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These 6 Simple Exercises Can Help You Cultivate More Compassion For Yourself

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For so many of us, it’s easy to show kindness, love, and compassion to others—and a totally different story when it comes being as lovely when we talk to ourselves. These 6 practices will change that.

These six exercises from psychologist Courtney E. Ackerman will help you cultivate and boost self-love, as well as find deeper compassion and appreciation for who you truly are.

One of the most important pieces of living a happy and healthy life is loving yourself. You’ve most likely heard the phrases, “If you can’t love yourself, how can you love anyone else?” and, “If you can’t love yourself, how can anyone else?”

Of course, the implied meaning of these phrases is not entirely accurate, but there is a kernel of truth: It’s hard to have a healthy relationship with anyone else when you don’t have a healthy relationship with yourself.

See also 10 Ways to Love Yourself (More) in the Modern World

6 Ways to Boost Self-Love

If you’ve struggled with showing yourself love, the following exercises will help you boost your self-love and extend understanding, compassion, and forgiveness to yourself. Keep an open mind and give these exercises a try—they just might have a profound effect on how you relate to yourself and to others.

1. Differentiate your inner critic from your authentic self

A key step toward enhancing your self-compassion and self-love is acknowledging your inner critic. This may sound counterintuitive, but it really is very important to be able to determine when your inner critic is speaking and when your optimistic and confident inner self is speaking.

Grab a journal or notebook and open it to a fresh page. Draw a small self-portrait in the center of the page. Don’t worry—it doesn’t matter if it’s good! Next, draw several thought bubbles sprouting out from your portrait. In these thought bubbles, write down your most frequent negative thoughts about yourself. This might be a little painful, but try to push through it. Once you’ve filled in all the bubbles, take a moment to recognize that all of these thoughts come from your inner critic. Label the portrait “My Inner Critic.”

Next, flip the page and do the exercise again, but with a focus on alternate ways to think about each bit of self-criticism. Label the portrait “My Authentic Self.”

Whenever your negative thoughts start crowding out the good ones, return to these two pages to remind yourself that you are not your negative thoughts and that they don’t need to define you.

See also 4 Ways to Take Down Your Inner Critic

2. Start a positive focus group

This may be the most difficult of these exercises, because it requires the commitment of several people; however, it is also one of the most impactful. A “positive focus group” is a group activity that involves each member taking turns as the subject of a discussion of their strengths and positive qualities. Here’s how you do it:

Enlist a group of friends and family members. If you have trouble getting people to agree to it, try reminding them that they will benefit from this exercise as well. Set aside an hour or so (depending on how big your group is) and gather in a comfortable and private space, such as someone’s living room. Choose someone to take the first turn, then engage in a discussion of everything you like about him or her: their strengths, their skills and talents, the qualities that make them a good friend or family member, and anything else you appreciate about them. Repeat until each group member has been the subject of the discussion.

If this sounds uncomfortable to you, then you’re probably one of those who stands to benefit the most from it! When you have low self-esteem and don’t show yourself enough love, it’s vital that you learn to recognize the good in yourself and believe in the positive things others say about you.

Create and write down self-love affirmations to create more compassion for yourself.

3. Create self-love affirmations

You may have already come up with some affirmations to boost your confidence, but you can also come up with some additional affirmations to enhance your self-love. Follow these guidelines to create effective self-love affirmations.

Write your affirmation in the present tense. Focus on accepting yourself for who you are, right here and now. Show yourself love in your current state.

Use a first-person perspective. Don’t write statements about yourself as if you were someone else; write them from your own point of view. Here are a few good examples of self-love affirmations:

I am a good person.

I am worthy of love and respect.

I accept and love myself exactly as I am.

Repeat your affirmations at least once a day. It can be helpful to set a time of day for your affirmations to make sure you always remember to do them. Many people repeat their affirmations in the morning to get a boost of self-love for the rest of their day. If at any point you feel yourself lagging in self-love during the day, go ahead and repeat them again. Don’t worry about overdoing it—you’re in no danger of developing too much self-love.

See also 4 Ways to Practice Compassion in a Pinch

4. Commit to the equality principle

If someone asked you whether you believe that all people are equal, what would you say? You’d probably say yes, right? But you’ve also probably had plenty of negative thoughts about yourself, like, “I’m not as good as her,” or “They’re so much better than I am,” or even, “I don’t deserve to have what she has.” Everyone has these thoughts at some point, but it’s unhealthy to think them too often.

To neutralize these negative thoughts and shift how you see yourself, try committing to the equality principle wholeheartedly. The equality principle is the principle that we are all equally human and deserving of dignity, love, and happiness—including you!

On days when you’re feeling particularly down, it might be tempting to make an exception for yourself—but remember that the equality principle has no exceptions. If everyone is deserving of love and happiness, you are deserving too.

If you’re having trouble embracing this principle and accepting that there are no exceptions, try this technique: picture a dear friend or beloved family member, and remind yourself that since there are no exceptions, you are just as deserving of good things as they are. It’s harder to keep up the negative thoughts when you have to apply them to someone you love!

