6 Ways To Practice Self-Love – Forbes Health – Forbes

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Throughout life, we juggle multiple relationships, often with family, friends, co-workers and romantic partners. One relationship we may neglect, however, is the one with ourselves.
Self-love can be defined as an appreciation of one’s own worth or virtue. That includes accepting yourself as you are, prioritizing your needs, setting healthy boundaries and forgiving yourself when needed. Treating yourself with kindness and respect means taking time to take care of your overall well-being.
Honoring yourself is the first step in a lifelong journey to nurturing personal growth and learning to manage adversity. Self-love can be a challenge, but by prioritizing the practice, you’ll start seeing results—including a number of health benefits. Read on for expert-backed advice on how you can start cultivating self-love in your life.
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Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself, according to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. While it can look different to each person, it encompasses being kind to yourself—so forgiving yourself, refraining from self-judgment, trusting yourself and understanding and valuing your worth are some ways we can demonstrate self-love. This can also include setting healthy boundaries and prioritizing your own needs, while also not settling for less than you deserve.
As a result, self-love can boost your well-being, both mentally and physically.
Self-love teaches you the importance of putting yourself first, explains Elizabeth Jarquin, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist and life/wellness coach in Miami. Everyone has a finite amount of energy, and dealing with negativity or emotionally-draining relationships can deplete it. When you treat yourself better, you’re more likely to engage in activities that make you happy, rather than exhausting energy on relationships and situations that do not elicit joy. This can mean building the confidence to set boundaries in relationships and learning how to say no to things that don’t honor your needs or bring you joy.
Dr. Jarquin says that accepting yourself and managing your well-being is associated with decreased symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. She says that self-love leads to better:
Not only does self-love improve your relationship with yourself, but also with others. “When we engage in these practices, we feel better overall and how we interact with others is a more positive experience,” says Dr. Jarquin.
Indeed, research suggests taking care of yourself makes you more empathetic to other people. Dr. Jarquin adds that empathy comes from showing compassion and patience, but it’s hard to do so when you have little empathy for yourself. When you treat yourself with kindness, the practice extends to how you treat others.
When you practice self-love, Dr. Jarquin says you become less emotionally reactive. Many self-love practices teach you how to calm down instead of immediately reacting to an upsetting stressor. “You can take the time to stop and think about what’s going on, and how you’re going to respond versus just reacting,” she explains. People who practice self-love also show increased resilience when things don’t go their way. “When you feel terrible or angry, practicing self-love on a day-to-day basis will help you to respond in a different way and bounce back quicker,” she says.
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Self-love means prioritizing yourself and your needs—and that includes your body’s need to move and stretch. Carving out time for the gym or taking a stroll in the park improves your thinking, learning and ability to make rational decisions, and can reduce short-term feelings of anxiety. In the long-term, regular exercise leads to improved brain health, weight management and reduces your risk for certain cancers and other diseases.
Sheva Assar, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in Orange County, California, says that self-love extends to the food you eat. She says taking care of yourself includes what you put inside your body, as it can affect how you feel and react to unpleasant situations. And when you practice self-love, you learn not to beat yourself up for every calorie you take in, and also allow yourself to enjoy your favorite foods.
Practicing self-love doesn’t have to mean expensive activities, like booking a weekend at a resort. The focus is paying attention and caring for your needs, and could be as simple as a five-minute break to disconnect, says Dr. Jarquin.
A big part of self-love is staying present. It’s easy to get swept up in planning for the future or thinking about what you could have done differently in your life. Dr. Assar explains that dwelling over things out of your control can raise feelings of hopelessness, stress and anxiety. Maintaining a gratitude journal can keep you grounded by reminding yourself of what you have to feel thankful for right now. Research suggests remembering what you’re thankful for can promote healthy eating and is linked to self-esteem and increases overall happiness.
A daily dose of gratitude can improve your mood, and is a great way to start your morning. You can download an app on gratitude, keep a small list on your phone or write ‌what you’re thankful for in a notebook.
A small but effective way to make yourself feel good and ultimately boost self-confidence is giving yourself a compliment. “By complimenting ourselves regularly, it starts to shift the relationship we have with ourselves as well as our mindset,” explains Dr. Jarquin. “We are essentially training ourselves to focus on the positives, which create more positive feelings.”
Even if you don’t feel like there is anything to compliment yourself about, something small—like keeping up with your self-love habits—is worth praise. “We need to let go of the notion that we have to be perfect. Practicing self-love is learning to extend compassion and kindness to ourselves,” says Dr. Assar.
If you feel uncomfortable talking to yourself, Dr. Jarquin recommends setting a time of day to compliment yourself, such as in the morning or at night before bed. She says you can write it down in a journal or put a Post-It note on the bathroom mirror before going to bed. You can even set a reminder on your phone that you are doing great. Positive affirmations such as “I can do this” or “I am worthy” can also be a way to demonstrate self-love.
Negative self-talk is something we all engage in. However, if you constantly beat yourself up for your shortcomings, Dr. Jarquin says it can make you feel helpless, worthless and less motivated to put yourself out there. Nobody’s perfect. Try imagining your friend making the same mistake or failure, and think about what you would say to them.
“A big part of self-love is finding that little voice inside of our head. And by noticing how we talk to ourselves, we can show ourselves compassion when an interaction or assignment doesn’t go as planned,” says Dr. Jarquin.
Dr. Assar also advises checking in with what you internally say or think to yourself throughout the day. Engaging in positive self-talk helps you move towards acceptance—and eventually loving yourself.
Being mindful is a strategy to boost self-love, as it can help you identify what you feel, think and want. Mindfulness encompasses being fully present, non-judgmental, and aware of what is going on around us.
There are popular meditation apps that can teach you how to practice deep breathing and other mindfulness techniques. “Meditation and mindfulness can be great ways to help connect more with our present experiences, and increase our awareness of what’s happening internally,” says Dr. Assar.

