February is usually highlighted for expressing love for family, friends and significant others, but it’s also important to remember to love yourself. The fact is that loving yourself increases your health in two major ways. When people love and respect themselves they tend to make better food and lifestyle choices, promoting physical health. Plus, loving yourself will help you view yourself in a more positive light, promoting emotional and mental health. Physical, mental and emotional health all have been proven to be closely linked to each other, and multitudes of studies have shown a positive attitude can be the largest factor in all three.
Despite mounting evidence in the field of Psychoneuroimmunology – the study of how the brain and behavior affect the immune system – Western (MD) medicine continues to struggle with the concept of non-physical elements such as thoughts, feelings and emotions affecting our physical health. However, basic anatomy and physiology clearly illustrate the process.
The human body is a complex system of bones, muscles, organs and tissues that work together to sustain life. Still, as with any complex system, the body would not function properly without someone or something in place to call the shots. In the case of the human body, it’s the chemical brain – comprised of the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland – that runs the show. These two glands regulate the release of hormones based on information collected through your perceptions and speech. The hormones then act as chemical instructions and play an integral role in every function our bodies perform. In this way, you have a clear pathway for perceptions — what you see, hear, say, think and feel — becoming a physical process.
Cultivating self-love and positive perceptions can be done in a number of ways.
Here are six techniques that can help you change your life:
1. Make your health a priority. Nourish your body with nutrient-rich foods and plenty of hydration. Exercise regularly. Stretch. Pamper your body, mind and soul with natural spa and relaxation techniques. You can even strengthen your mental health by letting go of your focus on what you see as imperfections. Instead, focus on your favorite things about you and celebrate them!
2. Protect yourself from people who drain you. It’s true that misery loves company. Avoid getting sucked into negative situations and thoughts by surrounding yourself with people who genuinely want only the best for you. These people know that you deserve to love yourself as much as they love you.
3. Practice saying no. Often people create undue stress in their own lives by over-committing and not leaving time for them to recharge. And while a little stress can motivate you, too much stress can deteriorate you. Whether at work or in your personal life, say no to anything or anyone that will drain you or make you perceive the world negatively.
4. Maintain control and be true to yourself. Studies consistently have shown that the healthiest people are those with a sense of control, while passive people are the least healthy. Maintaining control is a matter of being able to choose how you view yourself as well as your reactions to people and events. Do some soul searching and get to know who you are and what you want from life. Let this knowledge be your guide. Live the life you want, not the one others want for you.
5. Forgive yourself. You are not perfect. Nobody is. Before you can love yourself, you must first forgive yourself. Practice learning from your mistakes rather than punishing yourself for them.
6. Have an attitude of gratitude and trust your feelings. Make a list of the things about you and your life that you are grateful for. When you show appreciation for others you earn their support. The same goes for yourself. Appreciate what makes you unique and you will learn to love yourself.
Maintaining a positive attitude and love for yourself actually can determine the course of your life. So as you take the time to affirm your love for those special people in your life this month, don’t forget to benefit your heart and soul by cultivating a loving relationship with yourself as well.
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Davis, M., Eshelman, E. R., and McKay, M. 2008. The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook Sixth Edition. New Harbinger: Oakland.
Hay, L. L. 1991. The Power is Within You. Hay House: New York.
Karren, K. J, Hafen, B. Q., Smith, N. L., and Frandsen, K. J. 2006. Mind Body Health: The Effects of Attitudes, Emotions, and Relationships. Pearson: San Francisco.
Rizzo, D. 2006. Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology Second Edition. Thomson: New York.