The no BS Guide to Self Love Part 2: Day-to-Day Strategies
In part one we discussed the four elements that make up the foundation of self-love. While these elements are remarkably powerful, they can take a long
time to develop, and honestly, sometimes we just need a quick boost.
A very simple act of self-love is treating yourself well as though you are an intrinsically valuable and awesome human (which you are). You’ll notice that when you take the time to treat yourself well, other people will treat you better too.
This section contains high leverage day-to-day strategies that work for treating yourself with more love and compassion in the moment. When you feel like you need a boost, use one of the strategies below.
Note: the third and final part can be found here.
1: Take yourself on a date
Imagine for just a moment that someone you really adore is coming to visit and you want to make the visit special. What would you do with her?
If you’re thoughtful, you’d probably carve out good time to do something that she loves. If she adores art, you’ll go to a museum. If she likes French cooking, you’ll get a crepe. You get the idea.
Don’t reserve that special attention and care only for the other people in your life. Take yourself out on a date too. Once a week schedule time to do something you love that you don’t do very often.
Get a massage. Go browse a used bookstore. Go surfing. Color in a coloring book while listening to podcasts (one of my favorites). Go for a hike. It doesn’t really matter what it is, so long as you take the time to do something nice for yourself. Bonus points if you turn your phone off during this activity so you can get lost in the moment.
Hat tip to Julia Cameron’s excellent book “The Artists Way” where I first came across this idea.
2: Practice Gratitude
In the past decade or so, psychologists have done a lot of research on what makes people happy. The activity that has the most significant impact on fostering happiness is expressing and practicing gratitude.
In other words, if you take the time to focus on, acknowledge, and feel grateful for what you already have, you will be happier. There are a lot of ways to do this. Here are three. Try one that resonates with you:
- The jar of awesome: I started doing this on Jan 1 of 2014. At the end of each day I write down the best thing that happened on a small slip of paper, fold it up, and put the memory in a jar on my nightstand. At the end of the year I’ll dump the jar out and read through the memories. This is also great for when I need a boost because I can grab a handful of memories and read them to improve my mood.
- The Five-Minute Journal: I lead a fairly minimalist lifestyle so it takes a lot for me to get excited about a product. That said, the five-minute journal is one of the best products ever.It’s a classy looking journal that leverages positive psychology to help you make the day great. In the morning you write three things you’re grateful for, three things that would make the day great, and two affirmations.In the evening you write three things that were awesome about today, and two things that would make it even better.The Five-Minute Journal is simple and effective. As far as products go, it gets my highest recommendation. I’ve been using it for a little while now and have been giving copies to friends left and right to friends and family. You can get one here.
- The list. One of the quickest ways to boost your mood is to focus on what’s going well in your life. If you need a quick charge-up, grab a pen and paper and write ten things that you’re grateful for.If you’re struggling, they don’t have to be profound. You can start with, “I’m grateful for my socks” and “I’m grateful for this pen” and take it from there.Often times when we are down it’s because we are focusing on what we don’t have. Writing a quick list of ten things you’re grateful for will refocus you on what you do have.
3: Prioritize your mental and physical health
In 2013 I finished a three-month speaking tour, came home, and completely collapsed. I was bed ridden and depressed for days. It was one of the darkest periods of my life and one of the major ways I realized I needed work on loving myself (full story and what I learned, here).
The reason my life collapsed is because I neglected my physical and mental health. In fact, the most important thing that I learned in all of 2013 is this: I am personally responsible for my own physical and mental health. If I don’t prioritize myself, no one is going to. The same is true for you so lets quickly cover the basics:
- If you have a religion or spirituality, interact with it. Go to the services once a week. Read from the texts a little bit each day. Personally I spend time each morning meditating. If you’re an atheist, get in touch with nature and the wonder of the universe.
- Here is the new rule: if you think you can benefit from a mental health professional, schedule the appointment now. Not tomorrow, now. One of the cruelest edges of modernity is the stigmatization of mental health issues. If your arm were broken, everyone would urge you to go to the hospital. It should be the same way with mental health
- Consume more: whole foods, greens, vegetables, fruits, whole wheat, healthy fats, water, green tea, lean proteins
- Consume less: sugar, processed food, caffeine, alcohol, red meat
- A simple approach to physical health: for years I followed this routine that I read about on No Meat Athlete. I had a smoothie for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, and more or less whatever I wanted for dinner.
