Love is in the Air
“You become the best version of yourself when you know the value of self-love.”~ Nitin Namdeo
At the start of this year, I decided on twelve intentions that would be more meaningful than making resolutions that I never seem to keep! I plan to adopt these ideas to create balanced, calm, and purposeful days. If you are interested, see my Instagram page for details.
My intention for January was to embrace change. When I chose this, I did not have a specific change in mind, but rather, I wanted to keep my mind open to new experiences and ideas. I also wanted to make a few tweaks in my routines to help me live my best life.
This is what I learned from a month of embracing change.
I can roll with it. I don’t need to fear change – I may not like change, but I can deal with it. I can accept it and even see the good in it. Facing new challenges head-on has given me more confidence in myself and has even provided growth opportunities. I have also found that taking baby steps to change my attitude and perspective has helped me feel better. It has given me strength, courage, and peace of mind. Knowing that I can handle whatever changes arise gives me a tremendous feeling of freedom.
February is all about love
Can it be a coincidence that my intention for February was to choose love?
In February, I am focused on loving myself. Oh, I did not forget to wish my BFF a Happy Galentine’s Day on the 13th or give my hubby a romantic card (and a fancy dinner) on the 14th. But my aim for the entire month (and beyond) was to choose to love myself.
Self-love is a weird concept for a lot of us Baby Boomers. The idea that we should take care of ourselves first is a little foreign. I was always taught to think of others first, and that often meant that my own feelings and dreams took a backseat.
It took a long time before I believed that loving myself was not an act of selfishness. It took years before I felt I was worthy of being loved. And several more years to learn what self-love looks like. I am still learning.
I remember the day I had an epiphany about putting yourself first. I was seated on an airplane, excited for my trip. I was listening closely to the flight attendant as they explained the safety instructions: “Oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area should the cabin lose pressure. Please place the oxygen mask over your own mouth and nose before helping others.“
That sentence hit me like a ton of bricks — it made so much sense. Without an oxygen mask in that situation, I would quickly lose consciousness. If I were unconscious, how would I be able to help anyone else?
Experts agree that you should put yourself first. That is understandable because you cannot pour from an empty cup. Physically and mentally, we all need to practice self-care. Self-love is self-care.
Why is it so difficult to love ourselves? Most of us are adept at finding our every flaw instead of celebrating our every asset.
Remember when we were children, how we marvelled at our skills, our abilities and yes, even our physical attributes? And now we are in midlife or beyond and trying to capture that love for ourselves again.
Think about how fantastic it would feel to look in the mirror and think — I look amazing! It would be wonderful to say out loud — I am great at [insert attribute, skill, or accomplishment here]!
My work is cut out for me with this intention — but I am up for it!
What does self-love mean? If you ask Google, you will be inundated with answers to this simple question. The answers are usually variations of the same message. One that resonated with me is this one from the article Self-Love and What it Means from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation website. Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D. writes: “Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love means having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness. Self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being to please others. Self-love means not settling for less than you deserve.“
Google can provide you with many ideas on how to love yourself. I believe the answer lies within our own minds, but it is helpful to look at different ideas. Below are some of the ways I have chosen to love myself.
HOW DO I LOVE ME? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS!
1. Banish negative self-talk
Most self-help gurus recommend giving up talking/thinking trash about yourself. This is a difficult one for me. I must be vigilant every day to stop the flow of negativity that stems from my own brain. I suffer from self-doubt, imposter syndrome, and a dose of self-recrimination.
I try to pay attention to these thoughts and put them into perspective. Is this thought true? Can I reframe this thought to be more positive? Would I say this to a friend or loved one? Or, I say to myself, here is this thought. It is only a thought, not a fact. I can let it go. I am not always successful using these tactics, but I am getting better at it.
Sometimes, self-affirmations help me stem the flow of negative self-talk. At first, saying encouraging words to my reflection in the mirror felt awkward and wrong. But with practice, I began to feel differently, and I am beginning to think of myself in a more positive light! I am my own cheerleader now. It feels good!
2. Read more books
Reading has been one of my passions since I first learned my ABCs. I read voraciously throughout my school years and up until I had children. Work, child-rearing and household chores took up most of my day and left me too exhausted to pick up a book. My reading choices back then were by Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Margaret Wise Brown, A.A. Milne, Maurice Sendak or Robert Munsch.
I want to indulge in this passion once more, and I find that scheduling a definite time to sit down with a book is helpful. My plan is to sit down to read for half an hour every morning. This works for me because it is an easy schedule to follow and a perfect way to start a day and get more reading into my life. I am also trying to write reviews on some of the books I read and publish them here. You can read my take on Anxious People, Alif the Unseen, and When Breath Becomes Air. Or you can follow me on Good Reads.
