendering to what is.

Letting go does not mean to ignore responsibilities or to become disconnected or apathetic.

It means releasing any thought, action, emotion or belief that keeps you from being fully present in this moment, loving yourself unconditionally. It means opening up to the Divine presence that resides within, and trusting that there is a plan for you.

“When you come to the end of all the light that you know and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen…there will be something solid for you to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”

-Edward Teller

Dixie Clark, MS, DSS - www.dixieclark.com

# 14. Focus on your Soul Health

Caring for our soul is the ultimate statement of self-love.

Our soul is our innermost essence—the nucleus of all that we are. When we neglect any aspect of our overall health—physical, psychological, social, interpersonal, intellectual/occupational, environmental, financial, sexual, spiritual, or recreational—we also neglect our soul.

Self-love has become a well-known term, but the truth is, it is soul-love that allows us to both thrive and evolve. When we listen to, recognize, and honor our innermost self—our innermost needs and desires—then we practice both self- and soul-love.

Historically, women have been taught that it was selfish to ask for what they wanted and needed and that they must give to others first, even at their own expense. However, this has resulted in a world-wide epidemic of malnourished and disempowered souls—women who have neglected themselves at the deepest level.

How often do you deny your soul? Dismiss your needs? Say that you’ll wait until later to take care of yourself—and later never comes?

Women are reinforced much more for caring for others than for caring themselves. However, statistics show that the extreme health conditions that exist among women all have one common factor—lack of self-care, which translates into lack of self-love. This, then, translates into lack of soul-love.

The first and foremost way to show self- or soul love is to listen to and follow your gut reactions.

These reactions represent the voice of your soul, and offer the guidance you need in order to fully live in your personal truth. This inner wisdom is there to guide you on your journey, but few learn to hear its call. Instead, we allow others to influence us in a way that often dismisses our needs or disempowers us from becoming all that we are. As we learn to 1) listen to that inner voice, 2) trust the wisdom it offers, and 3) take action on its message, our lives become aligned and we show that we love ourselves above all others—particularly those who don’t have our best interest in mind.

By becoming a steward to your soul—by making a commitment to consistently and responsibly take care of and honor each aspect of who you are—the result is ultimate self-love. Research is clear that when women commit to tending to themselves as top priorities, they lead healthier, more satisfying lives.

To know and honor your soul is to know true health; only then can you achieve radiant living. So, move beyond self-love and consider soul-love your ultimate mission.

Dr. Katherine Kelly – www.drkatherinetkelly.com

# 15. Feed your Soul with positive affirmations

Robin, you shouldn’t have done that.

Robin, you are not good enough.

Robin, you need to do better.

Robin, you can’t fail.

Robin… Robin… Robin…

Do you have that inner critic that is always pinpointing your mistakes, causing fear and anxiety about the future?

Have you noticed how the inner critic never recognizes what is right?

The inner critic has the ability to get louder over time, especially if you give into what it is saying. Believing and giving into the inner critic can led nowhere, but down a road to low self esteem, doubt, and low confidence. The inner critic does not lead us on the path to being the best version of ourselves, but rather can lead to one of destruction.

Our inner critic is a part of us, so it will always be there. So, the remedy is not to try to get rid of it, but rather silence it, when it arises. Try coexisting and recognizing that it is there. Evaluate when and where it arises. You can learn from your inner voice.

As one counselor I know said, you can talk to it.

For example, whatever your inner critic is saying to you, say the opposite. If your inner critic is telling you that you are not good enough for your partner, job, etc. Say, I am good enough, I am good enough, I am great! These are positive affirmations.

To put it simply, positive affirmations are self talk that enable us to change our way of thinking. I prefer saying the affirmations out loud, so I can hear myself saying them, but I know that is not always feasible. So, saying them silently can be beneficial was well. The more you say and hear something, the more it will be ingrained.

Have you seen the movie, Ladybugs, with Rodney Dangerfield?

Well, if you haven’t, there is a scene, where he is in his car, repeating verbal positive affirmations, that he learned at a conference.

He repeats, “I am great. I am wonderful. Everyone likes me.”

Silence the negative with positive. Bring out you inner champion to defeat your negative inner critic. I challenge you, after reading this post, pinpoint one strength about yourself, even if you don’t completely believe it, I want you to repeat it to yourself three times.

Keep doing this everyday, and eventually, you will whole heartedly believe what you are saying.

Saying is believing.

Robin Ennis, LMSW, CPC – www.prominentpathways.org

# 16. Feed your Soul with beauty

Aesthetics matter. The sights, sounds, and smells that surround us affect our overall health. In fact, all five senses need to be nourished regularly, and doing so helps boost our immune systems and prevent depression. Feeding ourselves lovely images, textures, and tastes, and getting enough silence helps keep us energetically balanced.

Try these ideas and generate your own.

1. Sit still in your home and listen. Identify all the sounds you can. Then notice which ones give you joy and which ones distract or irritate you.

2. Take a look around your space and notice the colors, textures, and shapes. Which ones calm you or energize you? What are the spots in your home where you try to avoid noticing? Which chairs are uncomfortable?

3. See how many sounds you can eliminate in your home. Enjoy as much silence as you can achieve for at least an hour every week.

4. Clear your home of anything that isn’t either visually appealing or comfy.

5. Diffuse essential oils like lemon or eucalyptus to clear the air.

6. Experiment with classical music to create an inspiring, calming atmosphere. Look for piano music by Brahms, Chopin, or Rachmaninoff.

7. Find visual art that excites you. Bring it into your home if you can.

8. Create your own modern abstract paintings.

9. Learn how to fuse glass.

10. Get the softest, most sumptuous robe you can find. Add plush blankets to your bed, your sofa.

11. Bring something yellow into your living room.

12. Roast asparagus and potatoes with herbs.

13. Plant basil, mint, and rosemary.

14. Peel an orange slowly. Sniff the soft inside of the peel.

15. Read books by Barbara Kingsolver, Jonathan Franzen, or Lissa Evans.

16. Avoid violent movies before bedtime. Replace them with PBS documentaries or British comedy.

17. Visit an art gallery or museum at least once a month. Take pictures of what you like. Look at the pictures when you’re stuck in an ugly waiting room.

18. Read poetry. Learn to write limericks and haikus. Give them cartoon pictures.

19. Go on a silent retreat.

20. Burn cedar and patchouli incense.

21. Go to a symphony concert.

22. Read wonderful books that challenge your vocabulary.

23. Avoid loud, violent, jarring, or gory movies. Avoid commercials when you can – or mute them.

24. Make the entrance to your home inviting. If you go in through the garage or back door, make that area clean, fresh, and artistic.

25. Keep an art journal with you. Add shapes and colors every day.

26. Wear earplugs if you spend considerable time in a very noisy environment (e.g., a swim meet, a construction zone).

27. Take breaks every hour during your workday. Get up, look out the window, and gaze at clouds.

28. Spend an hour in a public library looking at the spines of books in any genre.

29. Doodle during boring meetings with a fine point Sharpie. (In your art journal).

30. Use peppermint essential oil to revive your senses during the workday.

31. Take a Thai cooking class.

32. Visit your local nursery and touch all the unusual succulent plants.

33. Bring home a shelter puppy or kitten.

34. Make overnight oatmeal with coconut flakes.

35. Change your sheets every week. Wash them in lavender-infused laundry soap.

36. Set your morning alarm to play Debussy.

37. Subscribe to decorating magazines. Clip ideas you like.

38. Listen to jazz fusion.

39. Volunteer to hold tiny infants at the local NICU.

40. Go to the ballet.

Dr. Deborah Cox – www.deborahlcox.com

# 17. Observe your thoughts without judgment

Have you ever felt like your thoughts were running on autopilot? Like your brain was one big hamster wheel, with thoughts turning and turning around without getting anywhere?

When we’re caught in this spiral of rumination, our stress levels can spike, affecting our sleep, our health, our moods. Sometimes we can be bombarded by our own thoughts and not even notice it until several minutes or even hours have gone by and we’re left exhausted and overwhelmed. Adding insult to injury, once we realize the pattern that has taken hold in our brain, we often criticize ourselves for having these intrusive thoughts in the first place.

Awareness of this spiraling thought pattern is the first step.

Once we bring our process into consciousness, we can take some action. We can put the thoughts to a simple test:

Are these thoughts productive and will they lead to my taking some action in the near future?

If the answer is yes, great! You’re problem-solving.

If the answer is no, then you know that you’re stuck in an unproductive cycle of rumination. We do this in an attempt to soothe ourselves, figure out an answer, or find a solution. But if what we’re thinking about is out of our control, all the mental energy in the world isn’t going to help us find a resolution. In this case, we need to gently shift our focus. The thoughts might persist, and often do. In that case, we can repeat the process of gaining awareness, and choosing to turn our attention elsewhere. All the while, remember to be kind to yourself and resist the temptation to judge the thoughts. Self-criticism only keeps us stuck in the cycle and depletes our energies further.

So, to recap:

1. Bring awareness to the thoughts

2. Put them to the test: problem-solving? Or rumination?

3. Gently allow the thoughts to pass by without judgment

4. Turn your focus elsewhere

Marnee Reiley, LMFT - www.YourOCTherapist.com

# 18. Reframe your inner dialogue

Getting in touch with our inner dialogue is crucial to self-love recovery. Our internal chatter is directly responsible and proportional to how well we manage our lives.

If we are speaking negatively about or to our self, we will show up in the world a mere fraction of who we really are and what we are meant to be.

If we speak love-filled, encouraging and positive statements to ourselves, we begin to blossom in ways we never knew possible and we change our energetic level of attraction.

A huge contradiction in life is feeling like we have to get positive words, compliments and acceptance from outside sources in order to feel like we matter. Unfortunately, the approval we do get seems to fall through a sieve forever leaving us longing for more.

Outside compliments, acceptance and approval do not stick because we are never satisfied nor fully convinced it is true.

On the contrary, the loving, supportive words we say to ourselves all day, every day, stick with us. They begin to fill up our “worthiness jar” and fascinatingly, we quit trying so hard to act in ways to get the approval we so desperately want.

Instead we actually decrease our seeking for love and increase our giving of love!

Recognizing our self-talk takes great awareness.

We must be willing to do the work.

When I began my road to self-love recovery, I took a radical inventory of the thoughts and beliefs I had swirling through my brain.

I was horrified!

I would never speak to others in the manner I had been speaking to myself. I made the conscious decision to set course to reframe all negative self-talk into positive and affirming statements.

A great example would be:

Negative self-talk: I am single and that means there is something wrong with me.

