By Jayde Austin
Each year, Valentine’s Day puts the emphasis on that ‘special someone’ in your life – and while we totally agree with spreading the love – we think that special someone receiving it, should actually be yourself!
There’s plenty of love and gratitude to go around, and so many ways to release self-neglect and put loving yourself into action. This Valentine’s Day, we’re encouraging you to practice self-love, self-acceptance and gratitude; after-all, loving and accepting yourself is a one-way ticket to improving your quality of life, and gaining a greater understanding of what you need to feel healthy and mentally well, closer with others, more fulfilment, and greater hope for what the future holds.
If you’re anything like us, taking time to practice self-love can be hard. Other things are more important than you; you have kids to look after, a partner you’re putting before yourself, work is more of a priority, or you’re simply lacking motivation – the list of excuses are endless. We call them excuses because the very first step to practicing self-love is shifting your self-perception. Feeling worthy of receiving love is the key to putting excuses aside, and acknowledging that gifting yourself with love and acceptance will greatly benefit everything else going on in your life – including those you were once putting before yourself.
Loving yourself isn’t a one day a year event, either. It’s an endless, ongoing endeavour, and one that we feel needs to be a priority. Not only so we feel enriched in our own lives, but also so we can show up in the world and give our full, amazing selves to others. Here are some ways you can try practicing self-love, and start cultivating this new lifestyle from this Valentine’s Day onward:
Try to overcome negative thoughts.
We all fall prey to negative thinking, which drains our energy and keeps us from being fully present. And while it’s so much easier said than done to overcome negative thoughts, we've put together some practical suggestions that might just help you shift your frame of mind, or attention, elsewhere.
First off, ask yourself this: what are the top 3 sources of negativity in my life? It could be social media, someone close to you at work, or even your diet having a negative response in your body. Take a piece of paper and write your three things down – then ask yourself, what can I do to spend less time with these 3 things this week? Be practical; if you’re not the type to deal well with cutting things out of your life, simply cut them down – limit yourself to 30minutes of leisurely time on social media instead of hours; make an effort not to take a break at the same time as the draining colleague at work; or take some steps to cut out foods you think are upsetting your body.
Another tip we have is to let your inner optimist out when you’re in negative situations. The best advice I’ve been given when I’m completely down and overwhelmed, is to ask yourself questions that will take you out of yourself for a moment, so you can see the bigger picture. Things like:
The final tip we have for shifting negative thoughts (although we could go on with this point for a while!), is to talk it out. Negative thinking is like a snowball – if you hold it in, your thoughts tend to get bigger, heavier and more dangerous as they continue rolling. Venting with someone you trust is a sure way of gaining a better perspective, and feeling a sense of relief and grounding within the situation. Personal therapy is also a fundamental way to analyse the root causes of negative thinking, and teaches us to shift the way we think. All of these things will contribute greatly to letting go of that nasty monster called negativity, and replacing it with light and kindness. We want you to show yourself more love and understanding, no matter what the situation.
Give yourself the gift of decluttering.
We’re not about to get all Marie Kondo on you, but we are going to enlighten you with some science behind decluttering attributing greatly to more happiness and less stress in your life. Living or working in chaos can deeply affect your mood and create a feeling of chaos within. It also diminishes a sense of peace or tranquillity when you move into a space, whether that’s work or home. An open, organised space can be freeing and uplifting. We’re not talking about being perfectly clean all the time, after-all, life is about living too! But taking a little time to tidy up, and create spaces you’re happy and proud of can make a big difference to your emotional state and inner peace.
Studies have proven a direct link between the stress hormone cortisol, and clutter. While a gender split did come into this study, (with women much more psychologically averse to clutter), the basic takeaway applies to everyone. Cortisol is not just linked to stress either; at heightened levels, it also causes depression – so living in an overly messy, cluttered or dirty home can give rise to other negative mental states. Keeping your space stress free can often be as easy as designating 15 minutes a day to tidying, rather than a full day every weekend. Even starting with 5 minutes a day to tidy that problem area could make a big difference.
Your living space reflects your inner self. I know for me, when I'm working in a tidier space, with my favourite scented candle lit, I feel clearer, calmer and more capable of whatever it is I’m trying to achieve. Prioritising yourself enough to cultivate spaces that you feel comfort and pride in is a great step to feeling better and enjoying life. You’re worthy of beautiful spaces, and peace when you come into them. Getting rid of that pile of clothes you've been meaning to donate, organising that cupboard you’re always avoiding because things fall out when it’s opened, or sorting through that stack of papers you've been staring at for months can be quite refreshing and give you a sense of accomplishment. Think of it as getting rid of the old to making room for the new! Treat yourself to a positive momentum to increase your sense of happiness and self-worth.
Treat yourself the way you hope your nearest and dearest are treating themselves.
We all have a complicated relationship between feelings and actions. If you were to reflect on your current state, would you say that your actions are generally reflective of a person who truly loves themselves? We’re generalising here, but for most people, they don’t get enough sleep or exercise, don’t feed themselves nourishing foods, don’t take care of their bodies and minds in the best way for them, and they avoid spending any real time in their own company. Treating yourself in the same way you would hope your loves ones are treating themselves is a great way to lead a healthy, fulfilling life. We all want our loves ones to nourish themselves, right? We want to see them quit smoking, and eat healthy so they can live long, prosperous lives. We want them to feel refreshed every day because they’ve had a great sleep. We want them to feel strong in their bodies from exercising, and we hope they see how incredible they are and have gratitude for all the amazing things in their lives. We want our loved ones to have fun and be silly – to enjoy the lighter side of life. And we hope they treat themselves by wearing their favourite top, or setting aside me time for things they enjoy, like art, or yoga, or walking along the beach.
