People often think of the concepts of self-love and self-nurturing as New Age or as by-products of shallow, albeit well-meaning self-help books. Interestingly enough, loving yourself, while similar to self-love, is not the overall state of self-love. Loving yourself is part of self-love. It is just not the whole state of being. It’s the art of giving to yourself as well as others.
True self-love and compassion, as described by many psychological studies, are “key for mental health and well-being, keeping depression and anxiety at bay.”
What is self-love?
Self-love is an emotional or mental state. It is a positive feeling and is, strangely enough, most noticeable by the counterbalance to self-love, self-hatred when you feel frustrated, drained, and out of balance. You don’t often notice the self-love state. You only notice the juxtaposed condition, self-hate.
At this juncture, it is essential to note that self-love is not a feeling that goes away when you experience tough times.
Because self-love is intangible, it can be difficult to describe. You can allow your thoughts, emotions, feelings, and perceptions to be what they are without self-judgement. A state of self-love is akin to a Zen-like mindset. And it’s a part of how you are giving to your own well-being.
From a scientific perspective, “neuroscience research shows that practicing a Zen mindset may actually calm the mind, bring more clarity, and allow us to act with more kindness.”
The salient points here are that practicing self-love calms your mind, allows additional clarity, and helps you act with more kindness. It is easier to react to negative emotions by turning to drugs, gambling, food, or work to suppress these emotions or feelings. And instead of responding thoughtfully when faced with challenging scenarios, you’ll react with negative emotion to these circumstances.
Strategies for loving yourself and those around you.
Self-love must be practiced; it is not inherent in every human being. As an aside, if you don’t first love yourself, you can’t love your fellow man. Most the world’s most prominent religions emphasize the need to love others as you love yourself. Therefore, if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others.
Self-love is practical. It’s not just a soppy emotion. Although, there is a feelgood aspect to self-love that must not be underestimated. Thus; let’s consider the following scenario by way of describing different strategies to help you practice self-love.
For the purpose of this article, let’s consider I am an individual trying to navigate my way through the post-COVID-19 era. The hard lock-down has been particularly challenging, especially the social distancing aspects. I’ve also battled with anxiety and negative emotions while watching the global economy tank, and the numbers of active infections and fatalities increase rapidly. In summary, it feels as though my life is spiraling out of control as I watch the virus run rampant across the globe, injuring or killing those in its path. What do I do? How do I stop these negative emotions from taking over my life and leading me down the dual tracks of depression and anxiety?
By way of answering these questions, here are several strategies that I can use to counteract the negative challenges of living in the post-COVID-19 era.
One – Practice giving
Donating to charity like a charity I donate to, or practicing altruism, is vital to my mental health and well-being. It prevents me from overthinking my challenges, and it helps me feel connected and part of the solution to the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Two – Spend time in nature
While this point might be challenging to implement during the hard lock-down phases, most governments have indicated that people are allowed to walk twice a day. And, most of the world’s hard lock-downs are over. There are still strict social distancing measures in place, but these do not prevent me from spending time in nature most days.
The Japanese have taken this coping mechanism one step further and have developed the principle of “forest bathing.” It is merely “being in nature, connecting with it through our senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.” Applying this principle is emotionally and mentally healing.
Three – Formally volunteer with an NGO or other organization
Volunteering to help those in need, such as helping out at a homeless shelter’s soup kitchen, allows me to connect with my neighbors and help those who are less fortunate than me. My problems shrink to insignificant levels, and I find that there is often a simple solution. If I focus on myself, my small challenges grow in perceived size until they are overwhelming and insurmountable.
Final thoughts of giving as a key part of loving yourself and others.
These three strategies are some of the ways to take the focus off yourself and onto others; thereby, reducing the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and helping your reach the perpetual state of self-love, compassion towards yourself and others, and allowing you to react with thought instead of emotions to life’s challenges.