Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is all about showing love and appreciation to your loved ones. You might have seen a lot of self-love themed marketing campaigns, where companies try to sell you jewellery, skincare, flowers, chocolates, all to treat yourself. This is one way of showing yourself appreciation, yes, but there are a million other ways, less expensive, less big grand gestures, that we incorporate into our daily lives and show ourselves daily self-love.
Self-Compassion vs Self-Love
Recently, I wrote a blog post about mindful self-compassion, meaning giving ourselves exactly what we need in that moment and being our own best friend instead of enemy. However, self-love is different from self-compassion, Whereas self-compassion is more about compassion towards ourself, self-love is all about showing yourself appreciation!
In psychology, self-love is known to not be selfish, but necessary to have a healthy relationship with yourself (even in times of failure) while impacting others positively as well.
“It all starts with you! If you are not in a good place, characterised by balance, compassion, and inner peace, you are likely in no position to do your best work or be the best partner, parent, or friend that you can be.”Courtney Ackerman, PositivePsychology.com
Benefits & the Why of Self-Love
Showing ourselves compassion and appreciation in the difficult moments is important because it helps us overcome it. A mindful approach would be: I acknowledge these feelings that I have, and I remain curious and open about them, while soothing myself knowing I am not alone in this, knowing this will not last forever, and I give myself what I feel is best for me in that moment,
The benefits of self-love range from protection against depression, greater happiness, more motivation in life to healthy relationships, and the list goes on.
Self-Love & the 5 Love Languages
As I mentioned before, self-love does not have to be a great, grand gesture, buying yourself something or spending money on something necessarily. There are 5 love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, physical touch and acts of service, If your love language is mainly gifts, then it would make sense if you’re happy buying yourself gifts. We all have a mixture of love languages, some might have been influenced by our childhood: how other people showed us love. Figuring out your love languages can help you navigate through relationships and understand the other person better, but it can also help you in practising self-love.
What is your biggest love language? How can you show that to yourself?
For example, mine are words of affirmation and quality time, therefore I love to schedule out some me-time, doing things I love or that make me feel good (spa night, manicure, cooking myself dinner, meditating, journaling,…) speaking of journalling, that goes into the “words of affirmation bucket, as I love to write myself a love letter, and also state affirmation in front of the mirror. its like shooting an arrow and hitting it right into the bullseye: giving yourself exactly what you value so much in other relationships.
The Little, Big Things
But let’s talk about the smaller, yet as important, ways on which we can incorporate self-love into our daily lives. Taking care of ourselves and our space is highly underrated.
Making your bed
Making your bed is a keystone habit, meaning it reflects other choices you take in life and it heightened your discipline, and reflects even your financial situation: it is one of the most important habits and also. way of showing yourself love: keeping the space where you rest, which is *highly* important, a safe and neat space.
Put your health and wellbeing first
Yesterday I had my annual dentist’s appointment, and I realised this is also a way of taking care of ourselves and showing ourselves that we are worth it, that we care about ourselves. You would not let someone you love abandon their health, would you? You would encourage them to take care of it. Even these less glamorous moments are the ones that count.
Making sure you drink enough water, get your vitamins, move your body, take care of your overall health and wellbeing is a great way to show yourself love on a daily basis without having to make big gestures.
Take care of your mental health, too
Mindfulness has drastically changed my life for the better, helping me overcome my severe anxiety, and it was also a way of self-love. I was taking medication doctors prescribed me against the anxiety, but actually I was not at all handling the root cause: my mind. I was trying to fix my body. But then, who knows for how long I would have taken those pills if it wasn’t for mindfulness? It was an investment of money, time and effort, going through an 8 week MBSR course (Mindfulness Bases Stress Reduction), but the benefits are here for a whole lifetime, as I continue to expand my mindfulness skills and am now teaching it, 6 years later.
Of course, I am not saying mindfulness can resolve any mental health issue or disease, so please talk to a health care professional first. I am just sharing my experience on this. Even a couple minutes of meditation a day is incredibly beneficial to you, and to reap those benefits all you have to do is schedule a bit of me-time during your day.
