February is a month when people celebrate love. Valentine’s day chocolates and flowers are sent, and elaborate dinners are planned. For one day, people remember to be grateful for their loved ones and fete them. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a holiday, or even just a day, when people remember to appreciate and honor themselves?
So many people go through their lives on autopilot, their days filled with repetition and monotony. Spontaneity and creativity long since snuffed out by the needs of others and the weight of responsibility. Many of us living with chronic illness also feel the burden of guilt for not being able to do all we once could. So, we strive to do whatever we think the people in our lives expect of us, even when it’s unrealistic and at the expense of our mental and physical health.
Many equate happiness with hitting deadlines, being rich and successful, or being married with kids, a dog, and a white picket fence. These are ideals that we have been taught from a young age about what happiness should look like. Happiness has become measured in reaching goals that others have set for us. Self-worth has become influenced by how others value us.
Happiness is deeply tied to self-love. To be truly happy, we must first learn to value ourselves. Self-esteem is based on how we see ourselves. It’s having confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. Can you recognize and respect your strengths? Can you acknowledge and accept what you perceive as your weaknesses without letting them define you? Happiness is balancing the ‘good and the bad’ parts of ourselves and still liking who we are.
Happiness means accepting who you are right now. Not who you used to be, or want to be, or think you should be. Instead of rating your value on how you compare to others, focus on personal victories and what you’ve overcome. How others view us is just noise. It’s how we feel about ourselves that matters. Recognize the personal growth experience has taught you. Concentrate on the things that are in your power to change and let go of the rest. Self-judgment is self-destructive.
Self-respect is the key to happiness. If you don’t respect yourself how can you be expected to respect anyone else? Do you treat yourself with kindness and appreciation? Are you living your life with purpose, engaged in work or hobbies that are in alignment with your personal beliefs? Are you taking the time to meet your needs to not just survive but to thrive as a person?
Scientific evidence suggests that being happy may benefit your health. Having a deep sense of happiness and purpose can alter your genes, lowering levels of inflammatory gene expression, and strengthening antiviral and antibody responses.1 In addition, positive thoughts can make changes in your body that strengthen the immune system and decrease pain and chronic illness. 2
Wellbeing and happiness are positively influenced by the relationships we keep. When someone smiles at you, you can’t help but smile back. Happiness is contagious! Surround yourself with positive people who build you up and support you. A study from John Hopkins Medicine suggests that the hope that comes from positivity helps with better decision-making regarding health and lifestyle, resulting in improved health outcomes and life satisfaction. 3
I suggest we be grateful for the people in our lives and the experiences that have shaped us but to remember to also honor and place more value on our own thoughts and desires. To do what makes us feel joyful and complete. Know your own worth and don’t settle for less than happiness.
We can live in the past or fear the future but now is the only time that matters. I challenge you to take the necessary steps to practice self-love and achieve a better quality of life when you realize your true value. I propose we implement Self-love Sundays (or any designated day) to ensure we take the time at least once a week to check in with ourselves and see what we need to thrive.
Tips for practicing self-care:
- Eat a nutritious diet.
- Get enough sleep.
- Drink enough water.
- Move your body. Stretch, exercise.
- Get in tune with your body and your mind, relieving stress.
- Practice mindfulness. Observe your surroundings and embrace the moment.
- Develop a daily morning routine to prioritize your day and better manage your time.
- Journal. Discover who you are and what makes you tick.
- Let go of the past. Regret and resentment don’t serve you.
- Challenge negative thinking.
- Spend time on hobbies that bring you pleasure.
- Find your passion!
- Value yourself. You are strong, confident, and worthy.
- Do something new that makes you happy!
What does happiness look like to you?