See also 5 Ways to Infuse Your Self-Talk with Self-Love

Place your hands over your heart and rest them for a few deep breaths.

5. Give yourself a loving touch

We often show others we love them through touch. We give our friends and family members hugs, kiss them on the cheek, hold hands with our significant other, and give back rubs or neck massages when we’re feeling especially generous. This physical gesture of love can be extended to yourself too!

The next time you’re feeling upset, sad, or worried, soothe yourself with a loving touch. Try any of the following, or go with whatever works best for you:

• Place one or both hands over your heart and rest them there for a few deep breaths.

• Give yourself a hug by placing your hands on your shoulders.

• Use one hand to gently hold the other.

• Stroke one arm with your opposite hand for a few minutes.

• Place a hand on each cheek and gently cradle your face.

• Wrap your hands around your belly and give a gentle squeeze.

• Run your nails lightly down your neck and/or over your shoulders.

You may feel a little silly or self-conscious at first, but these are excellent ways to show yourself a little bit of love.

6. Repeat self-love mantras

To carry your sense of self-love with you all day, wherever you go, try coming up with a mantra—words, phrases, or short sentences that help keep you focused on the things that matter to you. They’re similar to affirmations, except affirmations are about boosting self-love through self-acceptance. Mantras generally come from a doing perspective—they are focused on what you’re capable of—while affirmations come from more of a being perspective.

When coming up with your mantra, follow these simple guidelines: Your mantra can be anything from one word to several sentences, but generally the shorter the better. Your mantra should remind you of something you’ve accomplished or something you are good at. It should also make you feel good about yourself. For example, if you’re proud of your success in beating a drug addiction or healing from a major injury, you might choose a mantra like, I have overcome obstacles before. I will overcome obstacles again—or even just Overcome.

Keep this mantra a secret tool for your use only, a special thing that you share only with yourself. Bring it out whenever you’re struggling with fear, anxiety, anger, restlessness, or any other difficult situation or emotion, and allow it to remind you of where you’ve come from, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.

See also 5 Ways To Practice Compassion—and Get Better at It

My Pocket Positivity by Courtney Ackerman.

Excerpted from My Pocket Positivity by Courtney Ackerman Copyright © 2018 Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Courtney E. Ackerman is a researcher and author of 5-Minute Bliss and My Pocket Positivity. She has a master’s degree in positive organizational psychology and evaluation from Claremont Graduate University in California. When she’s not working, she’s usually spending time with her dogs, reading books, visiting a nearby winery, or playing video games with her husband.



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8 Times Presidents Sounded Like Yogis

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B.K.S Iyengar or J.F.K? Yogic wisdom can inspire a class – and a country.

Being a yogi requires patience, perseverance, and passion. So does running a country. This Presidents Day, reflect on these 8 quotes from past Presidents that encourage people to challenge themselves.

See also How to Lead in Challenging Times

 



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9 Healthiest (and Trendiest) Places Every NYC Yogi Loves

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Don’t miss one (or more!) of these healthy hot spots the next time you’re in the big apple.

Planning a visit to the big apple and want to know where to practice, eat, and play? This New York City travel guide for yogis has everything from non-toxic manicures to acupuncture.

Looking to make your next trip to New York City a health- and wellness-focused getaway? Good news: There is no shortage of yoga studios, vegan food options, non-toxic beauty spots, and more to check out in the big apple. If you’re planning a sometime soon, here’s a list of the trendiest spots every NYC-based yogi loves.

See also 8 Most Romantic Yoga Retreats To Take Your Sweetie



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7 Simple Ways to Be Your Own Valentine Today—and Any Day

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When was the last time you treated yourself as well as you treat everyone else?

Flying solo this Valentine’s Day? Here are seven simple ways to show yourself some love, even if you don’t have a significant other in your life to celebrate the holiday.

I used to have a vision board in my living room with the words in huge letters emblazoned across the top: “All of me loves all of you.” This was a non-negotiable in calling in my forever partner. The problem was thatI did not yet love all of me, and as I learned through the years of many Mr. Wrongs, we only attract people who love us as much as we love our selves.

For a long time, I was searching for someone(thing) to complete me, when what I really needed was to learn how to be whole on my own. I am now married to the man of my dreams. (Scratch that, I could not have dreamt him up, because I did not yet know that I deserved to be loved as much as he loves me.) It took a lifetime of personal work and self-love practices to finally understand that a good partner does not complete us—they complement us.

You see, the real love story of our lives is the one we have with our selves.

See also 5 Poses to Inspire More Self-Love, Less Self Smack-Talk

So, how do we remember this when every store and advertisement is blasting the messaging that Valentine’s Day is a holiday for couples? By letting this holiday be a celebration of love. Love of others and love for ourselves.

Some people have deemed V-day Singles Awareness Day, which is a great way to take the day back. It is also helpful to do a little digging into history of the holiday. As it turns out, while we have all heard of St. Valentine, for whom the holiday is named, there may have in fact been multiple St. Valentines, and each has a different day of celebration. Translation: While society chooses to honor February 14th as Valentine’s Day, there are numerous other dates in the calendar that could count. What does this mean for us? The date is arbitrary. Everyday can, and should, be a day of love.