If you act more like someone who loves you, you’ll feel more like someone who loves themselves. That’s the key takeaway here. Cultivating self-love, self-acceptance and feeling worthy of all of it will help you achieve a greater sense of well-being. Because you deserve love. You deserve time. You deserve focus.
Your ultimate work in self-love is this: step fully and boldly into life, and move through everything with self-awareness and compassion. When times are tough, be gentle on yourself. When times are good, relish in them. Create and maintain spaces you feel at peace in. And always give yourself the gifts you hope others are giving themselves. As you grow closer to yourself, you will feel a sense of self assurance and worthiness, then, your final task is simple: share your gift. Help others shine bright the way you’ve helped yourself. Only when you have learnt to love yourself fully, can you love others with the same capacity. Happy Valentine’s.
By Jayde Austin
Kindness can be defined as ‘the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.’ It is a behavioural response by which we act selflessly. We all know it feels good to make someone smile. Whether you’re letting someone cut in front of you in a line, opening a door, helping someone carry a heavy load, or paying for a stranger’s coffee; you never really know how deep of an impact you've had in someone's life... what you consider a little bit of kindness may give someone a whole lot of hope. The impact of something so simple, is quite incredible – and the ripple affect it has is undeniable.
Psychology Today explained that kindness is so often disregarded. But why is it undervalued? They say it is partly because kind people can be viewed as ‘enablers’ by some, or worse, as ‘suckers’ by the cynical. Thus, the cynic’s view is that one is a ‘sucker’, if they behave in a kind, generous manner towards others. This reflects a belief system that success is only achieved through stepping on, or ignoring others. But what is interesting is that a cynic’s behaviour rarely results in true happiness. They often find it difficult to gain a sense of feeling loved - that their true destiny and purpose is fulfilled, and that what they are doing matters in the most profound sense.
Kindness is actually linked inextricably to happiness and contentment - at both the psychological and spiritual level. Over a decade ago, in a study of Japanese undergraduates, researchers, Otake and colleagues, found that happy people were kinder than people who were not happy. Their study also revealed that a person’s sense of happiness increased by the simple act of counting the number of their acts of kindness, with them becoming even more kind and grateful.
Isn’t that amazing? That random acts of kindness are linked to our sense of happiness and purpose. You see, kindness promotes gratitude. When we are kind to others in need, our capacity to have empathy and compassion is extended, and we feel a greater sense of interconnectedness with others. When you help others, your own sense of gratitude is also heightened because you have a better understanding of your own good fortune. Furthermore, creating something unexpected and wonderful in someone else's life, no matter how small, also sets in motion a dramatic shift in a positive direction that can profoundly change lives.
For example, when our children witness us doing good in the world, they are taught gratitude, compassion, love, and unity. Did you know that science shows that children are biologically wired to be kind, and we further develop this trait with practice and repetition? Outside influences and the stress of day-to-day lives often results in people losing this inherent ability; but by setting an example, and reinforcing kind and thoughtful behaviour, children can be taught that in a world that is so often cruel to others, kindness – and happiness – is choice, and is there to be spread around.
On a scientific level, when we are kind, a hormone called oxytocin is released in our bodies. Oxytocin is primarily associated with loving touch and close relationships. This hormone provides us with the warm fuzzies, by stimulating dopamine and serotonin. According to a study of adults aged 57-85, ‘volunteering manifested the strongest association with lower levels of inflammation.’ Oxytocin reduces inflammation, and even little acts of kindness can trigger oxytocin’s release. It is also responsible for a healthier heart. Oxytocin triggers a release of nitric oxide in blood vessels, which expands the blood vessels, reducing blood pressure. It's therefore known as a ‘cardioprotective’ hormone, because it protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.
Anxiety is an extremely common human experience, presenting itself in a number of ways, ranging from mild nervousness to a severe panic. While there are several ways to reduce anxiety, such as meditation, yoga, natural remedies, and psychotherapy, it turns out that being nice to others can be one of the easiest, most inexpensive ways to keep anxiety at bay! A study on happiness from the University of British Columbia (UBC) found that ‘social anxiety is associated with low positive affect (PA), a factor that can significantly affect psychological well-being and adaptive functioning.’ Positive affect refers to an individual’s experience of positive moods such as joy, interest, and alertness. These researchers found that participants who engaged in kind acts displayed significant increases in PA, with increases being sustained for over four weeks of the study's duration. So, the next time you’re feeling a little anxious, look for opportunities to spread kindness, and see if it helps! Try simply smiling at someone, phoning a friend or volunteering your time to help others.
So there you have it; kindness results in happiness, good health, contentment and an inarguable chain reaction. It's good for our lives, our souls, and everyone around us. It's the habit of giving, and the desire to lift burdens from others by being selfless. It humanises us, connects us, and lifts us spiritually. When we are coming from a place of generosity, of giving and kindness that is pure and without any expectation or reward in return, what is occurring is the manifestation of gratitude, hope and guidance. It leads us to a better way of living, greater happiness and the ability to impact deeply others. So… what will your next act of kindness be?