For all its pretty roses and delicious confections, Valentine’s Day can often feel like a bit of a letdown, regardless of your relationship status. Maybe your S.O. forgot to get you flowers. Maybe your Galentines bailed on cocktails. Maybe your tummy aches from too many chocolate hearts. But there’s one romantic gesture that always leaves you feeling elated, and that’s showing yourself some love. All the energy and affection that you give to those you care about, it’s important to put back into yourself, too. Research indicates that being kind to yourself can improve your mental health and help you be more productive—something a lot of us are struggling with two years into remote working when the Zoom fatigue and waning motivation are real.
There’s no one mantra or exercise that ignites self-love—it’s about banishing negative self-talk, speaking to yourself with compassion, and engaging in positive behaviors that uplift and energize you in a healthy way. Here are a few science-backed benefits that practicing self-love can bring to your life.
1. You may become more productive
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again, right? That’s not so easy to do when you beat yourself up over a setback. Data from Stanford University reveals that criticizing ourselves when we experience failure raises our stress hormones to the point where it stalls us from moving forward. But when we forgive ourselves and view setbacks as a part of life, research shows it’s easier for us to curb unproductive behaviors and feel motivated to take on new challenges.
When you have a failure, write down what you’d say to a friend experiencing your same setback, then repeat these words of support to yourself. When self-critical talk pops into your head, write it down, then ask yourself if you’d ever say those things to your friend.
2. You could procrastinate less
Nearly everyone procrastinates to some degree, which is why there are countless books, apps, and articles on how to break the habit. Most procrastination-fighting techniques center around actions, but research suggests that self-compassion helps, too. One study found a link between negative self-judgment and an increase in the type of stress that leads to procrastination. People who were kind to themselves and more understanding of their own mistakes had less of this type of stress, suggesting that self-compassion may help us avoid the emotions that often cause us to procrastinate.
3. You might exercise more
Skipping a workout or not meeting a fitness goal doesn’t mean you’re lazy—it means you’re human. Cutting yourself some slack in these moments rather than taking the drill sergeant attitude can actually help you workout more. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that practicing self-compassion after an exercise setback can help you identify how to avoid that issue again in the future, setting you up for more consistent exercise.
4. You’ll feel happier overall
We often think that being tough on ourselves keeps us in check and pushes us to do better and work harder. But research shows that it's the opposite if we fall into a pattern of frequent self-criticism and negativity, which makes us less motivated. The simple act of acknowledging that everyone has feelings of inadequacy or telling yourself that you’re going to be kind to yourself during a setback moment can help improve your motivation. Overall, self-compassion leads to lower stress, less depression and anxiety, and more happiness with your life—and what's not to love about all of that?