11 Ways to Practice Self-Love That Therapists Swear ByIt might sound cheesy, but it’s pretty freaking great, TBH.
Your aunt Suzanne won’t stop raving about this holy-grail concept of self-love she learned in yoga, all of TikTok seems to preach it, and at least half of your friends have casually dropped the term like it’s a thing we’re all doing now. But you are not alone if you’re sort of confused by what self-love means and how to go about it.
Basically, self-love is when you appreciate and value you, says therapist Jalissa Shelby, LCPC. That means it’s something you can feel. But it’s also the actions that you take because you respect and prioritize yourself, like talking to yourself kindly and listening to what your body and mind need, says licensed clinical psychologist Nina Polyné, PsyD.
And, even if you’re rolling your eyes right now, it might be time to believe the hype. Loving yourself and appreciating you creates this “healthy domino effect of showing up for yourself,” Shelby says. It boosts your confidence and pushes you to advocate more for how you want to be treated, she explains. Self-love is giving yourself props for throwing your cousin the world’s best bridal shower. (Duh, you’re awesome!) Then, it’s getting a bit of space from said cousin after she brought up your recent divorce multiple times at said shower. It’s called boundaries, baby.
To be clear, it’s not like you cheers yourself for waking up after your first a.m. alarm and, all of a sudden, you’re “walking through the world always happy or holding yourself in a positive light [forever],” says Dr. Polyné. It takes a lot of work to avoid the negative thoughts trying to convince you that you aren’t good enough or not worthy, she notes.
But if actually doing self-love still seems a little nebulous, here are some specific ways to take care of yourself, protect your energy, and do what makes you happy.
1. Get to know your big emotions.
Self-love means paying attention to your feelings rather than dismissing or minimizing them, says Shelby. One tool you can use to do that is journaling because you can pinpoint what’s truly going on in your head and figure out how you can best care for yourself through those emotions, she notes. When you feel rage, anxiety, envy, or even happiness knocking, let yourself write a free-flowing mess of words or follow journal prompts like these to learn about what might be causing them and what you need.
Maybe you sense rage bubbling up before bed and you’re not sure why. Journaling could help you realize that, while you’re angry you have work tomorrow and you despise your job, underneath that, you’re really just upset that you don’t have time for yourself anymore. So, maybe you decide that you’ll be more intentional with your nightly “me” time.
FYI, it’s common to discover uncomfortable things about yourself that you were maybe hoping to keep buried while journaling—like you envy your boss’s power and picture getting her fired more than you think you should. Learning about your emotions, no matter how icky they seem, is self-love. So try to be proud of yourself for that.
2. Create a mood-boosting playlist.
While it’s healthy to acknowledge your emotions and sit with those feels, we don’t always have the time or space to do that. And, even if you do, at some point you’ll need to stop yourself from slipping into a downward spiral, says Shelby. That’s why having a curated playlist of motivational, calming, and feel-good music at the ready is the perfect way to lean into self-love when you’re blah, bummed, or triggered.
For example, sort through your music streaming service of choice and create the perfect mix of pump-up songs, Shelby says. When tough feelings strike and you’re not ready to deal with them, you’re telling yourself, Hey, I see that you feel this way and that you don’t want to right now, so I’m here for you! Let’s play some Blackpink!
3. Do what’s meaningful to you.
When you’re making decisions based on what gives you purpose or what lights you up, boom! That’s self-love—and it can make you happier. To figure out what gives you life, spend some time thinking about (or writing down) your values. They could include broad themes like compassion, creativity, or humor. Or, they could be something more tangible like friendship or even supporting small businesses. Then, do things that align with those values, says Dr. Polyné. If you’re into faith, you could volunteer in your place of worship. If travel lights you up, you could go on one trip every few years.
4. Make an actual safe space for yourself.
Creating a safe zone all your own is an act of self-love because it gives you a designated area where you can focus on your needs and emotions instead of other people’s, Shelby says. Can you make your bedroom a worry-free region? Can your nightly showers feature candles and zen music? Can you chill in your car when you want a breather from life? The key is creating a space that feels good and peaceful when life is neither of those things, says Shelby.