Reframe: I am single because I am healing the places in me that historically attracted the wrong type of man. I would rather be single than in a bad relationship or attempting to fill a void I need to fill myself. By honoring my sacred self, my ideal partner will come!

Take a moment to say these two statements out loud. Can you feel the difference they make even if this is not your story?

Our self-talk truly has the capacity to keep us small and stuck or align us on an empowered path.

Forward Movement:

1. Take inventory of the words you speak about yourself. Do not beat yourself up for what negativity you discover. Instead, simply say, “I’m sorry, [your name]. I will treat you better!”

2. Reframe the negative statements into positive statements. If you are having trouble reframing, ask a trusted friend to help you.

3. Whenever you feel yourself traveling down the negative road, catch yourself and correct your path!

Kristen Brown, Author & Certified Empowerment Coach – www.sweetempowerment.com

# 19. Focus on logic/facts rather than emotions

From birth, we are bestowed with a tremendous capacity for emotional expression and this is a significant gift. However, no one teaches us the equally critical nature of developing a voice towards logic and fact based reason.

If we feel hurt, we react. If we feel angry, we lash out. When we take a moment to ask ourselves, "Are my emotions accurately reflected in reality?" the entire picture shifts and that shift creates an ability to not only develop compassion for others but also, a deep love and appreciation for ourselves.

Take for example, an individual that often feels unworthy or "not good enough."

What happens when you ask them to come up with a list of what "being good enough" looks like?

More often than not, they will come up with items such as "kind, loving, smart, dependable" etc.

Then, what do you suppose happens when you ask them to look over that same list and check off the qualities they feel they possess?

They are stunned to realize that while they may not hit all of the marks on the list, they do in fact, meet the criteria for nearly all of them.

This revelation comes because of the forced action of first recognizing our emotions and then MOVING THROUGH THEM by taking a look at facts, instincts and logic.

Not a fan of making lists? Here's how to apply the tool without writing anything down:

When you feel a self defeating thought rise in your heart, ask yourself what facts disprove this emotion (IE If I feel "stupid," what accomplishments have I achieved that I wouldn't have been able to succeed at if I really was "stupid?" When you realize that you've done things like graduated school, landed a job, kept friendships over the years etc, these facts disprove your emotion because you couldn't have attained these things if you really were "stupid").

Self love is the foundation of our esteem. Focus on the facts and watch your competence, confidence and inner peace soar.

Allison Cohen, M.A., MFT – www.lifeissuespsychotherapy.com

# 20. Focus on what's strong, not what's wrong

Love requires two things, right off the bat – safety and connection.

In the West, we are very prone to both self-deprecation AND high self-esteem. You see others as either above you or beneath you. Both views convey lower levels of actual self-love and inhibit connection. That puts you in a vicious cycle, because we need to be able to connect with others in order to feel safe.

You likely know the Golden Rule, a maxim for many cultures and religions around the world. Empathy often comes easily with others, even strangers, though the same level of kindness to ourselves can seem awkward at best. If your love isn't safe with yourself, who is it going to be safe with?

Think of that person who warms your heart and easily brings a smile to your face as you think of their place in this world. What are their good qualities? Who have they been to you? As you hold them in this way, you don't need to deny their shortcomings or bad qualities, but the focus is on opening to the good you see in them. You are bringing their strengths to the light.

By connecting with and accepting all of your own qualities in their fully illuminated magnitude, not just focusing on your perceived mistakes and shortcomings, you are taking the first steps.

- How have you contributed to the greater good?

- What are you most proud of?

- How are you beautiful from the inside-out?

You have a unique constellation of signature strengths that are yours to shed light on, feed, water and grow.

Your signature character strengths are who you are at your core – the way you most readily think, behave, and bring your inner light to the world. If you would like to be able to “officially” name and claim them, there is a link on my website to the VIA Institute on Character and a free 20 minute or so survey that places 24 identified strengths in rank order, along with lots of information about them.

I've found this to be a very powerful tool for enhancing self-confidence and living with authenticity. If you lean into your top 5 strengths, likely found within the top 10 in the survey results, you feel naturally energized.

My favorite exercise to build feelings of safety and connection is called Loving Kindness Meditation. Feel the tenderness a small child or kitten might elicit in their innocence. Now direct those warm feelings toward yourself.

I use a very classic phrasing:

- May I feel safe and protected.

- May I feel happy and peaceful.

- May I feel healthy and strong.

- May I live with ease.

Traditionally, you continue by naming a person close to you, then someone you know casually or someone you have difficulty with. Finally many include “all beings”. “May _____ feel...”

May you live with ease.

Laurie Curtis, CPPC, CiPP – www.curtisease.com

# 21. Stop comparing yourself to others

Comparing yourself to others keeps you distracted from who you really are! Ironically, your obsession about other people is really about you, and it keeps you in a perpetual state of negativity and compulsion about yourself. Become empowered, and make the choice to stop comparing, and chose to be more accepting of you.

Self care is a great way to reverse the issue of comparing yourself to others, because it helps you build a foundation of confidence and acceptance toward yourself. Make self care a habit or ritual, and let go of what others might seem to have that you don’t! Our fear of who we are not, gets in the way of accepting what we already bestow within us! Begin to look at what qualities you do like about yourself, and you may find that you’re just as great as others!

So here’s the kicker, self care isn’t just a one time deal! We do self care one to two times, it feels good, we quit, and we’re right back to our old habits of comparing. Tiny, constant repetition of habits, over and over of self care will help you become less focused on others and more appreciative about who you are.

A few examples for self care rituals might be:

1. Start a gratitude list - about what and who you have in your life, events that happen small and big that are positive!

2. Start a compliment list - all the great things people say about you to read later.

3. Be selfish - do one thing each day that makes you feel good.

4. Take a chance, a risk. Something that feels good that’s out of the ordinary.

5. Challenge yourself to not look at social media, and do something nice for someone else.

6. Compliment a stranger, then silently find something great about yourself.

7. Imagine you’re your best friend. If you were, what would you say to yourself right now that mirrors your self worth in a positive way?

8. Become more grounded in knowing what really makes you shine.

9. Ask yourself how you can feel and be more profoundly beautiful on a deeper level. This is not a beauty that is skin deep and materialistic. This profound beauty comes from our inner heart space, that is filled with gratitude for being alive. And it can be as small as feeling thankful that you pulled into a great parking space, to feeling gratitude and love for the connection that you find with others.

Close your eyes for 30 seconds every day and breathe. Recognize that the more we can understand and recognize our inner world and feelings about ourselves, the less we feel the need to control others and the world around us.

Allison Gomer, MA - www.heartspeaktherapy.com

# 22. Stop compromising

Your self-care is your life care. To understand how to better experience self care, you must determine what you have been tolerating that is preventing self love. You see as women, we often deplete ourselves with the many hats we wear and place loving ourselves as secondary to caring for others.

As the old adage says, one must put the oxygen mask on self first, in order to help, save or give to another. The same holds true for success.

It is your happiness that leads to success, NOT your success that leads to happiness.

So, in turn, re-engineering how we think often lends to how we act or not act. The question is, are you doing what makes you happy?

When you feel strain it is based on blame. Blame leads to negative emotion creeping within our bodies and our minds till it becomes toxic or a way of life that we consciously know is not working yet allow it to continue. Some may perceive this as laziness, others as denial or preference to look at our tolerations as a reflection of how we subconsciously feel about ourselves. A limited, not good enough , deep feeling leads to settling and accepting that we are not good enough. So we tolerate the long list of tolerable, causing us to feel stuck, sad and simply void of being sweet to us.

If you want self-care, practice self-respect.

If you want to be a queen, treat yourself as such. If you want self-love, cut out what you have been tolerating and stop compromising yourself!

Here’s HOW:

From the dirty dishes piling up, laundry, dirty car, cluttered house to messy finances, a toxic friendship, bossy clients and lackluster social life- write out your tolerable list of the little to big things and determine how to cross them off your list for good! Not only is this you being the strong shero that you are, more importantly, it’s the first act of self love on the self love highway to shining and attracting what you truly desire!

Jackie Ruka, Happyologist - www.gethappyzone.com

# 23. Be comfortable saying No

Many of us struggle with saying the word no. This becomes especially challenging for those of us who place high value in our relationships, and ability to support the people in our lives. You might often be the “go to” person in your circle of family, friends, and colleagues.

Can you relate to this?

While it is important and valuable to be helpful, it is not okay to do so at the expense of your own well being.

So what’s going on? Why do we keep saying yes, when we really want to say no?

I believe what’s at play is a mixture of a desire to be helpful, feelings of guilt, and fear of disconnection. It’s this fear that tells us, we must say yes in order to maintain our relationships. Fear tells us that if we say no, we risk losing our connection to the people who matter most. While this is definitely a scary prospect, it’s simply not true!

Here is the truth…

Every time we say yes to something that is not aligned with who we are, we become disconnected from ourselves. In other words, we sacrifice our self-relationship for the sake of maintaining relationships with others. By doing this, we end up compromising the same relationships we are trying to protect.

So how can we say no and still maintain our desired relationships?

How to Say No

The most important things to remember about saying no is to be honest, direct, and brief.

You never “owe” anybody the reasons for your no. You are always free to “choose” to share them, but only if it feels right for you to do so. It’s also important to be respectful and mindful of your tone of voice. You want to choose one that is firm, but not angry or defensive. Remember, this is not a fight. This is simply a time when you are unable to honor a request, because it does not align for you. The people who love and respect you will accept your no, in time.

To start, you can practice the following phrases and as your comfort increases adapt them to fit your particular circumstances.

“Thank you for thinking of me, but I’m unable to help at this time.”

“Unfortunately, I’m unable to accommodate your request at this time.”

“I’m not sure, let me check and get back to you.”

“Let me check my schedule and get back to you.”

“I don’t have room in my schedule to accommodate your request at this time.”

“I’d like to, but don’t have the time to do it right now.”

By practicing these simple phrases, you will be more equipped to say no in a positive way. Remember, your no is about your desire to honor your truth and live a life in alignment with who you are.

I want to encourage you to start practicing your way to no, today!

Karla Lawrence, LCPC, NCC, CPC - www.karlalawrence.com

# 24. Set proper boundaries

Boundaries might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear self-love. It’s understandable – but the reality is that boundaries create the space and capacity for self-love.