Release the guilt
As I mentioned before, it is necessary we give ourselves what we need in that specific moment. Whether that is a nap, a dessert, a video call with a friend, or a good run. But sometimes, we have this voice in our head judging us and making us feel guilty for having that ice-cream, binge-watching that show, skipping a run because we feel tired, etc. Releasing the guilt of not doing something is crucial here.
Imagine a friend is very tired from work, and they do not feel like going on a run with you. They are completely drained and much rather rest at home. Your reaction would not be: you are weak, you have to go for a run, how dare you rest, you need to move? No, your reaction would probably be: that is okay I totally understand, take all the rest you need.
So, why it is so difficult to have this approach to ourselves? It all has to do with self-talk and the way we look at ourselves. If we can bring in more of that appreciation and compassion, we can slowly by slowly change our self-talk and actually allow ourselves to do what feels right. I will discuss this further in the next chapter “self talk”.
Because, as with many things in life, restriction leads to binging. If we cannot have something, we want it so much more. While giving yourself what you need, that occasional ice cream (for example) is not a total distaster and you enjoy it mindfully and guilt-free.
We are the person we talk to the most in our lives.
How do you talk to yourself? How do you see yourself? How would you like to see yourself? What would it take for you to see yourself that way?
I discussed this in my previous post about self-compassion: 1 component of mindful self-compassion is going from self-judgment to self kindness. We are our biggest critics. Sure, this protects us and this helps us in improving and being our own best selves, but it can also bring us down, make us feel small, helpless, a victim.
Instead of going that direction, notice it is *only* your inner critic judging you, and that you know better. You do not have to listen to it, you have to be aware of it. In that moment of awareness, you create space. Space for you to choose: will I get caught up in what my inner citric has to tell me, or will I say: not today?
As with a lot of things in life, the first step of being more kind to yourself and show yourself more self-love, compassion and appreciation, is becoming aware. Becoming aware of what your love language is, of how you talk to yourself, how you treat yourself, how you take care of yourself. That is where mindfulness steps in and helps us becoming aware on a non-judgmental, curious way.
If you’re curious right now about mindfulness, download my free e-book A Guide to Mindful Living here, or check out other blogposts about mindfulness. Listen to my podcast about mindful living and purposeful traveling during your next run, walk or commute, and let me know what you found of it!
Sending lots of love, and remember to be kind to yourself this Valentines day and any other day!
As I write a new blogpost every week, I found myself quite un-inspired this week. But, as everything is connected, often it’s best to take a look at what you are going through at the moment, what you are learning, and share it with others. Because there is always someone who you can help. So, the theme of this week’s blog post is: lockdown life. And no, this will not be another lifestyle post with sponsored products to make your stay-at-home life better. This post concerns the emotional aspect of dealing with a pandemic and how we can handle emotions, thoughts & feelings better.
Humans are not meant to live in lockdown, separate from others. We live in communities, with our close and loved ones. We have a natural urge to travel, to go places, to discover the many cultures of this beautiful world.
So, being in lockdown, in quarantine, since 2020, it takes its toll on us. This month especially, with high hopes for 2021, I’ve been disappointed as these high hopes did not come true. I live as an expat in Portugal and it’s just entered a new full lockdown, such as in March 2020. Luckily, I’ve been able to deal with these difficult emotions through practising mindfulness. So let’s move on how to dealing with these lockdown blues, and how to shift your mindset to remaining optimistic for the future.
As a Mindfulness teacher, I will always give you the advice to sit with any feelings and emotions that arise. Not only will it allow you to see the root cause behind them, it will also make you feel better, processing the feeling and moving on afterwards.
Mindfulness means: becoming aware of what is happening in your mind, body and surroundings: paying attention to it, and bringing in kindness, curiosity, compassion and non-judgement.
These next steps are part of the R.A.I.N. technique and have helped me and many clients in dealing with difficult emotions.
1. Recognise. Notice when you are feeling lonely, anxious, or sad. Notice this feeling. Do you feel it in your body? What are your thoughts like? Recognise this feeling or emotion.