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Dr. Jarquin advises people to celebrate the wins, no matter how small. People can set harsh expectations for themselves or get caught up with what society demands of us, explains Dr. Jarquin, adding that, “we work really hard to meet those standards and we beat ourselves up when we don’t.”
Having lofty dreams isn’t bad, but Dr. Jarquin advises setting realistic expectations aligned with our needs, wants and values. We’re more likely to complete these tasks, feel more accomplished and motivated to complete the next task—which contributes to feelings of self-love. The minor accomplishments add up and create momentum for reaching the end goal.
“Stop comparing yourself to others who’ve already graduated or have this type of job,” says Dr. Jarquin. “Focus on yourself and live intentionally and authentically.”
A core component of self-love is refraining from self-judgment and comparing yourself to others—an easy trap to fall into if you’re constantly scrolling through social media. Research has found that many people make social comparisons based on what they see on social media, and that there is a strong relationship between social media usage and self-esteem.
Limiting time on social media may alleviate feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression and fear of missing out. One 2018 study in particular suggests limiting social media use to less than 30 minutes a day to improve your well-being[1].
Self-love doesn’t sprout overnight. It’s a lifelong practice, and some days will be better than others. “Self-love is not trying to make every day all rainbows and sunshine, but learning to create better experiences,” says Dr. Jarquin.
Dr. Assar adds your self-love needs might change each day—one day you’ll prioritize moving around, and the next you’ll focus on setting work-life boundaries.
If you haven’t grown up learning to self-love, practicing it might seem unnatural at first. Both experts agree therapy is a great place to start. A mental health professional can work with you on increasing awareness of your body’s needs and making positive lifestyle changes.
The people in your life that you trust and feel comfortable with can help you on your self-love journey.

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Jocelyn Solis-Moreira is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Health, Live Science, and Discover Magazine, among other publications. She holds a master’s degree in psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a bachelor’s degree in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. She has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in mental health and women’s health.
Dr. Stacey Diane Arañez Litam (she, her, siya) is a licensed professional clinical counselor and supervisor, a national certified counselor, a certified clinical mental health counselor, as well as a board-certified diplomate and sexologist. Dr. Litam is a nationally recognized and multiple award-winning researcher, speaker, educator, clinical counselor and social justice advocate on topics related to mental health and sexual wellbeing, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), as well as multicultural concerns. She is an immigrant and identifies as a Chinese and Filipina American woman. Dr. Litam is a highly sought after speaker for organizations and businesses on multicultural topics and she regularly serves as a content expert on various platforms including National Public Radio, podcasts, news outlets, as well as in legislative arenas. With a total of 11 research articles archived in the World Health Organization’s global literature database on COVID-19, she is one of the foremost leading researchers on the pandemic’s impact on the mental health of BIPOC communities, COVID-19’s influence on sex and relationships, as well as the roles of stress, burnout, and moral injury in the workplace. Her clinical work, research expertise and advocacy for supporting BIPOC communities, LGBTQ+ folx, as well as human sex trafficking survivors have garnered national praise and notoriety. She is an actively involved member of each of her intersecting communities and she is passionate about ensuring that culturally responsive content is accessible for all organizations in need.


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