Ask the internet what the definition of LOVE is and you’ll get a few similar answers:
- A strong feeling of affection.
- A great interest and pleasure in something.
- To Like or enjoy very much.
- Caring strongly for another
We often freely feel and give these things to other people, but rarely do we make the time to give them to ourselves. As I’ve said many times before; in order to give fully to others and to be your fullest self, you must have enough inside of yourself to begin with.
Rather than self-love (which is a phrase that has a tendency to be instantly off-putting to most people), let’s think of this as self RESPECT, which is was more essential and the foundation of a balanced life.
Showing respect – let alone love – to ourselves is often quite far down on the ‘to do’ list, but if we knew it was the one thing that would help us live life to the fullest and be of even more help to others, we’d probably put ourselves first a little more frequently. The very first aspect of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is the Yama Ahimsa, meanin non-violence; not only does this mean being kind and caring towards others in thought, word and deed – it means showing those things to ourselves too.
When a loved one is ill, we care for them or at least tell them to look after themselves; when a friend asks us for help, we’ll usually do our best to help; and when preparing a meal, we’ll often put in far more effort if it’s for other people we care about…. The thing is, if we want to continue to do all of these things, we need to start doing them for ourselves too. Because many of us have spent such as long time not caring properly for ourselves, this could indeed take some practice, so here’s a few ways to get started….
Self Love Self Respect Practices
- Believe In Yourself. Because if you don’t, no one else can….
Whether it’s our ability to reach a new goal, overcome illness, complete an important task on time or whatever else we might struggle in believing we can do, it’s important to believe in ourselves first before anyone else can truly trust us. To be strong for someone else requires us to first build up strength, relisience and belief deep within ourselves. Once we’re able to harness true self-belief, we become unstoppable; the power of our mind and thoughts can have significant physical, energetic and emotional effects, so believe and you’ll achieve….
The essential spiritual text The Bhagavad Gita explores man’s dilemma of self-doubt, and how overcoming this and learning to trust in our true inner strength is the key to overcoming ego-based fear and doubt.
- Surround Yourself With Good Company.
Our innate human habits encourage us to mirror the physical and emotional actions of those around us. By the law of entrainment and synchronicity governs that things that come into close contact for long periods of time begin to vibrate at a similar frequency. The universe and everything in it is literally made up of vibrations (nature itself vibrates at 432 hz, and this vibration has the ability to bring us ‘back into balance’, however much of the sounds we hear around us in the modern word are totally different to this). The people we surround ourselves with all give off some sort of energetic vibration, and we can tell just by how we feel when we’re around them; they either lift us up or bring us down. By actively choosing who we spend time with, and noticing how we feel when we’re with them and after we’ve been with them, we’re able to choose to spend time with those who help us feel our best, and therefore allow us to be our best towards them. The world’s healthiest places, known as ‘Blue Zones’ have several factors in common which contribute to long life expectancy, and one of them is a strong and supportive community.
- Get Into Nature & Move Naturally
Being in natural surroundings has an incredibly positive effect on the mind and body; nature is our natural habitat, so it’s where we instinctively feel most connected to our true self. As we learned in the previous point; even the sounds of nature help to keep us healthy, so using all of our senses to experience the outside world goes a very long way to counteracting all the damage urban life does to us. Walk, run, swim, climb things, or just take time getting lost somewhere full of trees; if you move your body naturally too, all the muscle fibres and bodily tissue will begin to align in a more natural way. Of course, a spin class, cross-trainer, rowing machine or any other piece of gym equipment is going to get your heart rate up and make you feel good, but after even a few months of doing this continuously, the body begins to mould to this shape, and imbalances occur because we’re not moving naturally. Do yourself a favour and be outdoors in the daylight as much as possible.
- Be Honest
The second of the Yamas of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is Satya or ‘truthfulness’. This doesn’t just mean telling the truth; it means being totally honest with ourselves and others in all situations – which can be a pretty scary thing at times…. Ultimately, being honest with ourselves requires the ability to face up to what we may have been avoiding for a long time. It takes courage, but nothing worth doing is ever easy….
- Make Time For Stillness and Svadhyaya
Movement and stillness are equally important. Rarely do we allow ourselves time for proper rest unless we’re forced to through pain – which is why ‘listen to your body’ is something to take very literally when Yoga teachers repeatedly call this our during class.
Outside of a Yoga class though, stillness is so important to allow us to notice how much movement is going on in the mind. Beginning the day with even a few minutes of stillness and awareness can make a huge impact on the hours that follow; instead of rushing from one thing to another in order to ‘tick things off’, see what it’s like to pause in-between tasks, appreciating what it is you’ve just done, and then bringing your full attention to what needs to be done next. All of this allows us to be present with each of the things we’re doing, which is important no matter how small them may seem to be, because they ll make up our life experience.
Svadhyaya is one of the Nyamas of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and means ‘self study’. Take time to notice how you feel depending on the situations you’re in, and why you may be feeling like this, in order to empower yourself to make changes if you need to.
- Share Your Passions With Others.
This ties in with ‘believe in yourself’. When we’re able to teach or share something we’re genuinely passionate and informed about, not only do we improve the lives of others, we give greater meaning and significance to our own lives. Knowing you matter, and that you have a positive impact on the lives of others boosts endorphins (the body’s ‘happy hormones’ and nature’s natural painkillers) and goes a very long way towards creating optimal health and happiness.
- Quit Comparing.
“Comparison Is The Thief of Joy” and it’s totally true. When we compare ourselves to someone else in physical, intellectual, social or materialistic way, we automatically act from a place of lack and fear. We are all different for a reason; it would be extremely boring if we were all the same…. Instead of focussing on what someone else has that you want, act from a place of abundance and perhaps practice appreciating them for what you admire and complimenting them on it. As you do this, you’ll simultaneously be able to let go a little of wanting whatever is it they have, and you’ll spread positivity by giving an honest compliment.
- Nourish Your Body From The Inside-Out
Being tired, weak, irritable and under-nourished helps no one. One of the easiest things we can do to show ourselves respect is by keeping ourselves optimally fuelled so we’re able to do what we need to do with enthusiasm and energy. Healthy foods and drinks that you enjoy will not only benefit the body, but will do wonders for the state of the mind too.
- Clean Out Clutter.
Our outer environment is often a pretty accurate reflection of our inner environment. If your bedroom closet is bursting at the seams and you’re still buying new garments every week, this could signal that you’re emotionally fearful of ‘not having enough’ and acting from a place of lack and fear. Unnecessary shopping – whether it’s for clothes or objects – is an indicator that we’re trying to distract ourselves from something we don’t want to look at within ourselves. By cleaning a part of the house we’ve been hoarding things in, we begin to clear out parts of the mind too; freeing ourselves from unnecessary material possessions and at the same time freeing ourselves from thinking we ‘need’ all this ‘stuff’ in order to be secure and happy. With the space we make, we’re then able to see what it is we’re trying to ignore or cover up, which is important in order to fully acknowledge and deal with what it is that’s holding us back.
By far the most simple, healing thing we can do for ourselves is to ensure we’re getting enough sleep. Sleep enables the body to go into ‘repair mode’; healing the stress we’ve put on it throughout the day. In order to live our waking hours fully and be of true help to others, we have to live our sleeping hours fully too. How much ‘enough’ is can vary from person to person, and of course different lifestyles and occupations will have an effect, but the average optimal amount of sleep for most people is more or less 8 hours per night.