What am I reading now, you ask? Horizon by Barry Lopez is currently on my bedside table. Although this was the Novel Thinkers book choice for November, I didn’t finish reading it in time for the meeting. I am taking my time reading this part memoir, part historical discourse, part natural science book. It is a hefty tome at almost 600 pages — but it is a beautifully written book. Lopez calls it “…an autobiographical reflection on many years of travel and research”. His vivid recollections and observations of his globe-trotting adventures make for a compelling and thought-provoking read.
I am also reading An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine. My daughters and I have formed a little book club, and this novel is our second read. The three of us will be discussing it in March. I am pleased to share my love of reading with these two and I find it terrifically interesting to talk about books with them.
3. Sleep on it
Usually, I Have no problem getting to sleep when I go to bed. My problem is accepting that I am not a night owl anymore!
I used to work on projects after the rest of the household went to bed. I would stay up writing, sewing, or reading until night retreated into the dawn. But now, I find I can’t function on less than seven hours of shut-eye.
But I have been guilty of burning the candle at both ends for a few weeks now. I can feel the difference — in my body and my brain. So, I will show myself some love by sinking into slumber for seven hours every night. (If you notice me on Facebook or Instagram late at night – call me out on that — PLEASE!)
If you want to read about what I do when I have trouble falling asleep, check out my blog post, Sleep — it Does a Body Good. You might find some tips that can help you get a blissful night of rest.
4. Let’s dance
I am learning more about how important it is to move my body. My 8 to 5 job involves sitting behind a desk all day, hunched over a computer. I feel sluggish, stiff and tired if I do not take a short walk around the office every couple of hours. I am trying to build more exercise into my daily routine. To be honest, I am not having much luck with it. I get outside more often these days — having a dog makes outdoor jaunts mandatory, but I feel I need more fun ways to exercise daily.
Now would be a great time to dig out my yoga mat and get my downward dog on. While I am looking for a new exercise regime, I can always ramp up my dance routines. I love to blast Modern Love from David Bowie’s album, Let’s Dance, while I move it, move it, move it around the house with a duster in hand.
5. Food for thought
Another way to practice self-love, is to nourish your body with good food. While I am not a vegan nor vegetarian, I have been cooking more meatless dinners. I also try to eat smaller portions and have more fruit instead of ice cream. That part is easy. What I find difficult is staying away from junk food. I cannot have it in the house. I have no willpower when it comes to avoiding sweet or salty treats. Do not offer me any!
I have developed a love for sheet pan dinner. I love the simplicity of preparation and the recipes usually are made up of more veggies than meat. One of my favourites is Mediterannean roasted vegetables with gnocci. Simply chop the veggies into chunks, toss all the ingredients, including the gnocci, into a large bowl and toss with olive oil and your favourite seasonings. Spread it all on a sheet pan lined with oiled tinfoil or parchment and roast until the veggies and gnocci are soft. You can use whatever you have on hand. Get creative — it’s healthy, easy, and a delicious way to cook.
6. Celebrate me
It is difficult for me is to acknowledge my talents, creativity and skills. I tend to downplay my accomplishments. I am slowly, with practice, realizing that I can celebrate my successes and feel proud of my strengths and abilities. Not to be boastful, but to exude a confident, celebratory manner.
I am building my confidence by feeling joyful about my successes, big or small. I am learning that my contributions are valuable, and my voice deserves to be heard as much as anyone.
7. See the beauty around me
The world today seems filled with anger, despair and trouble. I am working to see beauty in the simple things of life to help combat those feelings in myself. I love to go out for walks in the forest or along the ocean shore. I love to watch the sunrise light up the morning sky or see the constellations illustrate the night sky. My heart fills with gratitude when I see the first crocus pushing up its head from the forest floor. There is beauty all around me if I only take the time to notice it. I am grateful for it all. I feel glad to be alive.
There are many more ways to practice self-love than the seven I have listed here. Some are easy and fun. Treat yourself, buy yourself a bouquet of flowers or your favourite sweet treat. Spend the day at a spa or splurge on a new outfit. Some, such as — scheduling alone time, asking for help, or setting boundaries — may be more difficult or out of your comfort zone at first. Find ways that you can show yourself some love. Try Caroline Jordan’s 100 Ways to Love Yourself for some great ideas.
I am learning to show myself love and practice self-care because I am worth it! You are, too!