Brené Brown has a simple definition of boundaries “what is ok and what is not ok.” If you don’t know what your boundaries are, or you haven’t started activating them, it’s likely that there is a lot that is filling your capacity that feels more like white noise than valuable things/interactions/people. When you start to clarify and enforce your values you are actually activating self-love. It can be challenging to clarify your boundaries. We get a lot of messages about what should be ok and what should not be ok.

It can be a process to evaluate the ways that we end up on auto pilot saying yes to things that we wish we had said no to, or no to situations we really wish we had said yes to. At the core, our boundaries are driven by our values. Deep down what we value give us direction when we are activating boundaries.

Take a few minutes a make a list of 10 values that you embrace (if you need to get some ideas – just do a quick search online for a long list of options). After you get 10, strike 4 off the list. Then take 3 more off the list. You should be left with your top 3 values.

Then ask yourself a few questions:

- Do your boundaries reflect the things you value?

- If your boundaries do not reflect your values, which ones do they reflect?

- Are you surprised at any of the values on the list? Do you find yourself wanting to make any changes?

Think about it – you could fill your days with things that other people tell you are ok, or you could evaluate critically what you need, want, and believe and then fill your days with those things. What could be more self-loving than cultivating a life filled with valuable things?

Dr. Wendy Dickinson - www.growcounseling.com

# 25. Be aware of the warning signs of abuse

You may be in an abusive relationship if he or she:

- Is jealous or possessive

- Tries to control you by being very bossy or demanding

- Tries to isolate you by demanding you cut off social contacts and friendships.

- You are afraid to see your family or friends or do what you want because your partner gets angry.

- Loses their temper quickly.

-Pressures you sexually, demands sexual activities you are not comfortable with or the opposite, and will not give you any amount of physical attention.

- Abuses drugs or alcohol.

- Claims you are responsible for their emotional state.

- Blames others for anything negative in their life.

- Has a history of bad relationships.

- Makes "jokes" that shame, humiliate, or embarrass you.

- Grew up witnessing an abusive parental relationship, and/or was abused as a child.

- You frequently worry about how he or she will react to things you say or do.

- You leave and then return to your partner repeatedly, against the advice of your friends and family.

- This relationship got serious very quickly.

Ask yourself, Does the person you love...

- Constantly keep track of your time?

- Accuse you of being unfaithful or flirting?

- Keep you awake?​

- Force you to listen to him talk for long periods?

- Constantly criticizes or belittles you?

- Control all finances and force you to account for what you splendor makes you pay for everything?

- Destroy or take your personal property or sentimental items?​

- Give you the "Silent Treatment"?

- Threaten to hurt you, your children, your pets or themselves?

These are all warning signs of an abusive relationship.

Notice there doesn't need to be any physical violence in order for it to be abusive. Abuse happens slowly and that is intentional. (Because would you stay with someone who mistreated you from the beginning and you didn’t have any good memories?)

You are not crazy.

It’s not your fault.

If you’re feeling confused and having troubles remembering or you’re starting to think that what he says about you is true, then learn what “Gaslighting” is. Your love for him or your empathy for his troubled past will not be enough to change him. Stop blaming yourself and stop thinking if you just try harder everything will be good.

It takes years of manipulation and beating a woman down until she longer recognizes herself and has no one in her life to remind her of who she used to be. A woman tends to invest a lot of herself into a relationship and it’s not so easy to give up on it, especially if she has come to believe that she is the problem. That’s why it’s important to talk to someone who can help you reconnect with the person you used to be.

You are loveable and you deserve to be treated as the valuable person you are!

Diane Wall, LPC - www.westdenvercounseling.com

# 26. Go Slow to Go Fast

Today time moves at the speed of light. We are all easily tempted to react to all the pressures coming at us. As quickly as we respond to daily demands and technological temptations to always be in the grid, we also need to step back and think thoughtfully about the big picture.

What is a quality life well lived?

My mom said to me recently at the age of 72, “I wish I would have known back then what I know now. I would not have waited to enjoy life and to be present in the moment, to stop and appreciate the beauty around me, to listen to the stranger in the grocery story, to spend more time with loved ones.”

Pearls of wisdom can be reminders to Slow Down to Go Fast.

There are two big areas you can focus on to Go Slow to Go Fast.

#1 Look at the Big Picture

Quote: “Wisely and slowly; they stumble that run (too) fast.” ― Hugh Howey, Wool Omnibus

Step off the treadmill for a moment and picture yourself in your 80’s or 90’s. Ask yourself this:

- Did I make my happiness a high priority?

- Does my life have purpose and meaning?

- Am I giving time and attention to personal growth?

- Am I focusing on my health physically and mentally?

- Do I find space in the day or week to have downtime to rest and restore my energy?

- Do I take time to have a balance of focusing on the external world and my inner world of desires, feelings and emotions?

- Am I present in the moment when with other human beings?

#2 How You Approach Each Day

Quote: “Slow down. Life is crossing the road.” ― Debasish Mridha

What sets human beings apart from reptiles and mammals is our ability to think and analyze a situation before responding and reacting. Unfortunately most responses are from an emotional place and thus a knee-jerk reaction to fight, flight, flea, or freeze. In addition to stepping back to look at your life from the perspective of age 90, what if you stepped back in most situations before reacting?

In any given situation what if you took these four simple steps to slow down to go-fast:

1. What is my current problem?

2. What am I feeling, what are others feeling?

3. How can I regulate my emotions, calm down or wait to respond so I am not so reactive?

4. Once in a calmer space, how can I think of a solution that is not harmful to property, others or myself?

Slow it down; take control of your destiny instead of letting external pressures control you!

Julie Kurtz, LMFT – www.juliekurtz.com

# 27. Honor your own pace

We live in a world of should's:

“I should feel less bitter about my divorce;”

“I should want to spend more time with my boyfriend now that we’ve been dating for three months;”

“I should be ready to take on the manager position at work.”

Most people feel like they should be doing or feeling things at a pace prescribed by their friends, their location, their professions, and their families. I encourage you to honor your own pace.

When you hear yourself saying you “should,” I want you to stop and ask yourself some questions:

1. If no one else had an opinion, what pace feels right for me?

2. Is there any real benefit to moving faster or slower in this situation?

3. What would be the worst thing about honoring how I’m built and moving forward in a way that works for me?

Self-love means turning down the volume of others’ expectations, and listening with respect and curiosity to who you are, how you’re built, and what feels right for you.

Notice if you feel fear. Ask if the fear is related to the reality of the situation or related to something in your past that doesn’t apply here. If the fear is reality-based, let it inform your pace and response. If it is baggage-based, take some time to figure out a healthy way to challenge yourself to respond differently, while still honoring your need for some self-protection.

Wisely honoring your pace allows you to live in an authentic and intentional way, to have a clear voice in your decisions and relationships, and to stay open to challenging yourself to grow and evolve.

Shelby Riley, LMFT - www.shelbyrileymft.com

# 28. Practice mindfulness

The first step to self care is realizing how “uncaring” we are to the self.

This self mistreatment is often embedded in our thoughts. There is often a storyline going on our heads that we are not paying attention to. Mindfulness is often referred to as biceps for the mind. We spend lots of time and money on our body, but little on the mind.

Our mind is always active, always engaged. Planning, organizing, fantasying, judging, criticizing, berating, on and on. The whole gamut of emotions runs through our thought stream. We can all be hard on ourselves, expect more, demand more, push more.

But, how do you do this?

Do you give yourself words of encouragement? “I can do this. Awesome. I believe in me.”

Or, are the words unkind? “I can’t believe I did that. I am so stupid!”

Well, if you can relate to the unkind words and harshness, please know that research shows that this does not help one’s health and wellbeing. Instead, it creates a whole host of emotions that impact the physical self. The mind-body connection is very powerful. Therefore, your neuro-pathways (thought patterns) can be well groomed to be automatically self critical or self supporting.

If you are tired of the harshness know that you are not powerless, you can change these thought patterns. It will not happen overnight. But if you follow commit to these two simple steps for at least a month, you will begin to notice changes.

Step 1: Take at least 10 minutes each day to sit in a place that is quiet. Closing your eyes, focusing your attention solely on the in-breath and out-breath.

When the mind wanders, notice this, and then gently redirect the attention to the breath. When the mind wanders again, notice this and maybe this time notice the emotions or thoughts without getting attached. “Oh, I’m planning.” “Oh, I’m angry.”

Then redirect attention to the breath. When you first begin you may have to redirect your attention a zillion times. That is the practice. The redirection. This noticing and redirecting is a key step to living mindfully.

Step 2: When you notice during the day that you are lost in thought, lost in a story, especially a story where you are being really hard on yourself.

Just notice without getting to attached to the story. Take 3 gentle breaths. Let the body soften. And simply notice, “Oh, I am being really hard on myself.” “Oh, I am feeling so much shame, dread, guilt…”

And, then have a prepared saying that is kind, compassionate, and loving. This step may feel somewhat silly or forced. So find words that mean something to you. That resonate with you and you only. No one needs to know. Similar to the breath you may need to redirect your thoughts a zillion times until those new neuro-pathways (thought patterns) opt for self caring and kindness more so than self criticism.

Kim Bundy-Fazioli, Ph.D., LCSW – www.mindfulnessmattersinstitute.com

# 29. Cultivate self-compassion

In my experience, more people misunderstand self-compassion than almost any other emotion. They think it’s being weak or self-pitying. That it’s letting yourself off the hook and refusing to be accountable. Worse, that it’s self-indulgent and a luxury humans can ill afford. I don’t know where it got such a bad rap, but assume it’s from our Puritanical predilection for suffering and castigation.

I promise I’ll tell you what compassion is, but for now, take a moment and generate your own definition—then see how closely it matches that of Kristen Neff, Ph.D., researcher and author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.

She describes compassion as meeting suffering with kindness, adding that, “Compassion involves the recognizing and clear seeing of suffering. It also involves feelings of kindness for people who are suffering, so that the desire to help—to ameliorate suffering—emerges. Finally, compassion involves recognizing our shared human condition, flawed and fragile as it is.” (p. 10)

Did your definition mesh with hers?

My guess is that many of you feel compassion for others—homeless people, your children, or folks in the news who’ve suffered greatly—but that you’re uncomfortable directing compassion toward yourself for three reasons.

First, you misunderstand the definition and think it means being too easy on yourself.

Second, you didn’t have parents who showered themselves with self-compassion or expressed compassion toward you.

Third, we live in a culture that not only fails to value or promote compassion for self but, in fact, goes out of its way to spurn and badmouth it.

Meeting your own suffering with kindness is one of the most essential and nurturing behaviors you can do for yourself.