2. Acknowledge. Instead of fighting it, try to accept it. Know that is will pass, too. Nothing stays forever. You will not be sad forever. You will not be anxious forever. Focus on this moment, right here, right now.
Imagine this feeling is like a cloud, passing through. By fighting it, by resisting it, you are only making it harder for yourself. So instead, lean in. Accept the feeling is visiting you right now, and welcome it. It’s okay. It won’t last forever.
3. Investigate. Next, ask yourself: why am I feeling like this? What event cause this? What triggered this feeling to arise? Is it real or false? We are living so much in our minds, playing what-if scenarios, that our bodies actually respond to it, as if it was really happening. Mindfulness allows us to come back to this moment instead of living in our heads.
4. Non-identification. Remember the cloud, passing through? Kindly remind yourself that you are not this feeling.The person who is noticing this feeling, that is you. The feeling is just a visitor.
As you might have noticed, this technique is called the R.A.I.N. technique. It’s a mindful practice to deal with difficult emotions.
Us humans need connection. As many of us are separated from their friends, family or other close and loved ones, it can be hard missing deep connection, or physical touch.
As I’ve mentioned before, our bodies cannot recognise the difference between a fake or real thought. The same goes for physical touch. When you hug yourself your brain does gives the same response as when someone else would be hugging you. The physical sensation is the same: you feel held and comforted. If you are missing the physical sensation, I highly recommend you to try this out.
Another big help is self-love. When we feel we are lacking love, it can feel like a gap, an empty space, only someone else can fulfil. We are often craving love from someone else, but we can give it to ourselves, too. I’ve created a self-love meditation on Insight Timer and SoundCloud, free to acces, which is a lovely practice to comfort, soothe and love yourself.
Have something to look forward to
This is a very important one. In order to stay optimistic, it’s helpful to set goals you’d like to accomplish, or subscribe for events you’d like to attend.
Reflect on what is your sparkle of hope – maybe it’s the ability to travel again, a family reunion, a wedding, birthday or a solo travel adventure. For all the travel lovers reading this, check out these blog posts on keeping your travel spirit alive at home, the power of travel coaching (which I’m now internationally certified for!), and how why quarantine made us better travelers.
Again, recognising that everything is temporary, we can also remind ourselves that this won’t last forever. Vaccines are being rolled out, which means there is light at the end of the tunnel. We will not be in this pandemic forever. It will end too, some day. So until then, what can you look forward to? What can you prepare, learn, or set as a goal for yourself?
See this extra time you got as a blessing. Or, if you’re living with your family and you’re thinking: time? I’m so busy with them! See this as a chance to connect with them more deeply, while setting time apart for yourself, even if it’s 5 minutes a day.
I hope this post has helped you in navigating through this pandemic, whether you are in lockdown, quarantine, or having difficulty dealing with these unusual times. If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness or meditation, sign up for my weekly inspiration newsletter here and follow me on Instagram here!
Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, we can all use a little bit more gratitude this year. Just because things didn’t go according to plan and we were faced with many challenges, tuning into thankfulness can strengthen us and remind us of what we do have in our lives right now.
So how do we tune into this state of gratitude?
Here are some ways on how to tap into gratitude and how to make it a habit in your life.
A gratitude list is a simple thing to write, yet it has the power to put us in such a good mood. Start with writing 3 or 5 things you can be grateful for while you’re reading the newspaper or you’re having your morning coffee or evening tea. You’ll notice that not only will you be more appreciative of the small things and the big things, you’ll also think about more and more things to put on that list. As it gets longer, your mornings and evenings get better.
Ive done a little experiment this year: from January 1st, I have done a gratitude meditation every evening.
Why evening? Because going to sleep with a feeling of gratitude allows you to wake up happy and fulfilled.
Here’s my thought on this experiment: although it was though – the more I felt down or sad, the furthest away I felt from doing a gratitude meditation. But right on those moments, the downs, is when we need something to uplift us. So, even if it was challenging, I did my meditation every evening and it always made me feel amazing. What changed from the version of me before the meditation vs after the meditation? Nothing but my mindset and perspective. I didn’t receive any news, nothing actually changed in my day or my life, but solely by putting myself in a gratitude mindset made me feel so calm, light and happy.
