With images of roses and romantic meals flooding our Insta feeds this month, we reveal other ways you can feel loved on Valentine’s Day – and beyond – with these healing self-love practices…
At this time of year, it’s easy to feel your worth is dependent on external validation – aka having a romantic partner. But what happens if you’re single, your partner’s idea of romance doesn’t match up to yours or you don’t believe in Valentine’s Day anyway? Rather than feeling defined by what your February 14th looks like this year, what would it be like if you loved yourself more, instead? Weaving self-love practices into your Valentine’s Day – and beyond – can help to heal and nurture your relationship with yourself.
‘Valentine’s day gives us a beautiful opportunity to take a look at our relationship with ourselves – how we think of, treat and talk to ourselves,’ says Suzy Reading, chartered psychologist and author of The Little Box of Self-care (Aster, £14.99). ‘It plants the seeds for self-acceptance, self-kindness and, over time, self-love.’ We spoke to seven experts to discover other ways to incorporate greater self-care into your life…
What the evolution psychologist says: ‘Spend more time alone’
‘Spending time alone helps us develop who we are, cultivate our own interests and establish a sense of self,’ says Limor Gottlieb, doctoral researcher at the Centre for Culture and Evolution at Brunel University. ‘It gives us an opportunity to breathe and process thoughts and emotions. It also boosts our creativity and productivity.’
Try this: ‘Loving yourself means knowing yourself, so one thing you can do is start a journal,’ suggests Gottlieb. ‘Take five-to-10 minutes a day to write down any thoughts or feelings – what you are excited about or grateful for, your goals and dreams.’ As you learn to connect with and care for your deeper self, you’ll experience a lasting and nourishing sense of love, not from another person, but from yourself.
What the health & fitness consultant says: ‘Rethink what you do between workouts’
‘Self-care not only enables you to derive optimum benefit from your exercise regime, but also promotes a feeling of wellbeing that helps keep you in a positive mindset as you progress along your fitness journey,’ explains Dean Hodgkin, health & fitness consultant at Ragdale Hall Spa. ‘Just as an elite athlete ensures she arrives at the start line in peak condition, it’s worth considering what you can do between your workouts so that you are good-to-go each and every time you visit the gym.’
Try this: Hodgkin’s new Be Kind to Yourself retreat at Ragdale Hall Spa focuses on taking a journey of self-discovery and acceptance through workshops, activities and nurturing treatments, to help you reconnect with yourself on a day-to-day level. Find out more at ragdalehall.co.uk.
What the self-development coach says: ‘Get to know your body’
‘There’s no point having the discipline to work out if your body is telling you to rest,’ says self-development coach, Nichola Henderson. ‘Listening to what your body needs is a form of self-love, and can have phenomenal results for both body and mind.’
Try this: ‘Allocate time each day to notice how your body feels and what it needs,’ suggests Henderson. ‘Keep a diary and imagine you’re getting to know it on a deeper level, writing things such as “my body feels tired” or “my body feels powerful and vibrant”.’ As you develop the ability to tune in to the subtle nuances of your body, you’ll learn to take better care of it, prevent illness, and know when to cut back on activities and when to push yourself.
Learn more about intuitive exercise, including how to listen to your body
What the athlete says: ‘Prioritise sleep’
‘Sleep is our body’s way of recovering from the day and rejuvenating our muscles,’ says elite athlete Helen Hall. ‘It is such an important aspect of training to ensure your body has time to adapt, and even more so in winter.’
Try this: ‘Sometimes you need help to get a restful night’s sleep, especially after a hard training session where the adrenaline is pumping,’ says Hall. ‘Bathe, meditate or inhale sleep-promoting essential oils [try lavender and camomile]. Adding adaptogens [such as cordyceps and reishi] can also help the body to recover and wind down faster to promote sleep.’
Learn all about sleep and exercise, including how sleep affects your endurance
What the psychologist says: ‘Value yourself’
Valuing yourself is a skill you can learn, believes Reading. ‘First, dial down the outside noise and get clear on what matters to you – your values and the qualities you want to bring to daily life,’ she suggests.
Try this: Think of a role that’s important to you and reflect on how you want to show up in that role, for example, being present, loving, available, supportive and patient in your relationship. ‘Place your hands on your heart and check in with yourself. What do you need to be able to bring these qualities to life?’ says Reading. ‘Ask yourself, what does your body need? What does your mind need? What does your heart need? Observe with tenderness and curiosity, not judgement or criticism,’ she adds. Then, take action to meet your needs.
What the ballet expert says: ‘Develop self-compassion’
‘Self-compassion allows you to see exercise as a skill, not a talent, and as an act of self-care, says Sarah Aspinall, founder of BreakingBallet.com and author of Move: How to Make Exercise Happen Your Way (Authors & co, £10.99). ‘If you practise self-compassion, you can forgive yourself for any mistakes and try again.’
Try this: Prioritise yourself, practise saying no and let go of any guilt that brings up. ‘If you feel selfish/guilty for prioritising your needs, try to reframe this. Rather than seeing your behaviour as “only me”, see it as “also me”,’ suggests Aspinall.
What the celebrity PT says: ‘Reach for your potential’
‘It’s easy to say, “I love my body”, but it’s only in what we do and what we sacrifice that we can show love in action,’ says celebrity PT Dan Roberts. ‘When we train because we love our body, we’re more likely to immerse ourselves in activities we love and enjoy. As I often say, “love is verb, not a noun”.’
Try this: ‘Care for and respect your body, but also help it reach its potential,’ says Roberts. ‘Living an athletic lifestyle – where you regularly push your body (and mind) to do more, to do better, to be better – is both natural and kind.’
Your self-love tool kit for Valentine’s Day
Joyful Botanical Mist
BUY IT NOW:
£15 / naturalherbremedies.com
This unisex spritz uplifts, gives confidence and enhances vitality and happiness, with essential oils of jasmine, ylang-ylang and lemon, plus selected Bach Flower Remedies.
Rise and Shine Wellness Journal
BUY IT NOW:
£26 / papier.com
All you need to document your self-love journey – including a wellness map, pages for intentions and feel-good goals, plus reflection and body & mind check-in pages.
Tea & Tonic Inviting Sleep Body Oil
BUY IT NOW:
£49 / teaandtonic.co.uk
Nourish mind and body with self-massage before bed, with a blend of omega fatty acids, vitamins C and E, plus adaptogenic herbs to aid relaxation and encourage more rejuvenating sleep.
Words: Eve Boggenpoel