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I'm in a brand new relationship and it is bringing me more happiness than I've experienced in a long time -- maybe ever. I think it's the most important relationship you can build and one that most people don't invest enough time into. I'm investing in a relationship with myself.
I've always had great relationships in my life -- with family, friends, co-workers -- but I realize now that I've never had a great relationship with myself. I think in many ways, not having this has held me back. It's hypocritical to expect other people to love you and invest in you when you don't love or invest in yourself. It's difficult to give to others when you don't give to yourself because you end up feeling resentful. It's not easy to experience true happiness and joy when you aren't happy with who and where you are.
All of these things began to change for me the moment I started to focus on my happiness from within. I'm working on myself, focusing on the things I need to change and learning to have the courage to change them. As with any relationship, you have to be willing to work on and invest time into it in order to make it stronger and better, and I've discovered a few ways that help me do just that.
1.) Make Time For You
Sometimes we get so lost in the hustle and bustle of work obligations, family life, volunteer work, and doing for others that we forget to make time for ourselves, or more likely, we feel like there never is time for ourselves. It's important to make time, though, even if it's only 10 minutes each day. You can start to carve out small increments of time and build onto it when you can. Use the 10 minutes to focus on yourself, whether that be time relaxing, dancing to music, meditating, or anything that brings you happiness within those minutes. If you have a little more time to dedicate, take yourself on a date. Go to dinner alone. See a movie by yourself. Take a walk around your neighborhood. It may seem scary at first, but it becomes empowering. You can focus on what you like and what you want to do. Have a glass of wine. Take in the scenery around you. Buy yourself some flowers. The world is a beautiful place if we slow down and take it all in.
2.) Focus On Your Health
This new relationship is all about you. And that means working to make it better every day. Doing things to treat yourself right, just like you would a significant other, is important. The more you work on making yourself healthy, the better you'll feel about yourself, and it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle. Make sure to get enough sleep at night. Try to eat better and cut out anything that is hurting your body or making you sick. Start incorporating excerise into your life or add to it if you already are. Even ten minutes every day will help your health and improve your mood.
3.) Learn or Do Something New
There are so many things that I want to learn or exciting things that I want to try to do. I have an ever-growing "bucket list" that only seems to grow. Nothing ever gets crossed off, so I'm working toward changing that. I have always wanted to learn to play the guitar, so I started taking lessons with my brother-in-law. My great grandparents were conversational in Italian and I've always wanted to learn, so I am purchasing a Rosetta Stone program. My sister and I are looking for a local kickboxing class because it's something we've been talking about trying for months. These moments and things I am learning have become rewards for me -- gifts I am giving myself as my relationship grows. Take a class. Try something you've never tried before. Teach yourself something you've always wanted to learn.
4.) Get In Touch With Your Feelings
This one has been difficult for me and one I still struggle with a bit. Getting in touch with your feelings means being completely honest with yourself, and that's not an easy thing to do. We spend a lot of time convincing ourselves of how we should be feeling, instead of just listening to and experiencing what we are feeling. Being honest about feelings -- whether it be love, heartache, joy, sorrow, excitement, loss, fear -- helps to keep us in touch with those feelings so we can deal with them directly, learn from them, let some of them go, and move on to the next moment without anything holding us back. If you want to cry, then cry. If you are truly happy in a moment, focus on what is making you happy in that moment. Experience the joy in it and try to bring more of that into your life. I've always stuffed any negative feelings deep down so I wouldn't have to deal with them at all. That never works. Those feelings stay with you, but because you aren't willing to face them, they creep back up at irrelevant times. Sometimes they seep into other parts of your life. They may affect the relationships in your life. They may hold you back from doing certain things. If you never face them, those feelings are always there, even if you think you have them well hidden. Do yourself a favor and deal with emotional experiences as they come. You owe it to yourself and you deserve it.
5.) Use Affirmations & Be Grateful
Affirmations are a way to stay mindfully positive. I use affirmations daily now to help me focus on what I want and need from my life. They are positive statements that you repeat to yourself or write down and read. They help visualize your road to success, whether that be in a job setting, in your current relationship (even with yourself!), or with your family. Affirmations help you overcome negative thinking -- something I think we all struggle with at any stage of our life. They help you believe in whatever it is that you're affirming to yourself. The more you repeat them to yourself, the more you believe in them and they begin to become habit. It becomes less about convincing yourself to think positively and more about becoming a positive person.
I've also started a list of all of the things I am grateful for. In the beginning, the list was full of things we are all grateful for -- family, loved ones, home, health -- and then I started listing small things throughout the day that I didn't notice before. My list now includes things like warm weather and sunshine, small moments with my nieces, someone holding a door for me, a good laugh, and smiles from strangers. Once we begin to notice all the little things in life we can be grateful for each and every day, it helps us appreciate our lives and all that we have instead of focusing on the negative.
Finally, after all these years, I am getting it. I am finally putting myself first and learning that doesn't make me selfish, nor do I have to act selfishly. It simply means that I am realizing that I am important and that my own happiness is important. I am learning to love my life and every experience in it. I am learning to love myself exactly as I am. I am focusing on what makes me happy and strive to be happy every day. The more I give to myself, the more I can give to others. The more I invest and believe in myself, the more others will do so as well. This is the best relationship I've ever been in. I only wish I had started it sooner!