Valentine's Day? Learn To Love Yourself First

Valentine's Day is this week but whether you're in love or single (or in a relationship that's not exactly lovey-dovey), the secret to a fulfilling relationship is to love yourself first, says High50's Janey Lee Grace

The idea of "self love" can seem rather cosmic, narcissistic and alien to some of us. But it's essential if we want a fulfilling relationship with others. The first and most important part of it is to know that we need to accept and love ourselves before we can truly accept others and love then unconditionally. Here are five ways to love yourself more.

Give Yourself Positive Affirmations

Many of us are conditioned from an early age to be self-critical, or we have low self-esteem because we don't look 'attractive' enough or are some way not "good" enough. Louise Hay, author of You Can Heal Your Life (which sold 35 million copies), believes in the power of positive affirmations to help us get over this.

She advocates what she calls "mirror work": looking in the mirror several times a day and saying "I love you... (add your name)." Try it a few times and you'll realise how tricky it is.

And if you are about to dismiss Louise as a bit green around the gills, think again: she is 86 years young, founded her own highly successful publishing company, Hay House, and travels around the world giving talks on self-love.

Practise Mindfulness and Meditation

Self-love benefits your health as well as your relationships. Nikki Harman, known as the Mindful Nurse, who has been an NHS nurse for 17 years, uses mindfulness with her patients to reduce stress-related conditions.

"Practising mindfulness and meditation helps us to realise how incredible our body is," she says, "and developing a healthy relationship with ourselves is one of the most precious gifts of love we can give ourselves.

"Meditation has been proven in many studies to have wide-ranging physical and emotional benefits, including one study which showed that meditation reduced the risk of stroke, heart attack and death in high-risk individuals by 48 per cent."

Be Selfish: Don't Give All Your Love Away

If we have a deficit of self-love, we sometimes look to our partner to make up the shortfall. TJ Gibbs, a cognitive hypnotherapist, author and relationships coach, says: "Women are more likely to be the ones giving all their love to their partner and children. They deny themselves the time or finances to invest in personal growth, happiness and peace, feeling that it's selfish, or that others may judge them for it.

"As a result they may develop a sense of being taken for granted, and feeling unwanted and misunderstood, which can make a woman become more needy, clingy and angry at her (unsuspecting) partner.

TJ advises that we take the time to put ourselves first, be it some quiet time to read a book, going out dancing with our friends, regularly making time for things we are interested in, and saying no to things we don't want to do.

Some of us may have put others first for so long that we consider this selfish, but our partners would benefit from a happier and more loving partner, one who doesn't settle for being unappreciated and therefore attracts the love and affection she deserves. How we treat ourselves unconsciously gives others permission to treat us accordingly.

Set Boundaries: Learn To Say No

Life coach Bettina Pickering agrees that it's important to know when to say no. She says: "Self-care is about setting boundaries for ourselves and others; saying no to things that don't give us a good feeling about ourselves."

She suggests we find one thing every day to say no to. It could be negative self-talk, an additional activity you are being asked to take on, or eating that chocolate bar you know will do you no good.

Instead, says Bettina: "Say yes to what you want, consciously and with as much positive energy you can summon. One small thing is enough to create a shift towards self-love."

So invest in yourself: put yourself and your needs this Valentine's Day, and you - and your relationships - will benefit.

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