February’s a fun month. We’re reminded about groundhogs and presidents and, of course, love—especially romantic love, for better or worse. You might be happily partnered or happily single or neither of those things, but in the end, the love that matters the most is the love we have for ourselves.
“Self-love is a practice—daily and, at times, moment by moment. It’s an opportunity to check in with your own heart and your inner child to see what is needed to feel safe, to feel valued and cherished,” says Natalie Riggs, an equine guided educator and yoga therapist based in Malibu, Calif., who runs workshops for people to return to their innate wisdom and peace. She says that Valentine’s Day and other holidays can often be triggering for many of us—and that even day-to-day hurdles can get in the way of truly loving our own selves.“‘Compare and despair’ can wreak havoc on one’s ability to practice self-love,” Riggs says. “Looking to others as a way of comparing where you are in life or where you want to be only serves to take you away from your own knowing, your very own internal GPS system that guides you toward your most authentic self.”
If you’ve been neglecting your soul’s needs for a while, it can be difficult to nail self-love perfectly right out of the gate, Riggs says. The best way to start a practice is with these simple steps every day:
1. Breathe: Each day, as you wake, place one hand on your heart, one hand on your belly. Take a deep inhale and a deep exhale. Repeat until you feel calm and awake.
2. Ask: Ask your inner child how you can tend his/her/their heart today (you can also frame it as tapping into your true, deepest self). Become curious and engaged with this version of you who likely needs your attention and will undoubtedly have requests as you explore that relationship. You might be delighted to hear, “I need more playtime,” or “I want to rest and be quiet.” Riggs says it’s important to lovingly respond to these requests as they arise. That might mean taking a day off from work to be in nature, getting a massage or taking a nap in lieu of staring at a screen.
3. Make choices: After doing the first two steps, you’ll make way for perspective to come through more clearly. This means that you have more tools to make choices. So, for example, if you normally hold fearful thoughts about the future and worst-case scenarios, perhaps for a day you can choose loving thoughts about what you are grateful for and what you desire to create.
“There are so many ways to practice self-love, but it begins with the curiosity toward yourself and your inner psyche,” Riggs says.