Valentine’s Day, a magical day filled with flower bouquets, cuddly toys, and heart-shaped boxes, all ready to be sent to that special someone. Since its first believed appearance in the year 496 at a Roman Festival, the has concept portrayed the idealism of ‘love’, as loving another person. However, the concept of ‘self-love’ is seemingly neglected in a time when there is so much love around.
- Show yourself the same love and compassion that you would give to someone you loved
- There are multiple practices that you can use to enhance your wellbeing
- Make time to look inwards this Valentine’s day
Many of us tend to find loving and caring for others easy yet showing ourselves the same love and compassion can be much more difficult. Our self-concept (the way we view ourselves) is central to our self-esteem, motivation, and overall wellbeing (Fields et al, 2019; Sharot & Garrett, 2016). So, how can we incorporate a little kindness towards ourselves in our day-to-day lives?
The power of keeping a journal
Keeping a journal, or the common practice of journaling can be described as a daily process of keeping a record of your thoughts & feelings. Effective journaling is thought to be a form of self-therapy that can help you to enhance your sense of wellbeing, reduce the effects of mental illness and boost your mood. It has been suggested that processing emotions by journaling could be used as an intervention to support the mental health and performance readiness of athletes, or even to support the immune system in wound healing. (Davis et al, 2020).
So how does journaling work?
Journaling involves the consistent application of the left ‘rational’ side (hemisphere) of the brain, giving the unoccupied right hemisphere the freedom to be creative! Research suggests that allowing the imaginative side of your brain to be free and expand can make a positive impact on your day-to-day wellbeing (Ackerman, 2021). It is also hypothesised that journaling enhances our mental health by helping us to process difficult events and compose a coherent narrative about our experiences. Journaling is considered beneficial to everyone, however, it is understood that people with higher levels of psychological distress may be more responsive to the benefits of journaling, even after just two 15 minute sessions (Chan & Horneffer, 2006).
Often times throughout the day, you may feel an ‘inner critic’ creeping in which is completely normal, yet also harmful to the way in which we view ourselves and our overall self-esteem. Meditation can be a powerful remedy for this, as it grounds your inner thoughts keeping your emotions balanced.
“Meditating on self-love allows me to reconnect with my heart to remember that I am worthy of love, especially my own.” – Samantha Feller, Meditative Yoga Specialist.
Cultivating one’s self-view through meditation can be a great benefit to one’s health. Research conducted by Quianguo Xiao et al. (2019), found that their empirical evidence demonstrated it can be, “an important intermediary between mindfulness intervention and mental health problems, and in promoting wellbeing.” They predict that those who engage in long-term practice of mindful meditation will be more likely to experience a higher level of self-development.
Affirmations are positive statements used to challenge and overcome negative or unhelpful thoughts. Cohen & Sherman in 2014, found that self-affirmations can positively increase wellbeing and decrease stress. In recent years, the idea of using affirmations in daily life has rocketed within the wellness community. If you have never heard of ‘affirming yourself’ or ‘self-affirmations’ then you may be a little sceptical about the idea. However, there are some surprising positive impacts on health and mindset, backed up by anecdotal accounts and clinical research.
When exploring neural brain system activation following self-affirmation, it was found that participants who successfully affirmed showed increased activity in key regions of the brain’s self-processing and reward/valuation systems (compared with participants who did not affirm), conceivably due to a focus on their own positive value or their personal success and self-worth.
There are many approaches to self-affirmations, one of the most prominent approaches is writing about a highly ranked personal value to you. Here are some general examples;
- I trust myself to make the right decisions
- I am capable and can do this
- I am valuable to those around me
Show Yourself Some Love
Although self-love is not a common theme on Valentine’s day, it definitely should be considered and talked about more. Love does not just have to be given to others, and practicing these methods can be really beneficial to your wellbeing in times of hardship. Remember, no matter your status whether it be a relationship, economic or social – you always have time to look inwards and remember that you deserve to be loved.
You can find journaling and meditation activities in the sydTM app, along with more fantastic self-affirmation recommendations, see you there!
Ackerman, Courtney E. “83 Benefits of Journaling for Depression, Anxiety, and Stress.” (2021). https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-journaling/.
BBC. “What is Valentine’s Day and how did it start?” (2020). https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/16945378#:~:text=The%20first%20Valentine’s%20Day%20was,the%20start%20of%20their%20springtime.
Cascio, C. N., O’Donnell, M. B., Tinney, F. J., Lieberman, M. D., Taylor, S. E., Strecher, V. J., and Falk, E. B. “Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation.” Social cognitive and affective neuroscience. 11.4 (2016): 621–629. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsv136.
Chan, K M., Horneffer, K. ”Emotional Expression and Psychological Symptoms: A Comparison of Writing and Drawing.” The Arts in Psychotherapy. 33.1 (2006): 26-36. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2005.06.001.
Davis P A., Gustafsson H., Callow N., Woodman T. “Written Emotional Disclosure Can Promote Athletes’ Mental Health and Performance Readiness During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Front Psychol. 27.11 (2020). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.599925.
Feller, Samantha. “A Guided Meditation for Self-Love.” Yoga International. https://yogainternational.com/profile/feller.samanthayahoo.com.
Fields, Eric C., Weber, Kirsten, Stillerman, Benjamin, Delaney-Busch, Kuperberg, Gina R. “Functional MRI reveals evidence of a self-positivity bias in the medial prefrontal cortex during the comprehension of social vignettes.” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. 14.6 (2019): 613–621. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsz035.
Jovana, Vajagic. “A New Perspective on Valentine’s Day: Self Love.” Commentary & Creativity. http://fourteeneastmag.com/index.php/2019/02/15/a-new-perspective-on-valentines-day-self-love/.
Xiao, Q., Yue, C., He, W., & Yu, J. Y. “The Mindful Self: A Mindfulness-Enlightened Self-view.” Frontiers in psychology. 8 (2017): 1752. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01752.