"Loving yourself is not a destination, it's a journey,” says MUD\WTR’s mental health advisor, Raghu Appasani, a psychiatrist and mental health advocate.
He says the evidence shows self-love leads to better “mental health, improved relationships, and a greater sense of purpose.”
And, he says self-love and self-compassion have been scientifically proven to “reduce stress, increase resilience, lead to positive self-image and lower rates of depression and anxiety."
But, sometimes, putting self-love into practice can be difficult. That’s why we’ve gathered intel from several mental health experts on how to be your own valentine and show yourself some sweetness—not just in the form of candy. Keep in mind these self-love tips aren’t only useful on Valentine’s Day, but on any day you find you could use a little TLC.
Connect with Nature“Moving my body in nature (running or taking a walk) grounds me to the present and calms my soul,” said Zoe Shaw, Psy.D, MFT in a Psychology Today article published September 2020. “I love looking up at the sky, clouds or tops of the trees. It reminds me there is so much out there greater than myself, which puts my current stressors into perspective.”
Japanese researcher and medical doctor, Qing Li, found that simply taking a walk in the woods can calm your nerves and build resilience, improving your psychological and emotional wellbeing.
Exercise“I try to take care of myself physically by going to the gym regularly and exercising,” said psychologist Marc Romano in a 2017 BuzzFeed News article. “Working out gives me a tremendous boost in how I feel physically and mentally.”
In fact, studies show exercise stimulates the production of endorphins that can help ease depression and anxiety, while also improving cognitive function and relieving stress.
Connect with Your Breath
Intentional breathing is the simplest form of self-care. It can help reduce stress, lower your heart rate and regulate your blood pressure.
"The breath is available at any time," said clinical psychologist Belisa Vranich and author of “Breathe: 14 Days to Oxygenating, Recharging, and Fueling Your Body & Brain,” in a 2016 article published in O, The Oprah Magazine. "You own it. It's yours.”
Vranich also noted in the article that we tend to “breathe from our chest,” which only gives us access to the top of our lungs. "We should be breathing from our belly. That's what animals and babies do in a calm state,” she said.
We’ve created an easy guide to “Unwinding with Breathwork,” thanks to insights from professional breathworker Jesse Coomer who spoke with writer Damon Orion in 2022.
LaughThey say laughter is the best medicine, and there is something to that. Laughter reduces stress, soothes tension and actually stimulates many of our organs, according to Mayo Clinic.
If you’re having trouble finding your laugh this Valentine’s Day, it might be time to give laughter yoga—a trend that was started by a medical doctor in Mumbai, India named Madan Kataria—a try. Or find other ways to induce laughter.
“What helps me immediately during and after an emotionally challenging day is to use humor to lighten things up for myself,” said Gabriela Parra, a licensed clinical social worker, in a 2017 article published October 8 by BuzzFeed News.
“Sometimes that means cracking jokes with colleagues to lessen the stress felt that day, or having a light-hearted and humorous conversation with someone who 'gets me' and my sense of humor, or watching a show or film I know I will get a kick out of to make myself laugh. Laughing out loud is a powerful antidote to emotional distress that always helps me lift my spirit."
Relax with Aromatherapy“Studies show that lavender relieves anxiety by affecting the brain through smell," said NYU-certified life coach Anna Goldstein in an article on self-love practices published on Valentine’s Day 2021 by Forbes.
"Drink a cup of water with a few drops of lavender in it, light a lavender candle or keep some fresh lavender in your home or office," she suggests. (Note: You might also try adding lavender to one of MUD\WTR's more relaxing blends like :rest Rooibos.)
Your Self-Love Is Also Good for Those You LoveThis Valentine’s Day, maybe you skip the candy and opt for a more nourishing (Note: If you’re looking for inspiration, MUD\WTR’s Recipes collection could be a place to start). Maybe enjoy a walk in the woods or your favorite TV show.
Whatever you do, make sure to take this time to love yourself. Doing so will be good for you, as well as those around you.
"A loving relationship with yourself can have a ripple effect on others," said New York-based holistic psychotherapist and life coach Lucía Garcia-Giurgiu, in the 2021 Forbes article. "Research shows that compassion is contagious and that others can pick up on your emotional state through mirror neurons.”
We invite you to bookmark this list and come back to your self-love practices every Valentine’s Day—or any day you’re feeling like you need a little self-care boost.
Madonna Diaz-Refugia is a writer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Their work has been featured on Reductress, WFMU and Elite Daily. Follow them on Twitter.
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