It is a crucial mindset of self-care that is, sadly, rarely encouraged. It helps you be resilient because it allows you to be human, that is, to fail and make mistakes and try again (and again). It stops critical self-talk dead in its tracks, because you are forgiving yourself for whatever you perceived you did wrong even as you are trying to correct it. It mitigates self-talk that is discouraging or demeaning and gives you a non-judgmental mental space to assess your strengths and challenges. It bonds us with the rest of all-too-human humanity.

Most of all, self-compassion feels so darned good. It’s like taking a dip in a warm bath, bathing in sunshine, or freeing yourself from chains of negativity and suffering to go dance in the street. It’s a magical gift that is spawned by knowing that sometimes we suffer by accident and other times we even unintentionally cause ourselves suffering, but that we can always do something to show ourselves mercy however we believe we’ve transgressed.

Try giving yourself a daily dose of compassion and notice how good you feel and how it spurs you on to be your better self. Practice self-compassion until it’s as natural as breathing.

Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed. – www.karenrkoenig.com

# 30. Be grateful

“Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."
-- Oprah Winfrey

Sometimes we experience down times in our lives and end up feeling bad. Nothing is working out the way we want it to. We feel picked on, unlovable and just can’t do anything right. We feel like failures in this so-called "game of life". How can we take charge of our lives and bring to ourselves a sense of peace and contentment? We cannot depend on anyone else to make us feel happy and worthy. Only we can give ourselves the self-love that we need to make us feel better. One very good way to do this is through being grateful for what we have. Showing appreciation even for the little things in life can change one’s negative outlook to a happier one.

There are three ways of expressing gratitude that can help bring you happiness: (1) appreciating things about yourself, (2) expressing appreciation for things outside yourself, such as the beauty of nature and (3) expressing appreciation to others.

Research has shown that keeping a gratitude journal can increase your level of happiness over time. Just jot down a few things you are grateful for everyday upon awakening or retiring for the day. It’s a great way of showering yourself with love to bring you happiness.

What goes in this journal?

Look around you when you wake up in the morning. What can you be thankful for? A good night’s sleep? A great bed to rest your head and a wonderful home to shield you from the rain? Look in the mirror. What do you admire? Your eyes? Your hair? Your lips? Has anyone been kind to you? By acknowledging and being grateful for the kindness of others, you can come to feel loved and cared for. Focusing on others' connections with you and their generosity toward you will help to make you feel less isolated and come to value life as meaningful.

Taking note of who you are in your journal and being grateful for your uniqueness, imperfections included, gives you the opportunity to learn new skills of self-improvement. This can be very empowering by taking care of your own needs. In addition, instead of feeling alone, be grateful for the time to learn about yourself without interruption, to enjoy the beauty of a walk in nature, listening the birds singing, and noticing the different flowers God has created. Some people are so over-scheduled that they don’t have time to enjoy the little things in life. Focus only on the positive things around you, not on what you don’t have or negative, critical thoughts. You will begin to feel a sense of happiness because you are more at peace. Be grateful for the intelligent mind that God gave you to be creative and able to accomplish things that you can be proud of.

Self love can, also, be gained by writing a letter of gratitude to those who have helped you in some way. Expressing feelings of thankfulness changes your mind set from negative, pessimistic thoughts to positive mindfulness as you focus on how lucky you are to have someone who did something wonderful for you. Practicing self-love in this way, in addition to expressing appreciation to all those around you who have been helpful, increases their feelings of happiness as well as yours. This, then, becomes a win-win situation for all.

Dr. Joanne Wendt – www.drjoannewendt.com

# 31. Take pleasure in simple things in life

We all know about being stressed out, not feeling like we are enjoying our lives and that time is flying by too fast. It is amazing the joys that surround us every single day in the simple pleasures that are ours for the finding.

Often we want some thing grand, or unusual for us to notice it. This is sad in that we miss so much joy and pleasure all around us at every moment. But…. We don’t have to, we can find joy every single moment.

First we must stop, breathe and truly look at what makes us happy. For example I cannot explain the joy I feel when I drive on certain roads where I live and see the breathtaking view of the mountains. It is a very simple pleasure that provides me joy every time I take the time to allow myself to enjoy that view. I just have to stop, look and receive pleasure from the view in front of me.

Self-Love is allowing ourselves to explore and appreciate what our simple pleasures are.

Some examples are:

1. Drinking our favorite beverage from the mug or cup we love because of the feel, colors and smells we experience

2. Looking at nature in any form even for a brief moment

3. Listening to a loved one laugh and appreciating the beautiful sound it makes

4. Smelling flowers, aromatherapy, lotion, perfume, candles or any smell around us that we enjoy

5. Sitting in peace and quiet for even a few minutes to rest and relax and appreciate the quiet

6. Taking bites of our favorite food and letting that taste linger with us for a while

7. Taking 30 seconds to listen to the birds in the morning

8. Feeling the warmth when we take a shower

9. Petting our animals and seeing the joy we give

10.Calling a good friend and chatting no matter how much time has passed

As you can see we are truly surrounded by simple pleasures that can provide us endless joys. Take the few seconds or minutes to find what your simple pleasures are and let them become a part of your life. When we feel joy if even for a moment we feel better about ourselves and the life we are living.

Neesha Lenzini, MS - www.relationshipsinneed.com

# 32. Honor your heart

All day long your mind works to get you to pay attention to the limiting thoughts generated by the ego. When you passively believe the thoughts of your mind, you look for the source of your happiness outside of yourself, which is depleting and disempowering.

When our self-care is guided by extrinsic motivations, we act from a place of longing, comparison, and external goals. However, this isn’t self-care at all as it doesn’t rejuvenate the soul with the light of awareness.

When you honor the truth of your heart, you are intrinsically motivated.

This means that you do something because it feels good to your soul. You eat well because it feels right, not because you’ll attain the perfect body. You engage in relationships that uplift and empower you because you come from your heart, where connection and solution reside. Your heart knows what you need in each moment, but when you identify with the thoughts of your mind, you get pulled further from the truth of what you really need.

The words of the mind are loud. The voice of the heart is a whisper. If your heart had a voice, what would it say? Attune to your own truth, connect with your own heart, and each moment will offer you a chance for self-care, for deeply caring for your True Self.

Because we’re so accustom to believing what we think is reality, it takes a lot of practice to begin listening to and honoring the truth of your heart.

The most effective way to live a more heart-centered, empowered life is by strengthening your inner eye.

Many times throughout the day, draw your inner eye deeper to check in to see how you feel. Are you tense or relaxed? Are you breathing shallow or deeply? What’s the sensation in your heart? Your stomach? Your muscles? Your body is your best feedback mechanism to how you really feel about something. Train yourself to listen to it, and you will be practicing the most life-changing self-care routine. When you live from this place, you’re empowered to choose actions that are in support of your highest good.

Harmony Kwiker, MA - www.harmonykwiker.com

# 33. Live with integrity

Integrity is about holding yourself to a higher standard.

It is about doing the right thing when no one is watching. When you live your life with integrity, you don’t have to live life looking over your shoulder. Integrity is about being honest about who you are with others and yourself. It is about being comfortable in your own skin and not trying to be what you think others expect you to be. This is self-love.

In eastern philosophy, karma is created by the thought, the word and the deed. So in creating karma, the thought is as powerful as the deed. This means that your intention is as powerful as what you say and do. So if you think “no” in response to a request, but say “yes,” that is creating an internal conflict that will cause resentment toward others and anger at yourself for not honoring your intention.

At the core of this issue of integrity are boundaries and respecting yourself.

Don’t back yourself into a corner by saying “yes” when you really mean “no.” Don’t do something because you want to please someone or you think you will gain something from it. Do it because you genuinely want to and you don’t expect something in return. Love yourself and do not put yourself in a situation where you compromise your integrity by going against your values and what you think and feel.

I see so many women trying to live up to standards that they cannot achieve because their idea of success is not realistic. They keep moving the bar higher and higher damaging their self esteem even more. Integrity is about being okay with what you have and where you are at and not trying to pretend to be something else. We see this on Facebook where people base their value or worth on the number of “friends” they have or how many “likes” they receive. Facebook has taken us to an all time high of self-deception in that we think that we can control how other people view us by what we post or share. At the end of the day, these people don’t really know us or care about who we really are.

It is one thing to put our best foot forward and another to completely mislead someone about who we are.

In the end we can lie to ourselves and others but the truth will always come out one way or another. Don’t set yourself up for failure by being dishonest with yourself and others about who you are. If you truly value yourself, you will find a partner and friends who see you and value you for who you really are. When this happens you can rest easy that they are with you because they really want to be with you and not some other version of yourself that you can´t sustain. Be mindful that if you misrepresent yourself and he discovers that you are not who you say you are, you will lose him anyway.

We are who we are and until we can accept ourselves as we are, how can we expect others to accept us?

Integrity is about internal alignment in thought, word and deed. Integrity in self love is being able to love yourself in thought, mean it with your words and follow through with action in a way that is congruent with loving and honoring yourself. It is about living and loving without fear because you have everything you need within you to be the best version of yourself and you know it in your heart. And in the end what you think of yourself and how you feel about you is all that really matters.

Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT – www.themindfullife.net

# 34. Find your Free Weight

Are you happy with your weight? Do you feel comfortable in your own skin – even free?

How is it possible to enjoy body-confidence in a culture that subliminally screams perfection or bust?

It turns out that the path to feeling free and confident in your own skin is no different from any other pursuit. If you want to have a loving relationship, you strive to be kind and understanding. You don't scream at your partner and demand love!

Unfortunately, this is the precise approach that many women take when we want to lose weight. We shame our bodies in the privacy of our own thoughts and then forcefully restrict the very things that the body needs in order to relax into our free weight – nourishment and self-love.

Your free weight is the weight at which you feel most comfortable in your own skin. I've lived in the world of body rejection and now feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever thought possible. My path to freedom came from following the Free Spirit Diet, which is not a diet in the restrictive sense of the word, but a way of eating that is peaceful and healthy.

The Free Spirit Diet consists of these four simple steps, which lead to immediate inner peace and long-term weight loss.

Step 1: Reset

Strengthen your will power and decrease your cravings by taking a short break from foods and drinks that you are emotionally or physically dependent upon. Some people like to do a weekly juice fast while others prefer to simply eliminate certain foods for a time.

Step 2: Reintegrate

Rather than cutting back on food consumption, gradually replace unhealthy/processed foods with more fruits, vegetables, salads, soups and smoothies. This will automatically lower your caloric intake without causing you to feel deprived. The key is to move slowly, because your body is used to a certain vibrational intake (density vs. light) and will fight back if you make changes too abruptly.

