Self-love is at the heart of our overall health. When we are blasted on a daily basis with messages that we aren’t good enough, whether from strangers or the media, it can create permanent damage. Self-love is tied to self-worth, confidence, happiness, achieving goals, and our overall health. Fortunately, there are ways to combat the dangerous self-hate that we cultivate on a daily basis. It starts with making a conscious decision to change. Speak kindly to yourself, love yourself, and support yourself like you would a dear friend. Ask yourself how you would respond if someone you love was facing the issues in front of you. You’d probably react very differently than how you treat yourself. Here are a few ways to build self-love into your daily routine:
1. Start a guided focus practice. If you’ve never practiced before, this can sound intimidating. However, daily mindful focus doesn’t require hours in lotus position. A practice can be three to five minutes. It’s a chance to breathe, accept thoughts as they come before dismissing them, and re-setting your day or night. Many people prefer to practice for a few minutes in the morning when it’s usually quieter and they can take some time for themselves. Choose a space and position that’s comfortable, but not so comfortable that you’ll fall asleep. There are tools you can use, from mala beads to listening to guided meditation. Speak with your Yoga teacher for specific techniques to develop this practice.
2. Actively change how you talk to yourself. When you’re frustrated, take a look at your inner voice. How are you speaking to yourself? Everyone has an inner voice, and many are quite active. However, these voices are uncensored and we can take frustrations out on ourselves. Change how you talk to yourself—it will take time and practice. There are additional tools to help with this.
3. See a mental health expert. Mental health is just as important as every other type of health, but it's often put on the back burner. However, keep in mind that seeing just one mental health expert rarely gives you the chance of finding the best fit. Not only are there millions of experts, but there is also a multitude of types of therapy. "Shop" around and see what resonates with you. This can be frustrating, especially if you're navigating the health insurance field to find this help, but tenacity is worth it. You wouldn’t go an entire lifetime without seeing a GP, would you?
4. Learn to say no. Women especially can find themselves saying yes to everything, including things that aren’t necessary. Practice saying no. It’s one of the greatest defenses a person has. It’s rare that the things we say yes to are a requirement. This doesn’t mean saying no to everything is the ticket to self-love, but it’s a start. You can probably tick off a number of requests and “standing orders” that you don’t like and shouldn’t have to stick with. As you “spring clean” your life, you’ll uncover hidden happiness.
5. Put your health first. Whether this means a moderate amount of weekly exercise or attending a church service if that’s part of your spiritual health practice, health is a priority. If you’re not healthy, you’re not at your best and every aspect of your life will suffer. However, the definition of health can be subjective. Everyone’s exercise regimen might be different, but should be guided by experts including physicians. Spiritual health varies greatly, but it’s part of everyone’s makeup. Maybe your spiritual health is a weekly walk in the woods. Understand what your health needs are and put them first.
One of the best things we can do for self-love is to get rid of the things in our life that are actively destroying it. For many people, it’s technology addiction. Everyone has vices. Knowing what they are and replacing them with healthy habits is one of the best things you can do for yourself. From food addiction to avoiding healthy habits (like seeing your dentist on a regular basis), we are constantly sabotaging ourselves. It’s not entirely our fault, because addiction and outside influences are fierce. However, what we do about it daily is within our control.
Guest Blog: Alyssa Ennis - Community Outreach - Purple.com
The simple act of training our minds is something that yoga practitioners discovered more than 2,000 years ago. Western medicine is only now beginning to catch up.
For insomnia treatment, medical researchers have found that "cognitive behavioral therapy" is a better approach than simply prescribing sleeping pills. Instead of adding chemicals to the body, cognitive behavioral therapy addresses the root causes of sleeplessness.
Mindfulness is a key component of cognitive behavioral therapy. Patients are taught to "challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more accurate, positive sleep thoughts," writes John Cline, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. Patients are also given techniques for "calming an active mind that won’t shut off," according to Stanford University Health Care. The insomnia treatment program of Virginia Runko, Ph.D., CBSM, of the Ross Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, includes training in diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization. Sound familiar? It will if you do yoga.
A recent study randomly assigned two treatment paths to a group of older adults suffering from poor quality sleep. Half of the group received a sleep hygiene education program. They were educated about sleep biology, and told about behaviors to avoid before sleep, such as late-night eating and overconsumption of alcohol.
The other half of the group received training in mindfulness awareness practices. Exercises included different types of meditation, including sitting meditation, and "mindful movement."
After going through their selected training, participants reported their sleep patterns in a questionnaire. Folks who went through the mindfulness training showed significant improvement in sleep quality over the sleep hygiene education group. The mindfulness group also reported fewer insomnia symptoms, fewer depression symptoms, and less fatigue.
Another study showed that cognitive therapy is so powerful, even online training can make a positive difference. More than 8 in 10 people with chronic insomnia who participated in online cognitive behavioral training reported improvement in sleep. Participants rated the cognitive therapy session, where they learned about "coping with an overactive mind and worries," as the most useful part of the training.
Poor sleep quality is a major public health problem. More than half of people 55 and over report some form of sleep disorder. Sleep studies of college-age students show that more than 60 percent suffer from poor quality sleep. The phone and tablet screens that people are increasingly glued to emit damaging rays that suppress melatonin production and disrupt sleep cycles.
Unfortunately, poor sleep quality often goes undiagnosed. People may not even realize that they aren't sleeping well. Losing the regenerative power of sleep can lead to higher levels of anxiety and depression.
By practicing yoga, we help free our minds from thoughts that cause suffering. We expand our consciousness beyond the daily frustrations that can consume us. We're training our bodies and minds to relax—just as we need to do every day to get to sleep.
More than 40 million Americans practiced some form of yoga in 2011—up from just 4 million in 2001. That's a good development for our overall mental health. But we could be doing more. If your friends or neighbors mention sleeping problems, suggest that they consider practicing mindfulness through yoga. It's scientifically proven to work.