5. Know when to say no thanks.
Having an open slot on your calendar is not the same as having the energy to fill that slot on your calendar, says Shelby. So even if you technically are free to chat or go to lunch, it doesn't mean you’re down for it mentally. And setting boundaries is a form of self-love that protects your energy. “It allows you to advocate for what you need and not just [respond] to others’ needs,” Shelby explains. That could look like telling your friend who trauma dumps on you that you can only talk for an hour. Or, you could hit pause on Sunday dinner dates with your dad because all you ever do lately is argue about politics.
6. Say something nice to yourself in the mirror.
OK, hear us out. It sounds dorky, but this can be a really powerful self-love tool for people who tend to pick themselves apart, says Dr. Polyné. That’s because you’re saying the opposite of what your negative thoughts might normally blurt out, she explains.
Before you leave your bedroom, bathroom, or wherever your mirror is, look yourself in the eyes and name something about yourself that you’re grateful for, she suggests. Maybe you’re like, “It’s so awesome that I can laugh at myself sometimes,” or, “The old me could NEVER have been so open about my feelings on a date.” Pick whatever feels authentic.
7. Schedule mini check-ins with yourself.
Because showing up for yourself day after day is what self-love is all about, getting into the habit of booking a daily micro moment to assess how you’re doing will make a big impact. Over time, you’ll get used to thinking about what you need before overwhelm strikes.
When things are good, maybe you don’t need as much attention. But when you’re most stressed or sad, checking in to ask what your mind and body are asking for can help you prioritize taking care of yourself, says Dr. Polyné.
If you acknowledge that you’re exhausted from going, going, going, perhaps you’ll make a pact to get more sleep this week, Dr. Polyné says. If you realize you’ve been anxious AF recently, maybe you’ll decide you want to do something relaxing whenever you can fit it in.
8. When you feel your inner critic screaming, take a hard pivot.
Criticizing yourself after you disappoint people and/or make mistakes (even if it’s just forgetting cheese at the grocery store), is the opposite of self-love because you’re not even remotely trying to forgive yourself, says Dr. Polyné. Lean in a different direction when criticism shows its face.
Maybe you’re throwing a tantrum in your head after noticing some typos in a presentation you gave. Try, in that moment, to forgive yourself for those mistakes and focus on how confident you sounded during the presentation. Sure, you might have added an extra “and” somewhere, but your boss smiled at least five whole times while you were talking! Go you!
9. At the very least, don’t judge yourself.
You don’t have to shout from the rooftops that you love your laugh or height when that’s not the case. However, leading with a more neutral view or finding value in what makes you different can boost your self-worth, says Dr. Polyné. Maybe your laugh is loud, but at least you’re letting someone know their joke was genuinely funny!
10. Be realistic with your goals.
Sure, it’s great to dream big, but you’re not looking out for you if you’re constantly overworking yourself (whether or not you even reach what you’re striving for). Being reasonable when you’re thinking about a timeline lets your brain know that you care about your well-being, says Dr. Polyné. So give yourself a weekend to go through your entire basement of clothes instead of saying you’ll have a donation pile in under two hours.
Remember this when you’re setting new goals and when you’re deciding what’s doable and what’s not doable on your to-do list. Yay, you, for accomplishing stuff! Double yay for not burning yourself out in the process!
11. Talk about your feelings.
Being vulnerable about what you’re going through with someone else is a major form of self-love because you’re taking the time to dig deep, regardless of how uncomfortable it is, says Shelby. And, on top of that, you’re showing yourself that you want to work out whatever’s going on with you, she adds. You can turn to friends and family, as long as they have the capacity to listen, she notes (maybe they don’t have the energy to hear about your anxiety-filled day). Or, you might want to unpack it all with a therapist. Find someone you trust who is able to listen.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.