Little changes in your behaviour over time can make big changes in how you feel about yourself. Happiness has much to do with how we feel about ourselves, and how much we love ourselves. Over the past few years, I have found certain practices to have the biggest positive impact on how I feel about myself. Practice these 10 little behaviours throughout 2023 and discover how much happier you feel this time next year.
Practice slow breathing
Practice belly breathing. Slow deep breaths that extend your belly, breathing deep, taking in oxygen right down below your bottom rib. I’ve always been a short shallow breather, never getting air much lower than my throat, the result of years of high anxiety and stress. Belly breathing is one of the things that has changed my life the most. Every time your head is overwhelmed with anxious thoughts, stop for a few minutes to practice a slow breathing exercise. Slow breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness, in both your body and mind.
While you breathe in, follow your in-breath from the beginning to the end.I try to picture the inside of my body while I am doing this. If your in-breath lasts three or four seconds, then your mindfulness also lasts three or four seconds. You can do this anytime, anywhere. Breathing and concentration will bring you into the present moment.
Practice dropping your shoulders
When my nephew came to live with us for a while, he’d come up behind me, place his hands on my shoulders and gently apply pressure to remind me to ease my shoulders. I had no idea that they were always almost under my ears. Breathe in, drop your shoulders and let the tension go. This new awareness is just the beginning of awareness of your whole body. As you become aware of your body, you begin to realise the wonder of life that is in you and all around you.
Practice releasing tension
When you start to truly develop an awareness of your body, you will notice the tension that you hold. Release it. It’s always possible to release tension, throughout the day, no matter what you are doing. You may be stopped at a red light, waiting in a queue, cooking dinner, doing the dishes – you could be anywhere. “Breathing in, I’m aware of my body. Breathing out, I release the tension in my body.”
Practice asking ‘What do I need right now?’
We spend most of our time taking care of other people. Make this the year when you start asking yourself regularly, ‘What do I need?’ What will soothe your soul? This isn’t about that never-ending to-do list. It’s about not operating on autopilot. Pause. Ask yourself, ‘What do I need right now?’
Practice getting comfortable with discomfort
Progress creates happiness. If you always stay in your comfort zone and avoid situations where you might fail or be uncomfortable, then there is no way for you to grow as an individual. Practice trying new things. Having the experience of doing new things builds confidence, which in turn helps to build resilience and your ability to deal with challenges in life.
Practice asking ‘How am I feeling?’
Understanding your emotions can help you talk about feelings more clearly, avoid or resolve conflicts better, and move past difficult feelings more easily. When you practice asking yourself how you are feeling, you get better at how to identify your emotions. When you can identify your emotions, it helps you to not be overwhelmed by them. It also makes it easier to reach out for support when you need it.
Practice mirror work
Now, this was a game-changer for me in 2022. Mirror work. Thanks to Louise Hay, I started to look in the mirror and tell myself that I loved myself. Try it. Say “ <insert name, I love you.” Look at yourself, right in the eyes. It might feel quite uncomfortable at first, but that means you get to practice getting comfortable with discomfort. You can then practice giving yourself a high five in the mirror every day too.
Practice being kind and compassionate towards yourself. Practice treating yourself as you would a best friend. Self-compassion requires us to mindfully accept the feelings we are experiencing, even the negative ones. We embrace all of ourselves, with love and connection, giving ourselves the support we need to heal and grow.
Practice gratitude effortlessness
Take notice of all of the good things around there, There is always something to be grateful for. Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, shows that keeping a gratitude journal—regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful—can significantly increase well‑being and life satisfaction. Practicing gratitude can develop your ability to experience positive emotions, which of course feels lovely.
With all of the other practices in mind, practice effortlessness. Allow yourself to become aware and enjoy the journey, with effortlessness. The more we learn that it’s not about the doing, but about the being, the more we heal and grow. That’s the best way to feel better about yourself this year.
Everyone’s healing journey is their own, but you don’t have to travel it alone. Join the Blossome community for support and encouragement to build healthy new habits, stay accountable and help you keep moving forward with your healing.