So, here’s an idea: How about this Valentine’s Day, you be your own valentine. Give yourself a hug. Hold your own hand. And if that sounds weird, you should be doing these things every single day. Self-love is not selfish or indulgent. When we love ourselves, we are more loving in the world. The kinder we are, the kinder those are around us can be.

Our yoga practice reminds us that we are already perfect exactly was we are and when we can embrace every aspect of our selves, others can, too. Here are some ideas for the perfect self-care day to celebrate self-love this Valentine’s Day, and every day.

See also 5 Poses to Help You Stand in Your Own Power

Positive affirmations are a powerful way to change your view of yourself.

Look yourself lovingly in the eyes. Mirror affirmations are positive statements spoken aloud while looking into one’s reflection. They are a powerful way to change your view of yourself. You receive messaging all day long, whether you are conscious of it or not. Every time a bus passes or an ad plays on TV or you scroll through your social media feeds, you are receiving information. Most of that information comes with the messaging that you are not enough. Hear/read/see this enough and you start to believe it. Positive affirmations rewire your brain. Studies are now showing that this work improves self-esteem and strengthens your ability to combat negative stimuli, such as stress or others’ negativity. My favorite statement comes from the Queen of positive quotes, Louise Hay: “I am worth loving. There is love all around me.”

Go to the water. Water is the element of emotions and feelings—and the strongest and most powerful feeling is love. On this day, it is therapeutic to use the element of water to immerse yourself in love. If you live near the sea or a lake, go to the shore. If you are near a river, find a place along the edge. If you have access to a pool, dive in. If you are unable to get to any of these bodies of water, take a long soak in a bath. Soaking in water is a way to cultivate union with the deeper parts of our selves and with the world around us. When we are sad, we cry. When we exercise hard, we sweat. When we laugh, we tear. Allow the water to wash love all over you.

See also Recognize Your Strength with this 10-Minute Guided Meditation

Take yourself to a yoga class. Yoga is a unique activity in that it can be practiced in a group, but it is also an individualized experience. When you are feeling lonely or in need of connection, going to class is a wonderful way to feel a part of something—even when you’re flying solo. Moving as a collective and being in something together automatically cultivates a feeling of unity. I travel the world alone a lot and generally do home practices. When I am in need of company or craving connection, I go to a public yoga class—even if I do not speak the native language. There is something about breathing and sweating as a collective that reminds us that we are all connected, no matter how alone we sometimes feel.

Get a massage. The benefits of massage are numerous, from reducing stress and anxiety to improving sleep, digestion, and immunity. Often the resistance to getting one is financial, but there is no need to go to a fancy spa to get a good massage. Sometimes a $10 foot massage at your local nail salon can be just as impactful. Treating yourself to something nice also sends a deeper message of being cared for to your unconscious. You are your own caretaker. Just as acts of kindness from strangers can change your day, being kind to yourself can have an enormous impact as well.

Try simple ways of treating yourself on Valentine’s Day.

Buy yourself flowers. When I was 17 years old, my sister bought me my first plant. She said it was going to teach me how to take care of myself. Soon after she gave it to me, I accidentally knocked it out the window of my 3floor dorm room. How is that for symbolic? I felt terrible, but a desire was ignited in me to take better care of my things and myself. Unfortunately, I do not have the best green thumb. I tried having plants in my apartment, but they would always die. I even tried fake plants. After a very hard breakup years later, I wanted to do something nice for myself, so I started buying myself fresh flowers every week. Having living organisms in your home ushers in prana, or energy. You can feel the life force emanating around you.

See also 5 Simple Ways to Fall Back in Love with Your Yoga Practice

Take yourself to the movies. There is nothing I love more than going to the movies by myself. No arguing over what film to see. No one asking questions or chewing loudly next to you, making it hard to hear. And you get to eat allthe popcorn! While it takes courage at first to do things by yourself, it also teaches you how to be comfortable in your own skin. The more content you are on your own, the less likely you’ll be to seek validation from others. It is easy to be swayed by a group. To worry about other’s opinions and to lose sight of our true desires. Without other people around, you learn to hone your own our choices and opinions.

Order in and don’t forget the dessert. Cap your day off by ordering in from your favorite restaurant. Eating alone is a great opportunity to practice mindful eating. When you’re not distracted by company or devices, you can be much more present with the taste of your food. You’re more likely to eat more slowly and chew every morsel more thoroughly when you’re not speaking. It is also nice to journal when dining alone. The temptation will be to reach for your phone and distract yourself with social media or texting friends. Try not to do that. Instead, relish the time to connect more deeply to yourself. Ponder questions like, “What am I grateful for?” or “If I could do anything, what would I do?” Give yourself a compliment by answering the question, “What do I love most about myself?” Just don’t forget the dessert!

See also These Photos of Famous Yogis will Inspire You to Find Your Light



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