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In the fifth part of our 'achieving your goals' series, lifestyle coach Effie Parnell-Hopkinson explains how self-love and acceptance can help you reach your goals.
This series of blogs was designed to give you methods, techniques and ideas to help you reach your 2019 health and fitness goals. You can read the other articles in the series below:
I’m sure many of you thought I would sit here and tell you to stop eating so many cookies or reaching for the wine on a Friday night and whilst, yes, doing both of those things will make it a much longer and harder journey to achieving your goals, when it comes to optimal health the key is moderation and balance. What’s that? A nutritionist saying it’s okay to eat cookies and drink wine? Sign me up! Look, it all comes down to some simple principles and the main one when looking to lose weight and improve your health is calorie balance. As long as you are in a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than you are burning) you will lose weight. However, choosing calorie-dense foods (alcohol, junk and fast food) that offer little to no nutritional value over nutrient-dense foods (vegetables, fruits and lean protein sources) will mean your health will suffer, regardless as to whether you are in a calorie deficit or not.
When you combine this principle with the other topics that I have spoken about over this series you will see that it is not just about whether you eat well and exercise, there is so much more to it if you really want to succeed at this game long-term. The achievement of long-term health is the goal. Health is defined as the “complete state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (WHO). So, by definition, it’s not just about the actions that contribute to our physical well-being (exercising regularly and eating well), it is also our mental health and social well-being.
One certain aspect of mental health and social well-being that I want to talk about today is the concept and importance of self-love and accepting yourself. Self-love has recently become a common topic of discussion and rightly so! For too long our society has ignored the detrimental effects of low self-esteem along with the combination of social media and the increased tendency to compare our physical appearance, wealth and self-worth to others. If left unmanaged for long enough, low self-esteem can lead to destructive and unhealthy behaviour that can have long-term consequences.
Evidence suggests that young people with low self-esteem do not feel like they have many positive, worthy characteristics and may feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, sad, or angry about themselves. These beliefs may lead to them acting in self-defeating ways that confirm their poor opinion of themselves. However, children and young people with healthy self-esteem are far more likely to be happy, to make and keep positive friends and to see challenging situations as opportunities to try something new, even if they are not completely successful. They are also more likely to take care of themselves physically and emotionally and to persist in difficult and effortful pursuits such as completing their education or mastering an occupation.
Looking at the evidence above, it is quite apparent that self-esteem and how you think of yourself has the potential to either make or break you and you can see how important it is to cultivate self-love, practice acceptance and look at your life through a new perspective of exciting challenges and opportunities to grow. Remember, self-love is not about being vain, selfish or self-absorbed. It is about understanding and listening to your body; its’ wants and needs and having a healthy and positive attitude towards ourselves. So where do you start?
I have listed my top tips on how to practice self-love and ways to incorporate it into your routine straight away!
1. Focus on your self-narration
How would you describe the way you talk to yourself? Is it usually a positive conversation or one filled with destructive comments and self-doubt? Think about it, would you say those comments to your best friend? If not, don’t say it to yourself! But first, you must come to terms with your negative voice. Let those thoughts come, observe them, and let them pass by but never agree with them. Understand that they are constructed by insecurity and past experiences, but you will always have the power to break them down.
2. Thoughts become reality
Once you have stripped away the negative voices in your head and are able to neutrally examine yourself, focus on your positive qualities. List them down on a piece of paper, stick it up and compliment yourself regularly! These are also known as positive affirmations and can be extremely powerful in building your self-esteem and belief in your abilities to achieve your goals.
3. Create a self-care ritual
This doesn’t have to be a bath with candles and essential oils (but of course if this is your idea of bliss then go for it!) but finding time for yourself to do what relaxes you and brings you back down from the high-vibrations of everyday life is so important for your mental well-being. Find a spot in your house where you can take 5 minutes to just sit, close your eyes and relax, start drawing or painting again or go for a walk outside and connect with nature.
4. Set your bright lines
It’s okay to say no and in fact, a good phrase that I always make sure to come back to with everything I do in life is “if it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no”. It is really important that you write out a set of rules for yourself, not strict ‘school’ rules, just rules that you can live by and fall back on to ensure you always do what is best for you and move you closer to your goals. For example, saying yes to go out with your friends even though you will have a late night making it extremely unlikely you exercise on Sunday morning or get the laundry done for the following week is not a decision that has your health, happiness and goals as the priority. Making arrangements to go to lunch later in the week meaning you can get adequate rest, exercise and get on top of the housework on Sunday is sticking to your bright lines.
5. Treat your body like a temple
Because your body deserves it! Filling your body with nutritious food, exercising regularly and creating a calm mind through meditation are all ways to practice self-love. Once you start to incorporate all of the other tips above it will become a lot more obvious that a good diet and regular exercise are part of the journey of self-love and acceptance.
The links between self-love and acceptance and your overall health are undeniable and incorporating these practices into your life should be a top priority. Give these top tips a go, start with a couple and build them up from there.