Do you routinely take care of other people before making sure your own needs are met? If so, you’re not alone: Studies show that almost 76 percent of women spend 10 hours a day nurturing others. But before you can give to others, you’ve got to fill up your own cup! That’s why practicing self care is so important. Here are six easy ways to show yourself the love and attention you deserve.
Expand compassion to yourself.
One of the biggest obstacles to treating ourselves kindly is the misconception that it’s selfish. “But self-compassion is different from self-focused, because it has three elements: mindfulness, kindness, and common humanity,” says expert Kristin Neff, Ph.D., pioneering researcher on self-compassion and author of The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook (Buy on Amazon, $18). Just ask yourself what you feel and imagine what you would say to a dear friend going through the same thing. This lets you tap into the interconnectedness we all share: common humanity. “It’s what prevents self-compassion from becoming self-pity,” says Neff. Reminding yourself that you’re not alone paves the way to greater self-love.
Get to know yourself.
When we shy away from who we are, we lose sight of how to treat ourselves kindly, says Shannon Kaiser, global self-love leader, international empowerment coach, and bestselling author of The Self-Love Experiment (Buy on Amazon, $15) and Joy Seeker (Buy on Amazon, $8). Confidence, on the other hand, breeds clarity. And building that inner core starts with embracing vulnerability. “I had to learn how to be my own friend,” she says, “by taking small risks, like eating alone in a restaurant or going to a movie alone.” Today, such small risks might mean speaking up on a Zoom call or challenging yourself with a new hobby. “The more we learn about ourselves, the easier it is to become our own best advocate.”
Look to your future self.
When Kaiser feels her self-love ebbing, she asks, What can I do today that my future self would hug me for? “I want to visit the version of myself who’s figured it out,” she says, recalling how this visualization helped her see herself in a new light. “I realized if I can love myself, that’s one less person in the world feeling shame. When you treat yourself gently, you’re actually doing something selfless for the benefit of everyone.”
Draw on the power of words.
The benefits of positive self-talk can’t be overstated, says Kaiser. “Pick a mantra, such as, I’m doing the best I can and that’s enough, or, I’m worthy of being loved and showing myself love, and make it as vivid as you can by, say, picturing your favorite color.” If you can tie it to an activity, like cuddling your dog, all the better, because our words go deeper when they’re linked to a sensory experience we enjoy.
‘Draw’ on your passions.
A date with your bubble bath is great — but it’s only the tip of the self-care iceberg. “I ask clients to draw what brings them joy,” reveals therapist Megan Logan, LCSW, author of Self-Love Workbook for Women (Buy on Amazon, $10). “Rather than overthink it and censor yourself, you’ll access the expressive part of your brain.” As a result, folks are often surprised by what they sketch, from a tree symbolizing restorative time in nature, to a coffee mug hinting at how much they miss simple pleasures. “Sparking your imagination lets you instantly connect with what makes you happy.”
Check in with your heart.
“An open heart is love,” declares Neff, who encourages resting your own hand over the other. “When we do this, our heart rate becomes more variable, more flexible, because we’re calming down.” Taking a few minutes a day for this gentle touch helps you discover what you need in the moment. “Self-compassion gives you energy to sustain the care you show others while experiencing more joy yourself.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.