So a gratitude meditation is a beautiful way to express your thankfulness, and I’ve created this daily gratitude meditation on Insight Timer. Try it out, for free, and notice how you feel before & afterwards.
Shifting your perspective
Instead of saying, I am sorry I am late, say: thank you for waiting. Shifting your words and thoughts when you catch them being passive, or negative, is your biggest challenge and teacher. When we notice our thoughts heading into a negative spiral, we can stop for a moment, smile at them, knowing they are not real, and instead bring in the positive side of it. It can be anything – from a random thought popping up or a certain situation that has happened and that you perceive to be negative.
Shifting your perspective can be very powerful. Here’s a small exercise I’d like you to try out: write down all the experiences in your life you first thought were absolutely catastrophic, but then turned out to have a positive influence on your life. For me, this was my biggest break-up, after being together for 4 years I got dumped. I was absolutely crushed. Heartbroken. I was a mess. But this breakup allowed me to grow, and go my own way, and when I look back now, I see I completely transformed in a good way. It brought me closer to myself.
This is just an example of how we can find unexpected blessings in what e first though to be curses. For this, we need to let go of the expectation and stop holding onto a certain outcome.
We often take lots of things for granted, but when we stop for a moment and realise how much of a blessing it really is, we rewire our brains to see the positive side of things, and consequently, that means more happiness and less complaining.
Scientific research has shown us that when we feel gratitude, we cannot experience negative feelings at the same time. Its gratitude, and gratitude only, that courses through our bodies. How amazing is that?
Another benefit of giving thanks might seem a bit more woo-woo to some, but nonetheless very powerful: we are energetic beings. Yes, we are. We are made out of millions of cells. When we put these cells under a microscope, we don’t see something vast, we see energy. So, if you zoom out of the picture, we are made out of energy!
What we think of, and what we feel, we attract more of in our lives. Tapping into gratitude puts you into a state of receiving: you evoke the feeling of how it is to already have something in your life. This feeling of abundance, of joy and happiness, will then allow you to attract more of that in your life.
Giving thanks can uplift us and rewire our brains to see the positive in even challenging situations. Start with small habits such as writing a gratitude list, or trying out a gratitude meditation, to tune into this beautiful state of mind.
2020 has been a lot, right? Maybe this week has been a lot, or even this day, as you’re reading this.
There’s nothing we can change about what happens around us, but there we can take care of our own wellbeing by showing up for ourselves and others the best way possible.
Here are a few ways on how you can navigate through (another) lockdown and the beginning of a new season. Because as the seasons change, so do our natural rhythms.
1. Check In With Yourself
We tend to rush through our days, constantly pushing through and waiting for that moment – Friday night, the weekend, finishing up work,… while taking a moment to calm down and check in with yourself can be all you need at that time.
Before your next meeting, presentation or whenever you have a minute, take a seat, take 3 deep breaths and relax the tensed parts in your body. If you have some more time, turn it into a mini-meditation, where you gently watch your breath as it comes and goes, and allow your thoughts to come and go as well, like clouds.
You will notice that taking this small moment to check in with your body, notice how it general feels and how you feel emotionally, can do wonders. Bringing in mindfulness into our daily lives allows us to stop living on auto-pilot and start living with intention and awareness.
Another way to check in with yourself is to journal. Take 5 minutes for a free flow – write down whatever comes up in your mind, and gently release it from your mind onto paper. If you’re not the writer, try to come up with a gratitude list and write down only 5 or 10 things you can be grateful for. Gratitude helps shift your focus from what is missing to what you have in your life and be thankful for.
2. Listen To Your Body
Coming back to the pushing through we normally do, I would like to remind you that rest is productive as well. Breaks are needed. Rest is needed.
We have entered a new season -fall/winter. During this season, it’s time to retreat within, to reflect, to rest and to listen to your mind & body. It’s the time of the year to nestle and spend time at home, to go inward. Animals hibernate, as we need to take more rest and sleep more, too. It’s how our natural rhythms work.