Step 3: Reinvent

No one wants to give up comfort food! This is an opportunity to reinvent your favorite recipes using healthier ingredients. For example, add some greek yogurt to your guacamole for a blast of protein while cutting out some fat. While you’re at it, purchase organic low fat corn chips for dipping along with some carrots or celery.

Step 4: Release

The body is not designed to hold on to what we eat and therefore we need to support digestion, elimination and the release of toxins. Daily exercise, ideally generating enough heat to promote internal cleansing, is essential. We also need to make sure that things are regular in the bathroom! By regular, I mean daily.

The Free Spirit Diet is gradual, sustainable and effective. Use your intuition to make choices that are right for you and you will experience inner peace while creating the conditions that allow your best body to emerge.

Kimberly Kingsley, Counselor and Energy Coach – www.kimberlykingsley.com

# 35. Listen to your body

The body never lies. It is usually the first responder to overwhelm, emotional stress, or self-neglect. However, many of us ignore what our physical body is telling us, as we are used to giving our mind the authority over our well-being.

By learning to cue in on body signals, you can usually circumvent an increase in stress by being aware and then shifting your course of action.

Here are a few tips that can help you start listening to your body as a self-care technique.

1. Re-orient yourself with your body, especially if you are out of touch.

Spend about five minutes in the morning just sitting quietly and noticing the sensations of your body, starting from the tips of your toes and to the top of your head. What parts seem relaxed? Which ones seem tense? What would those identified parts say if they could speak?

2. Notice where in your body you tend to feel most of your stress and overwhelm.

For some of us it is the Solar Plexus, which is your gut and stomach region. It could also be your Heart Chakra area where you feel a tightness of the chest, or maybe the Throat Chakra where your throat feels tense and tight, as if you can't speak.

If you can identify where your stress shows up, then you can be acutely aware of that area of your body and use it as a filter to alert you when something is not right. The trick is to learn to catch your body signals when you just start to feel a slight sensation in that region versus a full-blown effect.

3. Use a tool such as Tapping (EFT) to relieve your body of the tension.

Tapping is great because it instantly distresses the body, and then allows you to affectively process some of the thoughts that also might be contributing to your situation. You can learn more about Tapping, the science behind it, and why it works here: http://www.loreearley.com/tapping

Using the body as a marker for self-care helps prevent self-sabotage, and decreases stress to prevent the manifestation of disease.

Lore Earley, LMHC – www.loreearley.com

# 36. Tap into the power of breathing

Notice what happens to your breath when you feel hurt, alone, unloved, afraid, angry, unworthy, or filled with self-doubt. When we are hurting, we tend to hold our breath, or breathe just enough to keep from dying. We have the ability to bring in more by bringing attention and intention to our breathing.

Breath is the simplest, most accessible way to take care of yourself, to love and nurture yourself.

Breath is the essence of aliveness; without breath, there is literally no life. Breath brings energy, healing, and aliveness, nurturing the tissues of the body with vital oxygen. It is also the intersection of the voluntary and autonomic nervous systems; breathing will happen on its own, but we can also consciously become aware and direct the breath.

This is really important!

There is a two-way feedback system at work in the breath; thoughts and emotional states can change the way we breathe, and changing the way we breathe can affect our emotional states and our ability to think clearly.

Try this exercise to use breath as a tool for self-nurturing:

Close your eyes or just let the focus of your gaze be soft. Bring your attention to the breath without trying to change it, just find the breath in the body, in the rise and fall of the chest or belly, or perhaps in the movement of the air in and out of the nostrils or mouth. As thoughts, distractions, or judgements come in, just let them be an opportunity to come back to the breath. Now let the breath deepen naturally, allowing yourself to take in more. Imagine the energy you bring in with that breath; imagine bringing that essence of aliveness right into the center of your being, your heart-center, breathing in love, care, and compassion. With each exhale, let go of any places of tension or tightness ion the body. Focus on the breath as love, giving your body and yourself the gift of aliveness.

Even a few breaths taken in this manner can shift your inner state. Breath nurtures not only the body but the spirit and in fact breathing shares the root word: Spirare “to breathe” Spiritus “breath, breath of life” “That which animates life.” To breathe consciously is to embrace and honor your aliveness, and the opportunity is always there!

Wendy Dingee, MS, LCPC - www.livewellnevada.com

# 37. Meditate

Life can be so overwhelming. We can get distracted, confused, and overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it. We are bombarded with information and stimulation. We are trying so hard to make money, raise kids, be a good person; we end getting over-stimulated, over-amped, and finally overwhelmed!

When what we are really looking for is meaning, self-love and understanding. We are looking for a way to get back to ourselves – to that part of us that is sacred.

And, the fastest, most direct route to self-awareness, and learning to truly love yourself, is meditation. Meditation takes us straight to our true selves. It teaches us about forgiveness, compassion and acceptance. Meditation reconnects us. It awakens that part of ourselves that is pure presence. When we meditate we have the actual experience of inner peace and a deep inner calm. We learn to authentically love – everyone – including ourselves.

It's simple to mediate. You can try it right now.

First, make yourself comfortable.

Relax your attention a bit . . . even as you're reading these words.

Simply, let your attention become softer.

Then, take a deep breath.

Notice if it's full, or shallow, or held.

As you continue to observe your breath, notice if it feels stressed or calm.

Now, take another deep breath – through your nose.

Exhale slowly . . .

Notice how you feel.

Let your body relax.

Let your mind relax.

Then, take another deep breath

and relax even more . . .

You see? In just a few conscious breaths you can begin to change your state of mind. Even in this very short exercise you can get a feeling of what it's like to meditate.

Within a meditation many things can happen: insights, understanding, forgiveness, resolution, and inspired ideas, all from this simple process.

There are no rules for meditation. The only thing to focus on is being present. When you are meditating, you are allowing yourself room for stillness and reflection – a vacation from the rushed flow of daily life.

By meditating we discover our most true and authentic self. When we meditate we begin to feel calm, and sure. We begin to feel guided in every moment. Meditation connects us to our higher knowing. We begin to know the love that is all around us – all the time. We realize that we are worthy beyond measure.

Meditation connects the soul to the self, and by meditating we are building a conscious bridge. Inside this sacred container there is a whole new world. You'll come to discover that your inner world is as rich as your outer world is!

By meditating you are sending out a signal that you want to connect, that you want to open your heart to the universe, and receive all of its gifts. There is no rush. Meditation is a healing process. It is supreme love in action.

Meditation is a return to love. It will teach you to respect yourself, forgive yourself, and finally love yourself. It creates a clear path to real peace and happiness. The place to start is exactly where you are – as you are. And the time to start is . . . now.

Diana Lang, Counselor and Author of Opening to Meditation – www.dianalang.com

# 38. Bathe in the inner vibrant stillness of your Essential Self

Essentially we are our very consciousness, our very awareness – such a miracle in and of itself. I love bathing in it. It’s often how I start my day, even before I get out of bed. I lay there my body relaxed, laying symmetrically on the soft surface of the bed. To take a quick dip later in the day, I sit with my feet firmly on the floor or preferably ground, with my spine erect and relaxed.

In this relaxed position, I am conscious of my breath caressing my whole body. Starting with my toes, I am aware of the subtle energy, they are receiving from the Earth. Slowly with deep awareness, I move the breath’s caress gently up the front of my legs, my knees, thighs and to my perineum, that soft space between the anus and the vulva. Any tension, tightness or stickiness I become aware of I breathe into, letting it release and drop down into the Earth’s welcoming, transformative embrace.

From here at my base, I continue breathing, fully, softly, moving my awareness gradually up the front of my body, aware of every inch of my abdomen, my chest. As I embrace each inch with awareness, it relaxes deeply, into a spacious ease. I feel the life energy vibrate within me more fully. I feel my heartbeat and the vast spaciousness of the hearts loving energy.

My awareness moves slowly up the front of my upper chest, my neck, my chin, my nose, my forehand and finally to the crown of the head. Here I feel the vast, subtle powerful love of the incoming energy of the heavens.

Sometimes I pause at the heart area or here at the crown to bathe deeply in the love that inhabits my body, sustaining my life with love.

Then from the crown with soft, full awareness, I move down the back of my head, back of the neck, upper back, behind the heart, down behind the ribcage, slowly, consciously, allowing any tension, any tightness or stickiness to drop away into the Earth. At the end a brief jumping and shaking can shake loose any remaining negativity. As conscious breath replaces it with spacious love. I continue down the sacrum and lower back, returning once again to the perineum. If at any point you find you got lost in your mind thinking, just return to where you left and continue on from there.

Sometimes I bathe in this conscious blessing of my body for as much as an hour or. At other times I make the journey in a few minutes. Now familiar with this inner dimension, I sometimes just anchor in at the heart space and enjoy the vibrancy of life and love there, for a moment in the midst of my day.

I am perennially amazed how this inner cleansing positively impacts on my day. Give it a try. Discover the love of your own consciousness!

Maryanna Bock, LCSW, MEd - www.lightcoach.com

# 39. Practice Yoga

Yoga is not only a physical practice, but an emotional, mental & spiritual practice, as well.

People experience a wide range of transformations when on a path of practicing the art of yoga, each experience unique to the person and what they need in those moments.

Yoga helps with self-care because it gives you a space to explore your inner world, to unplug from the outside world, and to focus solely on you.

You learn to get in touch with your emotions in the moment, to breathe, to show up for situations in the manner that you want to (versus being controlled by external circumstances), and you gain self-confidence. You learn to do what's beneficial for you in each moment, versus reacting from habit or from a place of destruction. Most of all, you learn about the concept of "balance".

On the yoga mat, we learn about balance in a physical way, which translates to our lives in a metaphorical way. Balance is so important in each aspect of our lives.

Getting started with yoga can be intimidating. Studios are accustomed to working with beginners and offer a lovely, supportive environment to get started in. Many offer a deal: an affordable unlimited month, so you can try out a wide variety of classes. There are many different types of yoga, so don't be discouraged if you try a class and don't like it. Ask someone at the front desk for assistance in choosing the style and level that's appropriate for you.

If you're not ready for a studio, there are many on-line classes now that offer a variety of styles and levels of classes that allow you to learn yoga in the privacy of your own home. Some charge and some are free - you can search online for them. The problem with this is that there isn't anyone around to correct you if you're doing something incorrectly, so be very mindful of moving at your pace and coming out of anything that doesn't feel appropriate for your body. And remember, you don't have to be good at something to start doing it - you simply have to start somewhere.

