This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Canada, which closed in 2021.

Practising Self-Love Can Help Get You Through Tough Times

Research shows that self-love can lead to healthier and happier lives.
Give yourself a hug every day; you're worth it.
Barrirret via Getty Images
Give yourself a hug every day; you're worth it.

Welcome to HuffPost Canada’s guide to helping you pick up an easy, everyday ritual that can make your life a bit better, in a small but significant way.

Canadians are stressed out, anxious, and are feeling disconnected from each other. Once a week, we’ll share a tiny tip to help you feel good. We’ve got your back.

Today’s habit

Say “I love you” to yourself every day.

What it is

In my personal experience, it’s a lot easier saying “I love you” to someone I care about — my kid, my dog, my partner — than to myself. Maybe it’s because I would feel silly saying it out loud or maybe it’s really because sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve it.

Either way, I don’t think we give ourselves as much self-love as we need, especially in February when “I love yous” are tossed around every which way. Let’s change that!

For whenever you’re feeling ...

Say “I love you” to yourself when you need a mood booster; when you want to remind yourself that you’re enough; and when you’re feeling particularly wonderful because you’re so loveable.

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How it can help

We’ve all heard at one point that we need to love ourselves before we can love others. While I don’t know how true that is, I do know that self-love is important, whether you’re in a relationship (or looking for one) or not.

Self-love is committing to your well-being and happiness in the physical, mental, and psychological sense. However, there are many barriers that are preventing us from achieving this, be it because of the pressures to look a certain way; to be a “perfect” parent or partner; to be constantly productive; and to “be the best you can be” (who hasn’t head this overused motto?).

And although you won’t see changes in your self-esteem and self-worth overnight, research shows that self-love can lead to healthier and happier lives.

It can help get you through difficult times

You know what helps get you through a tough time in your life? No, I’m not talking about “90 Day Fiancé” re-runs. (OK, that can help.) I’m talking about you, and your love for yourself.

A study published in Psychological Science found that people who were recently divorced and spoke with compassion about themselves felt better sooner, compared to those who were critical about themselves.

I’ve always been able to weather a difficult period in my life when I’m feeling good about myself Knowing that I’m good enough and that I have value makes the tough times easier to get through, whether it’s a breakup or a hard day at work.

It can motivate you to be more healthy

I’m not here to tell you that you need to be more healthy, but if you’re looking for that extra motivation to add more fruits and veggies to your diet; take a hip-hop class; start running; or quit smoking, whatever health looks like to you, self-love and compassion can encourage you to get there.

A study published in Health Psychology found that accepting and loving yourself without judgment can lead you to make better health decisions, including better eating habits, exercising more, and getting a good night’s sleep.

It will make you smile

Say “I love you” to yourself right now. Say it again. And again. And again. I bet at some point in there you smiled, right? I bet you’re feeling pretty good right now, even if you don’t know why.

I’ll tell you why: smiling actually makes us feel happier, according to a study published in Psychological Bulletin. Smiling releases the “happy” hormones — dopamine and serotonin — into our brain. “When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humour is happening.” Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist, told NBC News.

Get in there, buddy!
AaronAmat via Getty Images
Get in there, buddy!

How to start

So, how do we start talking to ourselves with love and compassion? If you’re uncomfortable with saying “I love you” out loud, get yourself a journal (or bring up a word document on your computer or phone) and jot down all the things you love about yourself, or think you’re really good at.

For example, you could write, “I love that I’m good at making meals for my family,” or “I love my strong arms,” or “I love that I’m a good friend.” The act of putting pen to paper can help you visualize yourself in a kind and compassionate way.

Or, set a timer on your phone to go off every morning to remind yourself to say “I love you” to yourself as you get started with your day. It may feel weird at first, but the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it, and the more you’ll start believing it.

Where you can do it

If you’re going to say it out loud, find a place where you feel safe and comfortable. Maybe that’s while you’re taking a shower or brushing your teeth in the morning, or maybe it’s while looking at yourself in the mirror before you go to bed.

As long as you do it regularly, you can proclaim your self-love wherever you want.

How it makes us feel

At first I felt a little ridiculous saying “I love you” to myself out loud, but the more I did it, the more comfortable I became. Now, I have more confidence, and I feel good about who i am.

Read more

And that’s your habit of the day.

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