How to practice self-love, and its neuroscientific benefits

Even amongst the most open-minded of us, the term ‘self-love’ may raise some eyebrows and arouse skepticism, but embracing the concept and understanding its positive neurological and psychological impacts can be immensely beneficial.

Self-love is central to general health, not just mental health. It’s more than optimistic affirmations and momentary meditation. When incorporated into daily life, self-love can help us and those around us feel happier about ourselves and the world we share.

It’s the latticework that holds together all other emotions, and, by extension, all our actions; it’s about the general feeling of: “I’m okay.”

Self-love is intertwined with the parasympathetic part of our autonomic nervous system, which is predominantly responsible for our ‘rest and digest’ functions — neurological phenomena that are the antithesis of ‘fight or flight’ responses, like an eased heart rate or relaxed muscles.

It’s also an awareness of one’s wellness: “I’m here, I have certain tools, and at the end of the day, I have the capacity to not just survive, but to thrive and grow.”

The growth component is especially important, because it gives us hope. And hope helps us adapt, in spite of life’s challenges and traumas.

And so, through self-love, we find balance: an appreciation for the past, a peacefulness in the present, and anticipation for the future.

To close, here are five ways you can practice self-love:

Self-compassion, not self-criticism

Treat your mistakes as opportune beginnings, not conclusive failures

Celebrate little wins

Pause to reflect on smaller everyday successes — journalling can help with this

Try doing things alone

Spend quality time with yourself: practice a hobby, go for a solo walk, see a movie

Set healthy boundaries

Learn to say “no” and prioritize your needs: life will feel much less overwhelming

Remember your aspirations

Do all of the above with your own dreams in mind, and the path to achieving your personal goals will become clearer — it’s never too late