Rima Danielle Jomaa, MFT - www.rimathejunglegirl.com

# 40. Reward yourself

When was the last time you celebrated an accomplishment that you made or a goal you achieved?

How often do you reward yourself for all the amazing things that you do?

Rewards are an integral part of caring for yourself, and one I don’t think most of us do enough.

I know women who make sure to celebrate every time their child has good grades or each time a co-worker gets a promotion. I know women who plan parties for events, big and small, in other people’s lives, but they don’t take the time to celebrate all the great things they do every day. You might be thinking that you don’t need a reward or that doing what you do is reward enough, but it’s time to make sure you reward yourself, too.

Making a fuss about something makes it more important. Acknowledging what we have done allows us to mark important milestones in our lives so that we can see where we have been and where we are going.

We use rewards as a way of showing ourselves and others that we have done something special and deserve to be recognized for it.

Although it would be nice if we could be recognized by others for the things that we do, that isn’t always the case, so part of caring for ourselves is giving ourselves the rewards we deserve.

I don’t think of accomplishments as necessarily being herculean tasks that took years to complete, though they could be. Most of what we do tends to be on a much smaller scale. We set a goal for ourselves, make a plan about how to get there, roll up our sleeves, and get to it. Often these are not things others would recognize as accomplishments because they are only important to us or because they have other values.

By recognizing our accomplishments and rewarding ourselves, we bring the same level of caring to ourselves that we do to the people we love when we do the same for them.

So how do you reward yourself? It depends on what feels rewarding to you. A reward can be a walk in the park on a nice a day or an expensive cup of coffee or tea from your favorite shop. Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers or a nice dinner out. Depending on what you are rewarding yourself for, you might want to choose something larger, too.

And while you’re at it, make sure to tell everyone you run into what you’re doing and why, because that’s the biggest reward of all – recognition of a job well done.

Becky Bringewatt, MA, LPC, NCC – www.mantiscounselingandcoaching.org

# 41. Keep humor in your life

Laughter is good for your health. Research has shown that laughter boosts the immune system and can increase your pain threshold. Laughter also helps you relax, can defuse tension, lowers stress hormones thereby relieving stress, improves your mood, strengthens relationships, and promotes group bonding.

Think back…when was the last time you had a good belly laugh? Has it been a long time? Was it more recently? When you did, how did you feel about yourself at that time? Did you worry about how others were perceiving you or did you just love the moment when you felt free to laugh. Did you feel energized? Feel good about yourself?

So how do you add humor to your day when things aren’t going so well?

I recall a day when I woke up in a bad mood. I didn’t know why nor did I care, I just knew I was in a bad mood. I decided I needed to do something to change my mood. I watched funny movies for hours. After several hours I felt a change in my mood and got on with my day. Now everybody doesn’t always have the time to devote to changing their mood like I did that one day. So I suggest being proactive, right now, prior to waking up in that bad mood, like I did. Be sure to laugh daily. Look for humor, the lighter side of things. Learn to laugh at yourself.

The internet is a great source of videos on Facebook or YouTube.com that will bring a smile to your face. Go to YouTube.com and search on the term puppies and you will find enough enjoyable videos to improve your mood for hours. Read articles about the positive effects of laughter. The website HelpGuide.org has many articles on helpful topics. In the article Laughter is the Best Medicine at HelpGuide.org they say, “When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy.” To quote Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D. “Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.” Laughter is free, fun, and readily available to you. So take advantage of this healthy coping skill that is God given.

Here are some other interesting ways to add laughter in your life:

Attend a Laughter Yoga class or retreat

Involve your pets in your life more

Listen to standup comedy

Watch funny movies or TV shows

Read funny books or articles

Gail L. Van Amberg, MA, LPC - Glvinnovations.com

# 42. Embrace your sexual self

How well do you know your own body? Sexuality starts with the self before it can be shared.

So take some time to do this following exercise:

Lay on the bed and close your eyes. Pay close attention while you touch your body where it feels more sensitive and may be more reactive than other areas where touch may be not felt the same or even not wanted.

Feel how soft or hard areas like to be touched, do they like massage, a stroke, circles, etc. Take up to 30 minutes and try to do this 3 times in one week to gain understanding of your own body.

Return to this exercise a couple times a year or if you undergo a change (weight loss or gain, surgery, health conditions). Learn to pay attention to how your body feels and reacts for your own pleasure and to also share this knowledge with others.

Knowing how to love on yourself increases fulfillment sexually and then can be communicate to others to increase your feelings of being understood and cared for. You need to love and understand yourself, before others can.

Dr. Chelsie Reed, PhD, LPC - www.drchelsie.com

# 43. Take time out for yourself

In today’s ever busy society, it’s important to make time for yourself. When you neglect to take for yourselves you can become irritable, feel overlooked, taken advantage of and feel less happiness and satisfaction in life. Taking time each day for yourself is like hitting the reset button. You feel rejuvenated and happier. You are the most important person in your life, treat your self like it!

Easy ways to make time for yourself, because you deserve it!

1. Start by giving yourself permission to make yourself a priority and giving yourself time a priority. When we give ourselves permission we help remove blocks that keep us stuck. Simple state out loud or write it out, “I give my permission to take time for myself.”

2. Set your intention. An intention is stating what you want, such as, “Today, I am going to take ___ minutes for myself. I am going to (something I love) because I love me and I deserve my attention and time.”

3. Make it a goal to take time for yourself daily. If it feels overwhelming. That’s okay. Take a few deep breathes. Remind yourself, you can do this and you deserve this. Start small. Set aside 5 minutes a day. Do something you love. Get yourself excited for your 5 minutes. Maybe read, sip a cup of tea, watch the sunrise. Do something that brings you inner calm and peace. Once five minutes feels like nothing, try extending it. How much time can you give yourself everyday.? It’s okay if the time fluctuates. The important thing is that you are making time for yourself daily.

4. Weekly indulgence. Take time each week to really love yourself. This is time that you get to pamper yourself. It doesn’t have to be extravagant. It could be bath in candle light, a long walk, maybe even a much needed nap or cry. Check in with yourself, what do you need?

5. Create your own you ritual. This can be daily, weekly, monthly. Give yourself the gift of time. Make this time a sacred time to really connect to yourself. Perhaps it’s journaling, or creating art. Really give yourself permission to do something you love and dedicate time to cultivating your passions. Set your intentions, “Once a ____, I give myself____time to explore, expand, create (choose what you want to do) art, spirituality, reading, writing, etc.” Ask yourself what makes your heart sing? What makes you feel alive? And give yourself permission to do it, grow it and harvest it.

Remember, taking time for you is flexible. Go with the flow. Ask yourself, “what do I need today?” And give it to yourself. Before you know it making time for yourself, won’t feel like a chore, it will be a habit. You’ll feel happier, have more energy and feel more at peace.

Margaret Bell, MA, NCC – www.forwardkindheart.com

# 44. Start journaling

Many people enjoy journaling for a variety of reasons. Some use their journals to remember their days, others write so their descendants will know more about them as people. Still others use their journal to process and analyze their lives.

When you journal for self-care, you decide on the format you want to use, the content you want to create and the audience for whom you are writing.

In order to maximize the chances of your journal meeting your needs, there are some things to consider:

1. First, figure out what you need or want to get out of the process. What kind of journaling feels right to you? Leaving a record of your activities and thoughts for future generations can feel as productive and nurturing as processing events and feelings. Honor your needs and preferences.

2. Think about privacy. If you want your journal to stay private, find a private space for it. I know one therapist who keeps her journal in the locked file cabinet in her office. I know others that publish photos of their pages. Pick a level of privacy that suits you.

3. Now, what kind of journal works? Find a format that fits YOU. Journals don't have to be traditional books, and can take many forms - the only limit is your imagination! I know people who create their own exquisite handmade journals, and I know people who buy index cards, a hole punch and a binder ring to keep them all together. Find something that fits your personality. What kind of journal appeals to you? How portable do you want it to be? Heavy paper or thin? The most beautiful journal in the world is useless if you don't use it! In the end, the perfect journal is the one that you use.

4. Next, based on what you need and the type of journal you choose, think about the kind of things you want to put in your journal. People have made journals of quotes, memes, collages, traditional writing, poetry, prayers - pretty much anything you can name, someone has probably made a journal for it. Allow yourself to process as deeply as you want, or not process at all. Remember that your journal is for you - make it something you want to spend time with and create.

5. Finally, I know that many articles talk about setting aside a time every day for journaling. I have found that it I try to do that, I start feeling pressured and obligate. My advice? Throw the rules out the window. If you really want to feel nurtured in journaling, then create it in a way that feels right to you. If every day at a particular time works for you, then do that. If journaling on the fly in spare moments works, follow your heart.

The bottom line? If you want to journal for self-care - to feel nurtured, safe, and free - make your journal work for you. Don't let anyone else tell you how to do it, when to do it, or what it should look like. Make it work for you; in the end your journal is for you and will feel more natural if it's something that works for you.

Dr. Laura Burlingame-Lee - www.drlaurablee.com

# 45. Unplug and recharge

Reflection. We spend the majority of our days “plugged in” to the lives of others via technology. We are living in the midst of a plugged in epidemic without knowing what the long-term impact this habit may have on us. Each of us may have our own standard on “how much is too much” but what does it look like to “unplug” and what are the potential benefits?

I spent the last four years in a job where I was on call. 24/7. During this time period, I had two different vacations where I committed to unplugging for about ten days at a time. The benefits, for me, were staggering and refreshing. There were also moments of discomfort, like when my husband would leave to use a restaurant’s restroom. I would reach for my cell phone and immediately feel awkward without it. From my own perspective, this is simply a habit and a difficult one to break. So why should we even worry about this habit, whether it’s “good” or “bad” or if people should be unplugged more often?

There are benefits. Unplugging presents the opportunity to be more engaged in your life. Not only are you giving your loved ones more undivided, undistracted attention, but you are giving your self more love, compassion and time to be with your own thoughts and feelings.

By being plugged in at all times, we are consistently and constantly stimulated. The environments of being at home, at work and in the community are already incredibly stimulating. When we are “on” and available at all times, it feels foreign to shut “off “even for an hour. Knowing our true relationship with being plugged in is difficult unless we make an active choice to take a break.

Surrounding self-love, many of us much of the time spent on our technology is on social media. We look at images of other people’s seemingly perfect lives, and can slip into second guessing our own day to day life choices. Creating the time and making effort to recognize our own strengths and beauty can be difficult when we’re so busy paying attention to what others do.

