The whole month of February seems to revolve around Valentine’s day, doesn’t it? It’s easy to get caught up in relational love. Love is spoiling your partner, meeting up with friends for “Galentine’s Day,” or finally working up the courage to ask that cutie at your local coffee shop out on a date.

But I believe that all real love is truly grown from deep self-love–meaning you can’t truly connect with someone, be it a lover or a friend, until you have connected with who you truly are.

Now, “self-love” has become kind of a buzzword nowadays. It comes along with the territory of spa-days and indulging on decadent foods–which is great, don’t get me wrong… self-love shouldn’t be a special occasion thing. Self-love has to be a way of life.

True self-love comes back to self-acceptance and appreciating what you’ve lived through to become who you are today.

My self-love journey has been peppered with different experiences, both superficial and intensely spiritual. There are so many ways to go about this journey it can be kind of confusing. But I have figured out what works for me, so I’m excited to share these three main herbal and energetic self-love practices with you!

Just remember that everything comes down to your preferences and your intentions.

Science of Self-Love

Dr. Kristin Neff, who is also a professor at the University of Texas, wrote a book called Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. Within the pages, she breaks down self-love into action items rather than ideas. The basic premise of the entire manuscript is that showing yourself the same kindness as you would others is the most practical form of anxiety treatment available.

Anxiety, not to be confused with general nervousness, is a mental health condition that plagues over 40 million Americans (according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.) Some of its symptoms are: Mood swings, Inability to concentrate, and Nausea. Not only does anxiety make life difficult on a day to day basis, there are some really serious long term health problems that come along with it. Anxiety can lead to physical issues in the body like irritable bowel syndrome, heart palpitations, and respiratory distress–as well as skin flare-ups due to hormonal fluctuations, reproductive difficulty, and immune dysfunction.

So as you can see, it’s not just a matter of feeling worried constantly. The state of your self-love directly affects your mental health–which directly affects the health of your body.

Once you can cut yourself a little slack, you can accept that you are a person worthy of love–because you’re quirky and flawed, not in spite of those imperfections. Instead of beating yourself up every time you do something wrong, you can give yourself some grace and empower yourself to make healthy changes in your life.

Putting It Into Practice

A lot of us cognitively know that it’s not okay to constantly be anxious or stressed. When we are in fight or flight mode for extended amounts of time, our bodies start to perceive that as the new normal–when in reality, we should only be in that keyed-up state when we’re in literal danger.

So how can we go about calming ourselves down?

What can we do in our everyday lives to practice radical self-love in a way that is empowering, not just restful?

I typically break it up into three categories:

  • Herbal practices
  • Energy practices
  • Mindfulness practices

As you play around with these practices, it’s important to stay curious while also listening to your body and spirit. No one person is like the other–so these examples are just ways to spark your interest and get yourself into the habit of prioritizing yourself.

In a world that places your worth solely on the things that you do, it can be hard to rewire our thought patterns. But that’s why I’ve called these “practices” rather than “rules” or “treatment plans.”

Herbal Practices

When it comes to herbal self-love practices, it doesn’t really get better than an adaptogen.

Adaptogens are herbs that help you deal with long-term stress by regulating your HPA (hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal) axis. Think of this group of important glands as your body’s hub for dealing with stress.

So let’s say you slept really poorly due to a nightmare. That fear likely triggered your HPA axis to release stress hormones that heighten your body’s awareness to a stimulus that wasn’t really there. That keyed up bodily response leads you to feel exhausted upon waking, so you try to trick your body into thinking it’s awake by drinking a bunch of coffee. Now your body is twice as keyed up because caffeine increases stress hormone secretion.

I think we can all agree that this situation is no bueno because you’re just adding more stress to your body with the coffee.

But let’s say you had decided to go with an adaptogenic tea instead…the adaptogen would boost your energy, promote blood flow around your body while decreasing those stress hormone levels.

You may not get that jolt of energy you’re craving, but your body will be better equipped to handle the rest of your day and you every time you choose your adaptogen over coffee–your body gets closer and closer to a state of balance.

Some great examples of adaptogens are: Holy basil, Licorice, and Schizandra berry (and these three taste pretty great together, if I may say so myself.)

Energy Practices

Whether or not you believe in the metaphysical healing abilities of crystals, I find that having little reminders that you are supported is helpful anyway.

The biggest crystal that helps me with self-love and self-awareness is rose quartz.

Rose quartz is one of the more popular crystals–and for good reason. Its history as a symbol of love goes all the way back to ancient Greece where they believed that the god Cupid delivered true love in the form of this pink rock.

It is believed to encourage compassion by stimulating your heart chakra, which is the center of energetic emotion.

I find that (even if I’m not feeling it) wearing a piece of rose quartz jewelry is a powerful way to bring my intention and awareness throughout my day. If I say to myself, “I will be kind to myself today,” as I put on my rose quartz bracelet in the morning– every time I see it, I’m reminded to check-in and see that I am keeping my promise to myself.

Mindfulness Practice

Mind and body medicine is front and center in the wellness world right now as more and more science-based testing is proving ancient practices to be legitimately healing.

Researchers at Harvard have proven in clinical studies with groups of people that have a range of depression, anxiety, and chronic pain—that 20 minutes of meditation per day for 4 weeks lowers stress levels and boosts feelings of happiness and wholeness.

But what does this look like practically? Does anyone really have 20 whole minutes to sit around and do… nothing? I’ve tried to do the sit still and empty my mind thing, but often times my to-do list rings over and over. I’ve tried the guided meditations but sometimes that brings up really powerful emotions for me and I’m put out for the rest of the day.

The trick is finding what works for you! If stillness is effective for you, do it. If you need movement, try yoga! Anything that settles your mind and brings awareness to your body is a win.

My current favourite thing to do is have one song dance parties several times a day. Psychologists are now sharing their findings that suggest that dancing can activate your vagus nerve to tell your body that it’s time to chill by releasing the hormone acetylcholine, which counteracts stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Practical Self-Love

So I’ve given you three ideas for how to treat yourself to a little TLC on a daily basis. But what if we took it one step further and tied it all together for the sake of practicality.

You can meditate with your rose quartz while sipping on some tulsi tea! Three birds, one stone.

See? Self-care doesn’t have to be weekend-long getaways or bath bombs. All that really matters is that you get curious and find what makes you feel connected in your body and soul. Once you find that, you show yourself love and appreciation every time you do it.

Good luck! Listen to yourself.

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