I don’t know about you but do ever feel like you want to hit the stop button, just for a few minutes to take a breath and catch up with life? I woke up this morning to an immediate sense of urgency, I had a packed day ahead & at 6am my head was already full of todays to do’s. I hurried from the shower to the wardrobe, from the busy heaving bus to the over-spilling tube. I flicked through emails, Instagram alerts, updates, FB messages & WhatsApp threads. My work, social and private life was all available at the touch of a button; creating an uncomfortable imbalance of closeness & connection vs. being oversaturated & overwhelmed. Technology has put the world at our finger tips but being ‘plugged in’ has gone hand in hand with a desperate cry to disconnect, to un-wind & to recharge.

The wellness industry has boomed at the same rate technology has advanced, we need Eastern Philosophy to Balance our Western Lifestyles and its essential that we take control rather than allow our busy modern lives to control us. Yoga retreats, 10 days silent vipassana meditations and digital detoxes all have their place but what sustainable changes can we make to our daily lives to introduce more self-love & improve our self-care?

The definition of self-love is ‘regard for one’s own well-being and happiness’, it’s not about feeding our egos or boosting our Instagram followers. It’s about honoring yourself by making space for more moments of joy and the time to appreciate the magic in every day. When I look at my schedule for the day I smile when I see my 6pm; “SL Private Appt.” which is a rather fancy title for my weekly 1:1 with me! Scheduling in you time can be incredibly empowering and this precious time each week has become essential to my wellbeing. Each appointment is colour coded in yellow (the brightest and hardest colour to ignore!) & even though it can be moved around the main rule is that it can’t be moved out to the next week. It is non-negotiable, which is how we need to start seeing the relationship we have with ourselves.

A few years ago, I got to absolute breaking point and was signed off work with Malignant Hypertension. That was my wakeup call and since it happened I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting, studying & researching what ‘healthy’ means and I don’t mean in a simply physical sense. We have to start seeing our well-being as holistic; Body, Mind & Spirit. We are so incredibly connected these days that it can feel impossible to keep up with the pace of modern life – but at what cost? When we stop making time for our own happiness it becomes a domino effect, how can you fill up someone else’s cup when yours is only half full? I often look back now and thank my body for sounding that alarm & for not manifesting the stress I was putting on myself to grow into something worse.

I’ve found that an effective way of achieving a more balanced routine is by keeping a colour coded diary. This really helped to breakdown my schedule into the different sections of life and let’s face it, in London we are all guilty of being too busy. If I look at my week ahead and it’s all blue I know I need to organise some purple time with friends or family. Equally if I’ve been out a few nights on the trot I probably need to book in some yoga classes and see a bit more green in my week, but yellow is now a permanent fixture – no excuses. As a starting point, I began colour coding every day and breaking it down into the 4 sections below;

  1. Social: Purple
    This can be anything to do with friends, family and sociable commitments.
  1. Health: Green
    Start by breaking this down into things you do for your health and wellbeing like the gym, walks, regular check-ups and appointments, dancing or any clubs or classes you go to.
  1. Work: Blue
    This could be for work or anything work related including any after-hours work commitments, travel or meetings.
  1. Self-Love: Yellow
    This is different to health – this is time for you and your individual needs. Start by sitting down and writing a list of ways you can be more self-loving to yourself, what do you wish you did more or less of? What sets your soul on fire when you think about it, when did you last read a book on a new subject or sit quietly day dreaming about the future? Start setting regular dedicated non-negotiable time for you, schedule this time in weekly & remember it can’t be shifted to the following week. If you can’t find 1 hour for some you time, something else needs to give.

Here are some other simple practices to help introduce more self-love into your daily routine. On average, it takes around two months before a new behavior becomes automatic (66 days to be exact) so why not try 3 (or more!) of the below for 8 weeks and see how you feel…

  1. Set daily intentions; before you get out of bed or when you are in the shower set a minute aside to find a daily intention for how you can practice more self-love. This could be as simple as saying a kind word to yourself in the mirror before you leave the house, taking a walk on your lunch break or even taking your lunch break away from your desk or computer!
  2. On a Sunday night or Monday morning choose a positive word for your week, maybe this is something you want to invite more of into your life such as Kindness, Gratitude, Love, Patience & at moments of stress remind yourself of this word and take a moment to think about how you can bring this word into the situation. Can you act with more love, approach the situation with more patience or practice more kindness towards yourself & others in that moment?
  3. Mindfulness is exactly that – learning to take more notice of our own thoughts and become more mindful of how we respond. Start to notice when you are thinking negative thoughts about yourself and see if you can interrupt these thoughts with something positive.
  4. If you are reading this thinking my week is normally predominantly blue or purple why not take up a new hobby or class to try something new. Remember that self-love means paying more attention to your own well-being or happiness. What is missing from your life, what do you need to make more space for? Start actively taking steps towards making this part of your routine.
  5. Take yourself on a digital free date. When was the last time you spent any time alone, in public without your phone? Because it’s not really alone time is it if you still have the whole world at your fingertips.
  6. Learn to say no. Start prioritising your health over work, over your social life and over anything else that compromises your wellbeing. The word ‘No’ is powerful and it doesn’t have to be negative, learning to say no more can be incredibly empowering.

What I have learnt from teaching yoga, practicing mindfulness and studying mental health is the incredible importance of practicing self-love and no matter how busy your work, social or family commitments are, not to compromise on how you treat yourself, it is after all a mirror to how we treat others. We need to start prioritising our own self-care above other demands so I invite you to do exactly that – book yourself into a yoga class, take up meditation, or simply run a bath! But do something for yourself today.

Written by Liz Joy Oakley
Liz is a London based Yoga & Meditation teacher & facilitates workshops and events based around health & wellbeing.