So next time you feel tired, drained or burnt out, take a moment to listen to your body. Don’t feel guilty for resting or taking a nap. It’s not selfish, on the contrary: if you don’t feel well, how can you be there for others?
Starting out with the basics – fuelling your body with the right nutrients, drinking enough of water and getting enough sleep (7-9 hours), can do wonders for your general health & wellbeing, thus influences how you feel, too.
I’ve never been the type to work out or even move daily, but since this year (and lockdown), I’ve realised that movement is medicine. In the morning, gentle stretches or morning yoga help me tune in with myself and wake up my body. In the evening, I love to relax my muscles and gentle prepare my body for a good night rest with some restorative yoga. Everyone’s body is different, so take a moment to notice what your body needs, and pick a movement you enjoy doing – it can be as simple as waking. Setting an intention – to relax, energise or restore – helps in having a successful session.
Breathwork can work miracles. A session of energising breathing exercises (breathing in for 6, breathing out for 2), kicks in better than a morning expresso. On the other hand, whenever you feel all over the place and in need of focus, the box breathing, often used by athletes to heighten concentration and performance, works its magic: breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, and old for 4. Repeat as many times as necessary. And lastly, to help you relax and calm down: the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Breathe in for 4, hold for 7 and breathe out for 8.
3. reach out to close & loved ones
More than ever, social contact is important. We need to remind ourselves that social distance doesn’t mean emotional distance.
If you’re separated from most of your friends and family and you live abroad like I do, try to schedule video calls with the family, digital dates with your BFF and regularly check in with each others simply by sending a quick text.
If you can still see your close & loved ones, enjoy the quality time you can have with them as much as you can. It’s important to cultivate meaningful relationships, and maintaining them is equally as important, if not more important. Try out fun things to do on a date, head out for your favourite food or go on a Christmas shopping spree. I personally love to spoil people with gifts, and even if I am not sure I will be able to spend Christmas with them this year, I definitely plan on sending them the gifts in case I cannot be there. Intention is what counts, and that feeling is what people remember too.
If you can still go outside, definitely do that, too. Even a small adventure, staycation or venture out in nature can do wonders for your wellbeing, whether you’re alone or can have some company.
4. rituals & routines
One thing I have learned through the year, is: when all is uncertain, create your own certainty. Hold on to that certainty and let it grow you.
Creating nourishing routines & rituals helps you stay grounded. When you wake up, what is the first thing you do? Let’s say it’s grabbing your phone and checking in with the online world. Is that a routine that makes you feel good, or not?
I’m not the one who is telling you whether a routine, habit or ritual Is good for you or not. I am the person who gently reminds you to be mindful of what you do, speak, eat, and consume. They all have an influence on your mind and body. Starting your morning the right way launches a beautiful day. Ending your day the right way allows you to relax and rest, no matter what happened during the day.
Some mindful moments I picked up after a year of working from home and navigating through challenging times, are:
- Drinking a glass of water
- Morning stretches or yoga to wake up my body
- Write a gratitude list/free flow journalling
- Get ready
- Check phone
Whenever I wake up not so great, I know that after stretching or after meditating, I feel so much better. Routines are there to help us create certainty in our lives, no matter what uncertainties are taking place beyond our control.
When I finish my day, I make sure to do some restorative, relaxing yoga, watch my favourite show or something that uplifts me, schedule in some self-care time (a face mask, mani/pedi), have a warm drink and journal about the day and do anything else that relaxes me at that time. Before I drift off, I love to put on a sleeping meditation or some natural sounds, like ocean waves.
I’ve noticed these habits shift my mood and my wellbeing so much, no matter what happens throughout the day, so I highly recommend you to think about what routine or habit serves you or you would like to start trying out. It’s those small moments that help you prepare for what’s next, whether that is a fresh day, a big presentation or a night of rest.
I genuinely hope these tips will help you navigate through a new season and perhaps a new lockdown too, whenever you are in the world. We can get through this. You can get through this. Remember to take care of yourself and fill your own cup, before you start pouring your empty while giving to others.