Tips. Our phones and other devices constantly tempt us, so how can we unplug? Start slow. Commit to one morning a week where you do not look at any technology the first hour of your day. Choose to meditate, make a slow breakfast, exercise, or something else you enjoy doing and see how the rest of your day evolves. Try another hour in the evening and start to notice: did I sleep better? Did I dream about anything in particular? Work your way up to a whole morning on a weekend and all the way up to a whole week on your next vacation.

Notice your own reaction to this time away from technology and do your best not to judge these feelings or reactions that come up. Try it out today. Your life is waiting!

Adeline Holter, LCSW - www.viewpointtherapy.com

# 46. Connect with nature

In our busy lives it is difficult to slow down. When we spend time in nature is allows you an opportunity to slow down and connect with yourself. To allow this to happen you first have to find the right location.

To find the perfect location immerse yourself in a nature setting where there are a limited amount of people. A good example of this type of setting is a hiking trail, an animal conservation area, an arboretum, or a secluded camping site.

Even in the city there are often little parks that are secluded, it doesn’t require a trip to the country! Next it is what you do when you are in the setting. You want to turn off your cell phone or any other electronic device. You want to connect fully with your setting.

To connect to nature, pay attention to your surroundings using the five senses:

- What do you see?

- What do you feel?

- What do you hear?

- What do you smell?

- What do you taste?

When you slow down you will start to notice different things.

Here are the questions I want you to ask to promote self love:

-How do you feel about yourself when your mind is not wandering?

-Do you find that nature tries to speak to you?

-What is your intuition telling you in this setting? Is it different when you are not?

-Do you feel calmer when you are surrounded by nature?

-What is happening in your heart during this experience?

The presence of nature can create a space to really reflect on you. It helps you recognize what is important and what it is that you need. When you allow yourself this space you are providing self love by caring for yourself!

Lyndsey Fraser, MA, LMFT – www.relationalconnections.com

# 47. Travel and let yourself go

Images of pristine beaches, faraway places, and exotic foods pop into my head when I think of travel. My pulse beats faster, and I feel excitement bubbling up deep from within.

Standing with a long hatpin ready to burst that bubble is my Practical Side. “There’s work, school, obligations, no time or money to schedule a trip!”

Both perspectives are valid, need attention, and balancing them is challenging. Too immersed in living spontaneously brings instability and debt. Too focused on life’s responsibilities makes life mundane and boring. Too often we get stuck in the latter.

That’s why exploring and enjoying this world is a great way to express love of self, others, and life. Traveling is enriching to us and can have a positive impact on those we meet.

Everywhere we go, we have a chance to gain or share the insights we have been given by being kind, helping, serving, or enjoying the area. This is an amazing world. Each area has its own unique features and animals. Our perspective on life changes when we see a variety of people, cultures, and landscapes.

To love others well requires self-love. Travel is about following your dreams, breaking from the routine, seeing new things, being adventurous, or making a difference in the world. Going places adds spice and helps us feel good about ourselves and life.

People may stay home because they or significant people in their lives aren’t interested, don’t want to spend the money, take the time, or allow fear hold them back. Several examples come to mind of missed ventures. Going to a friend’s wedding in another state, traveling to the Middle East, and seeing Garth Brooks perform in Central Park stand out as lost once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Conversely, cruises, trips to the South Pacific, Europe, Scandinavia, mission trips to Mexico, traveling the United States, exploring Colorado, and camping show up as high points in my life.

How to get started?

Think about where you want to go. Write down the goal. Then research to get a sense of what you want to see and experience while there. Estimate the cost, and divide by the number of months between now and the estimated travel date. Start saving for it.

Think about what you are willing to sacrifice to save the money: Fewer gourmet coffees? Eat at home? Work extra hours? Consider: “Would I rather have this coffee or that trip? Sometimes the coffee will win, but as the savings build up, the anticipation of the trip builds.

It takes courage to love yourself enough to carefully evaluate your own priorities and pursue them. Sometimes we must stand up to opposition or our own internal naysayers.

Those who value themselves and their dreams pursue them…to the ends of the earth if that’s where it takes them.

Charlene Benson, LPC, NCC - www.bensontherapist.com

# 48. Improve your self-esteem with a simple 3 step exercise

We all struggle with self-esteem from time to time. Both internal and external influences can have a significant impact on how we view ourselves. Sometimes we look in the mirror and don’t like who we see. It is important to remember that our reflection is two dimensional, we do not see the whole picture of ourselves, yet we are the ones who judge most harshly.

The following provides 3 strategies to help you strengthen your self-esteem.

1. Staff and Mirror exercise

Find a staff or a broom stick and grip it with your dominant hand. Stand in front of a mirror and declare, “I showed up. I matter!” You have the right to stake your claim on the planet. Say this affirmation every time you stand in front of the mirror, then when you leave your house to go to work, see a friend, go shop, etc., before you enter your destination stand up straight and affirm, “I showed up. I matter!”

2. Affirmations

Make a list of 10 affirmations that have personal meaning to you, for example, I am loveable and capable, I deserve good things, I am a dedicated father, etc. Every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to bed say these affirmations while looking at yourself in the mirror. Anyone can read anything from a piece of paper; however, to really internalize these statements you have to look at yourself in the mirror as you are saying them. Do this exercise for 45 days. After about 45 days, you will notice the negative messages you have been telling yourself and bought into begin to fade away. You will genuinely believe you are lovable and you do deserve good things as well as everything else you have been affirming.

3. Non-negotiable list

In order to have a strong self-worth, it is important to conduct your life with integrity. One way to ensure you are living in integrity to yourself is to do a non-negotiable list of your values, beliefs and morality. This will help you to identify what you stand for and live by it.

To complete this exercise, take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side of the page write your values, beliefs and ethical standards. On the right side, write how you have been conducting your life to date. If what is on the left side of the page is not also written on the right, this is where you are going against your own integrity. Explore how you can make these two sides line up. If you are not honoring your own standards you may find it difficult to love yourself.

Remember, everyone has the right to be on this planet and stake their claim. Think of all the lives that would be impacted, even in subtle ways, if you never existed. You count! You matter! So honor yourself by living your truth and giving yourself the love you deserve.

Laura Garrett, LPC, NCC, CACIII - www.laurabridgeways.com

# 49. Learn to age gracefully

If your goal is to live longer, to live your best life and to feel good about moving through the process, you are interested in aging gracefully. Instead of complaining about how life is passing you by and how things used to be, now is the time to achieve a level of satisfaction and fulfillment with all the many opportunities available to you at this stage of life. After all, growing older really means growing better!

When you examine your true potential, you realize you can finally live out your dreams, fulfill your purpose and balance out the quality of your life. Because there's a new reality about your longevity, there is greater hope for living a better, more vital life - one that is long, meaningful and truly special.

Here are some things you can do to keep you ageless and boost your spirit:

1. The "glass-half-full attitude" is the best way to approach the rest of your life, because it keeps you thinking positively, and reduces stress. This means that when things aren’t going your way, know that there are many options available to remedy any situation.

2. Use your passion to create new directions. In other words, when you feel strongly about something, negative and positive thoughts both exude high levels of energy. Why not use that energy to direct yourself towards new ventures, new possibilities or new learning experiences that will enhance and revitalize your life? Why not get excited about something you've always wanted to do, and can now explore more leisurely?

3. You can spend all day complaining about your life and how things could be better, or you can appreciate what is good about it and be grateful. Complaining only lessens the quality of your experiences and keeps you in a negative mindset. Gratitude for all that you have will give you a calmer, more peaceful view of life, which increases your overall well-being, self-confidence and self-worth.

4. You don't "need" a sense of humor, but if you want to feel connected with others, you'd better find one. Because it feels good to laugh, you should always take humor seriously and have fun with it. Besides, it's truly healthy to laugh and enjoy your life.

5. Prioritize your life. What are the things most important to you? Your relationship with your children? The comfort of your home? Your social life with friends and family?

Be sure all those areas are met, because that will bring you the greatest peace and joy.

George Burns once said, "You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old." So live your life creatively and with gusto because there is nothing more beautiful than a smile on your face and a skip to your walk to keep you feeling young and alive!

Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com

# 50. Balance your feminine and masculine energy

I remember the day when I was heard a small, angry voice within scream “I want to be taken care of!” I was taken aback. I was doing my usual Saturday routine of cleaning the house and thinking of the loads of laundry and grocery shopping that still needed attention. I am a busy working mother and wife. It is easy for me to get absorbed in my commitments, and just DO.

Does this sound like you too?

I later learned that this is a common self-care problem, and a sign that you are out of balance. If you are DOING a lot and feeling exhausted by it, then there is a strong likelihood that your BEING is undernourished.

The act of doing is considered masculine energy because it involves a lot of problem solving, putting forth effort, and completing tasks. The act of being is allowing, receiving, and the experiencing of people, events and situations.

A simple example would be slowing down to savor and really enjoy the experience of eating food rather than shoveling it down your mouth because of a deadline or a long “to do” list.

This was the case of one of my clients. She was a busy mother of four, and she rarely had time to herself. She often neglected her own needs, and was not getting the proper sleep or nutrition to fuel her body. She typically fed herself on the go or in a rush. She was now feeling depressed.

I suggested that she take five minutes to herself, and during this time, she would not answer to any requests from her children unless it was an emergency. She would eat at the table, and serve herself a delicious and nutritious meal. She would also ask for support from some of the older children who were fully capable of contributing to the family household by putting away dishes or folding clothes.

The improvement in mood was immediate. When we take better care of ourselves, we feel more harmony within ourselves. When we feel more harmony within ourselves, we feel more love and connection towards the people, places and situations around us. It is a ripple effect.

Here are some simple ways to love your body, and to be in better balance.

  • Take five minutes a day to check in with yourself. What do you need? What would you like to experience for the day?
  • Delegate what you can to someone else. Notice the areas where you take on too much or overcommit.
  • Stop judging or criticizing your body. Feed it with love by nurturing it with life affirming words and behaviors.
  • Notice where you giving more than your fair share. Ask yourself why. What is motivating this behavior?
  • Connect with your fun side, and engage in enjoyable activities.

Remember, a little can go a long way. When we improve our self-care our sense of value and self-worth goes up! We are here to love and be loved.

Dr. Shannon Tran – www.shannontranphd.com

# 51. Live with passion and purpose

I get asked quite often “What does living your purpose actually mean?”

Without getting into too much detail, the best way I can describe it is by offering questions you can ask yourself.