Both physical and mental health
- Sleep: sleep is the foundation for pretty much everything else that happens in your life. The best way to consistently get good sleep is to wake up at the same time every day, and simply go to bed when you’re tired.About one hour before you want to go to bed, turn off your phone and computer, dim the lights, and wind down.
- Exercise: exercise helps put you in a good mood (I’m often in awe of what a 20 minute jog does to a crappy mood), relieves stress, and makes you look better.If you’re looking for a place to start, I suggest the Couch to 5k program, which is a totally free and manageable approach to getting into running. Other good bets are yoga, weight training, or joining a rec sports league.
In Charlie Hoehn’s brilliant book, “Play it Away” Charlie shares research and personal experience on how playing – yes, playing like children play – can reduce anxiety, and increase joy. Long story short, if you want to enjoy a better life, spend more time playing.
Think back to what you used to love doing as a child (Nerf wars anyone?!) and pull that into your adult life. Personally, I’ve started taking improv classes, doing more pranks on the people around me, and playing catch during business meetings instead of sitting in sterile conference rooms. And when Halloween rolls around you better believe I’ll be hitting up some haunted houses!
5: Drive by compliments and improving the lives of others
One of my closest friends, C* is going through a remarkably difficult period of life. His Dad is dying (and his Dad is about 30 years too young to die) so C* and his wife moved from a big city on the East coast to a small town in the South to spend time with his family.
One day he called me and said, “You know, Jason you spend a lot of time talking about prioritizing and loving yourself and that’s important, but recently I’ve found much more happiness and contentment in serving others.”
And you know what? C* is absolutely right. One of the forgotten truths about the human experience is that we are all infinitely connected. You can’t truly love yourself without loving someone else (more on this in part 3). When you take the time to brighten someone else’s day, you’re also brightening your own day.
While there are a bunch of ways to do that, my favorite is “the drive by compliment.” It’s quite simple: when you pass a random person, or interact with a clerk, try to get them to laugh or smile.
If you’re doing this with friends you can institute a point system where you get one point for each successful drive by. Whoever has the most points the end of the day wins.
Another nice way to give back is to volunteer for a cause that you care about. You don’t have to spend tons of time volunteering; even a little will improve the lives of everyone involved.
6: Saying, “No”
The most significant source of burnout for emerging leaders is over commitment.
Saying, “No” to commitments that you aren’t wild about is an act of self-love and self-compassion.
A lot of people struggle to find the words to use when saying, “No”. Personally, my favorite phrase is, “I really like you a lot, and I wish I could help, but honestly, as a commitment to not burning myself out right now. I have to decline. I’m sorry.”
If you struggle with saying, “No” you can learn how to do it smoothly here.
Putting it all together: summary and action steps
Lots of information here. I’ll boil it down to its essence for you.
Loving yourself happens on two planes. The first plane is the long game of finding yourself. Of making sure that you’re true to who you are and that you are expressing that in both thought and action. That’s what we covered in part 1.
The second plane is the day-to-day plane and that requires treating yourself as though you are someone you love. Loving yourself comes out in the commitments and decisions you make, how you allocate your time, and how well you treat yourself.
While there are a lot of ways to treat yourself with love and respect, some are far higher leverage than others. If you need guidance in where to start, here are my best suggestions:
Make sure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep per night. I know that sounds simple – almost too simple – but try it for a week. You’ll be shocked by how impactful a good nights sleep is.
Sleep has a huge influence on your mental and physical health and fuels… well, the rest of your life. You’re more likely to eat healthy foods when you’re well rested, less likely to engage in risky behaviors, and more equipped to make effective decisions.
2) Begin practicing daily gratitude. There are a lot of ways to develop a gratitude practice. Of all the different ones I’ve experimented with, The Five Minute Journal is my favorite. It gives the day great direction.
Of course, you don’t have to use the Five Minute Journal. You can wake up and make a list of three things you’re grateful for, write down the best part of the day before you go to bed, or quietly make a mental list of people in your life who you appreciate and why you appreciate them. As long as you’re focusing on things that you’re grateful for, you’re doing it right.
Each day, take a bit of time to treat yourself like someone you love. Rest. Relax. Play. Say, “No” to things you aren’t psyched for so you can fully commit to the things you are psyched for.
The more you treat yourself like someone you love, the more you’ll end up falling madly in love with yourself.
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“Surfing on Thanksgiving” by Matthew Paulson
“My Nightstand” by Jason Connell
“Lily in the Ball Pit” by Joe Shlabotnik