What energizes, ignites, and excites you? What wrongs are you wanting to make right in the world? What subject, group of people, initiative, movement, etc. are you currently deeply interested in and impacted by? What activities, hobbies and interests do you enjoy most and who do you like to experience them with? When and how do you feel most like yourself and that you living from a balanced and peaceful place? What are your core values? These are all questions that can lead you to what your purpose is.

Work is a significant part of our lives and in my experience can be a significant source of stress and yet also fulfillment.

When we can combine work with what we are most passionate about, we can reduce the discomfort and get back to a place where we wake up feeling optimistic and excited about our day and ways in which we can contribute to the bigger picture. You don’t have to discover the cure for cancer to be living your purpose. You could volunteer walking dogs on Saturdays.

It is my belief that as human beings, we all want to be heard, accepted and understood. We thrive when we feel that there is meaning and purpose in our life. We tend to feel balanced when we know internally who we are and what is most important to us.

Sharing our message with the world IS PASSION.

And when we get feedback on that message, we believe we are making an impact. Whether large or small, making an impact helps us feel important and valued, all improving our sense of self and self-worth.

If it just feels impossible to discover and live your purpose in your work life, the good news is, you can also live your purpose from your personal life. Being a loving and nurturing mother, sister, neighbor or friend can be just as fulfilling. Cooking local and organic food can provide true meaning. This is not about putting pressure on ourselves, it is about allowing ourselves, giving ourselves permission to explore who we are and what matters most.

In our culture it is easy to become confused about what we want, or to neglect our inner truth based on what is popular. When we are living from inauthentic place, we subconsciously live in a constant dilemma which can show up as depression, anxiety, mood swings, loss of energy or confidence and so much more.

Start small by asking yourself the questions above. And then rate on a scale of 1 to 10, how close are you to living your purpose, to being your authentic self, and letting your unique light shine bright in the world. What obstacles are in your way? What is one small thing you can do today to get you closer to your purpose? Reach out to a coach, counselor, mentor, or friend to discuss. You are important!

Brooke Jean, MA - www.brookejeanllc.com

# 52. Build a strong support system

Take a walk with me back to childhood as you sat watching the Wizard of Oz. Although Dorothy felt alone as she traveled down the yellow brick road, she was never alone. She first had Toto, her faithful companion; she then picked up the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and then the Cowardly Lion. Each character operated out of their obvious weakness, but, pulling strength from the other as they continued their travel to reach the Wizard. What Dorothy and her companions teach us is the necessity of having a support system when we face our ‘…lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!’

What does a support system look like?

Like Dorothy and her team, there is no cookie cutter description of a support system. Support comes in many packages – friends, mentor, colleague, supervisor, etc. Understand that while the package the support comes in is important when getting your needs met, the sense of presence, availability, and reciprocity is vital for sustainability. A support system will…

1. Stand In Your Place When You Can’t.

Your support system will provide words of encouragement, a kick in the butt, a shoulder to cry on, a Woo Hoo! when you have accomplished your goals, big and small, pray for you and with you, defend you against ‘…the lions and tigers and bears…’ even when the ‘…the lions and tigers and bears…’ is you.

2. Feed Into Your Dream/Passions/Goals.

Your support system will do whatever you ask of them and sometimes don’t ask of them on your journey to living your dream. AND…if you don’t have one, they will provide many opportunities to discover and explore your interests which may require them tagging along to museums, yoga classes, new age experiences, etc.

3. Understand You Are Human.

Your support system will always respect you for who you are – a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. They will never ask you to compromise or ignore anything in your life that brings you joy. They understand you are a whole woman and not disconnected pieces.

So now you know what a support system is supposed to look like, let’s talk about how to obtain and maintain one to meet your needs:

1. Step One: Figure out what you need.

Dorothy was far from home and needed to get home by any means necessary. We often live our lives based on other people’s expectations of how we should live. We sometimes fall into fulfilling the needs of others while pushing our needs to the side. We even rationalize and defend our behaviors because ‘they’ (e.g., my children, my husband, my parents, etc.) need us right now and we can always address our needs at a later date. But when it happens… we become lost, abandoned, frustrated, and/or confused with who we are in this life as opposed to who we thought we wanted to be when we were children. Ask and Answer: Are you existing in your environment or living in your destiny? What did you want to be when you were a child? If you asked someone to describe you, would they say “Oh, your so-and-so’s mom” or “Hey, aren’t you so-and-so’s wife?”

2. Step Two: Admit You Need Support.

Dorothy knew she needed to get home and the only way was to see the Wizard. While we may think we are smarter than the Scarecrow or have more heart than the Tin Man or more fearless than the Cowardly Lion, we do get tired, frustrated, sad, and discouraged. Like Dorothy, although in a vulnerable position, she understood she needed support to accomplish her goal of returning home. Remember, you are human and it’s ok to be human and in a vulnerable place. The Support System will understand you in your vulnerable place and will take steps to protect your heart.

3. Step Three: Connect or Reconnect.

Think of what it will take to get the support you need. Think about who provided the encouragement, kick in the butt, or guidance in your time of need. This step may require you to reach out to those that fell to the wayside. You may have to re-evaluate the relationship and determine whether or not the relationship is important enough to rekindle. If you discover this is not possible then look at your environment and determine who could fill this role (e.g., colleague, church member, supervisor, etc.).

4. Step Four: Ask.

Once you have completed Steps One through Three open your mouth and say “I need…” It may be tough, it may be scary, but you can get through.

‘…lions and tigers and bears…You Got This, Girl!!!

Dr. Maurita Hodge, LPC - www.movingmountainsconsultingllc.com

# 53. Develop a deep body awareness

Your body is always sending you messages about what it needs. You know that when you are tired you need to sleep. When you are thirsty you need to drink. And when you are hungry you need to eat. But what about the headache you get each day at 3pm, the tightness in your shoulders, or the niggling pain in your lower back. Do you know what these messages are trying to tell you?

Physical pain can be our body’s way of letting us know that we are way too stressed, far too busy & not taking good care of ourselves. It is our body’s way of telling us that something in our life is out of balance.

Developing a deep awareness of the messages your body sends you, and taking care of your body in the best way possible, is a simple act of self-love. And it is so important. Why? Because if you don’t your body will only start screaming louder and louder, until that little niggle turns into chronic pain or illness. And you don’t want that to happen, do you?

So how can you start tuning into your body and developing a stronger connection with it?

Here is a simple self-care practice, called ‘Breathe, Feel & Ask’, that will help you develop a deeper body awareness:

Breathe - this is where you take a few minutes to concentrate on your breathing. Lie on your yoga mat, or on your bed, and slow your breathing down until you drop in to a state of mindfulness.

Feel - then do a scan of your body and tune in to the areas that feel tight, stiff or sore. You can either start at your head and move down to your toes, or start at your toes and move up.

Ask - once you are aware of the areas of your body that are tight or sore I want you to ask yourself two questions. “What is going on in my life right now that may be making me feel this way?” and “If this pain was an emotion what would it be?"

Then spend 10 minutes (or less!) journaling about what has come up for you. Just writing down your emotions and feelings around these two questions can help you release some of the negative energy out of your body.

The mind and body are intimately connected. What affects one, affects the other. By learning how to listen to the messages your body is sending, you will slowly discover a deeper sense of self-love for it. And in return your body will reward you with true physical wellness. Learn to take care of your body, for it is the only one you have.

Nicola Judkins, Physiotherapist and Life Coach - www.reclaimingstrength.net

# 54. Escape the Performance Trap

So many people struggle to love themselves because they think their worth lies in what they do. They get caught in the performance trap, constantly trying to prove that they are worthy of love. This is a flawed approach because love can’t be earned. Conditional love (I’ll love myself if…) is not love.

The solution is to recognize that your value comes from WHO you are, not what you DO.

Consider a $20 bill. That piece of paper has the same value, whether you use it to buy shoes or buy drugs or feed the homeless. You could hide it under a mattress, and it would still be worth the same amount, even if you do nothing with it.

But what does that mean in human terms?

Consider a little baby. A newborn can’t do much of anything. As one father put it, “Noise comes out of one end, and messes out of the other!” Yet a baby is loved by her parents, even when she can’t DO anything for them and actually costs them time, money, and sleep! The baby has worth simply because she is human.

As she grows up, she will discover her talents and abilities. If she’s like most of us, she will be rewarded for those and may fall into the trap of thinking that’s why she is loved and that’s what makes her worth something. She may try to earn approval—and might even succeed. But what if one day she’s in an accident? What if she suffers a spinal cord injury that leaves her paralyzed and is once again unable to do anything for anyone? Does she still have value when she can no longer perform?

Yes. She has much value as she did the day she was born. Because it is based on who she is, not what she does. Her parents will continue to love her simply because she’s theirs.

You can grasp this concept in simply human terms.

Hopefully, you had good parents, or maybe you are a parent and have experienced the kind of love I’ve described. But what if that’s not the case? There is still hope. When we transcend the human level and look with spiritual eyes, we find a higher truth and even greater worth. Who or what gives you value as a human being? It is the fact that you are created in God’s image. You have been created with the capacity for love and kindness, free will to decide whether you will choose to love, and consciousness about that choice. That sets you apart from any other living thing.

God loves you simply because you are His.

There’s nothing you can do to make Him love you more than He already does. Remember, love cannot be earned. And there’s nothing you can do to make Him love you less. Again, because that would suggest that you had earned His love to begin with, then lost it. His love for you is unconditional and based entirely on His choice, not your performance.

God doesn’t need you to do anything for Him, though He lets us participate in His work. It’s like a mom making cookies with a 4-year-old. It would be quicker and easier to bake them herself, but her joy is in doing it with the child, mess and all. That’s how God feels about us. He invites us to partner with Him simply because He has fun being with us and watching us grow to be more like Him.

Just as a brother and sister from the same parents each get a different set of genes (some similar, some very different), each of us gets a different set of traits from our heavenly Father. You are uniquely gifted to express a part of who God is—to be a chip off the old block, so to speak. Your personality, interests, and abilities all feed into shaping your passions, your dreams, and your destiny, which together are the full expression of who God created you to be. And you are the only you that will ever live throughout human history.

Once we grasp the weight of that, we can stop trying to make ourselves worthy because we understand that we already are.

We no longer do what we do to try to prove who we are. Rather, because we are who we are, we do what we do. Doing simply flows from our being. Anchored in God’s love, we no longer try to perform to earn something that can’t be earned to begin with. We relax and find the freedom to be fully ourselves. And that is perhaps the greatest achievement of all.

Dr. April Minatrea Lok - www.freedomC3.com

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