On Valentine’s Day and every day, the most important relationship we can have is with ourselves. Learning to love who we are is a challenge for many of us, whether we live with mental illness or not. Self-love means giving attention to yourself, accepting yourself, caring for and protecting yourself. It might feel harder to do this on a day of the year dedicated to love.

There are many different types of love though, one of which is loving ourselves. So this Valentine’s day, if you’re enjoying your own company, show yourself some love in one of the following ways.


1) Labour of Love – Work on Loving Yourself

For some of us, loving ourselves takes work. Perceptions of self-care and loving ourselves have become polarised into either “good” self-love that encourages well-being or “bad” self-love linked to narcissism and selfishness. Narcissism is a mental health condition and not the same as loving yourself.

Young people see self-care in a positive light associating it with resilience and a way of combatting depression and anxiety. However, we are less likely to practice self-care or self-compassion if those around us discourage it, viewing it as selfish, self-centred, or self-absorbed.

If you struggle to show yourself self-care you’re not alone and it might be worth considering looking into the idea of what psychologists call inner child work, getting in touch with parts of ourselves we’ve repressed that have unmet needs, like the need to play.

Did you know children who spend more time playing adventurously have fewer internalised problems and better mental health? Perhaps you didn’t get time to play like you needed to as a child. So do something this Valentine’s day to show those younger parts of who you are that you care and give yourself permission to have fun.


2) Create Your Own Love Story – Get Creative

Playful activities are often creative activities. Getting creative is good for your mental health. Creativity can decrease stress and improve well-being. Art can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as other mental health conditions, can improve a positive outlook and help us cope with physical health problems. But creativity doesn’t have to be drawing or painting, it could be many activities such as crafting, baking or writing.

If you’re not creating a love story with a Significant Other right now, recreating the story you tell yourself about yourself might help. Journaling is good for mental health and reflecting on past relationships can help us come to terms with pain and can even help reduce stress if we write a redemptive narrative.

If you’d rather be prompted to write, and want to take a more proactive approach to finding healthy romantic connections in the future, you might like to learn about attachment styles to see if this sheds new light on your relationship history.

  3) Get More Than Butterflies in Your Stomach – Eat Well

Enjoying a lovely meal for one is a fantastic way to show yourself some love. Eating well is a baseline human need and 3 good meals a day can increase resistance to stress and improve gut health, sleep quality and reduce inflammation.

Cooking meals can increase motivation and improve mental health and social connections. Creating food from recipes also helps us regulate emotion, improve engagement with ourselves, lessens self-consciousness and can improve relationships. So consider spending the evening with your favourite ingredients, preparing your favourite meal.

And if you fancy romantic lighting, maybe dim the lights and light a candle or two, because although more research is needed to determine exact benefits of dimmer light, aromas such as from scented candles can improve our mood, behaviour and even the way we think.


4) Love the Drama – Lose Yourself In A Story

Whether reading a book, going to the theatre or laughing at a comedy show, losing ourselves in a good story is a positive form of escapism, if used wisely with healthy boundaries.

Introverted? Curl up with a good book. Reading fiction can have a positive impact on mood and emotion and since reading and social cognition both use the same part of the brain, picking up a good book improves our ability in social understanding.

Keen to go out? Take yourself on a self-date to the theatre. Open and inclusive societies are most successful at promoting growth and stable development, and the theatre can play a vital role in promoting openness and inclusivity.

Longing to laugh? Comedy is the way. Laughter is great for our mental health and a quick internet search will help find comedy nights in your area. Going solo is not uncommon, or grab friends or work colleagues so you can all enjoy laughing at the tragedies of the comedians’ love lives; there’s sure to be a memorable story or two.


5) Fall For Your Friends – spend time with a pal

Spending time with friends is fantastic for our health, so much so that some people think socialising could be a ‘social cure’ to mental health challenges.

Talking regularly with support networks like our friends can reduce anxiety and depression.  And if you have reliable friends then spending time together can aid overall health.

So, gather your girls, buddy up with the boys, collect all your chums and throw a non-Valentine’s party. Or arrange a one-to-one Palentine’s date with your best friend. Whatever you decide to do, doing it with friends is likely to help your mental well-being.


6) Love Yourself By Loving Others – do something kind for someone else

If you feel love has been unkind to you, be kind to others. Being kind can benefit not just our mental health but also our physical health.

In a 2020 survey, 63% of UK adults said their mental health was improved by kindness. Kindness reduces stress, so people who are kind tend to have healthier, happier lives. If you’re stuck for ideas on how to be kind, we’ve a list of kind acts in this article on kindness.

Volunteering is one fantastic way to be kind. You can volunteer to participate in mental health research. To help researchers with important studies, take a look at our Participate forum.


7) Natural Feeling – spend time in nature

Being outdoors is good for our wellbeing. in nature, surrounded by green trees, colourful flowers or plants, can be great for our well-being. Simply spending time with plants can help us feel calmer, more hopeful and stronger. If you feel like getting green-fingered then gardening improves mood and decreases stress. Getting our hands dirty in the soil may make us feel happier and more relaxed.

But if you’re not confident with horticulture, simply receiving flowers can improve our mood, so why wait for anyone else to do it for you? Buy yourself a bunch!


8) Love Your Body Language – Get active

Whether it’s walking to buy flowers, running or dancing, moving our bodies can be good for our mental health. Going for a long walk is fantastic for well-being. If you up the pace to moderate or vigorous it can have added benefits to your outlook.

Dancing can be beneficial to our mental health as well. Regardless of the style of dance, participating in a bit of a boogie can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. So, head to a dance social or dance class. Many social dances specify that you won’t need a partner, particularly at many latin or swing dances, as mixing things up is encouraged.

If you’re feeling energetic, show your body and mind some love by going for a run. And if running and you have a really special relationship, then sign up to take on a running challenge to raise vital funds for mental health research.


9) Runaway into the Sunset – plan a holiday

Planning to travel can be motivating, whether it’s a trip aboard or exploring somewhere more locally.

Looking forward to a holiday means anticipating free time, warmer and sunnier climes, being physically active, sleeping a bit better and maybe even making new friends. Additionally, these are all factors to make a holiday as good as it can be for our health. Our well-being levels improve dramatically on holiday, reaching peak satisfaction on day 8.

So, maybe on the 14th day of the cold month of February, spend the evening researching and planning a solo adventure to look forward to.


10) Get Into Bed With Yourself – Have a Solo Slumber Party

Getting into bed might be one of the comfiest places to be during winter months, so that urge to hibernate might not be all that negative. There are also benefits to getting good quality sleep. Sleep helps us process memories and emotions, and getting between 6 to 10 hours of sleep a night can help us manage physical and emotional regulation.  So, make a night of it! Give yourself a solo slumber party with a proper bedtime routine, including some music.

Music can reduce signs of stress and engaging with music in a healthy manner can improve our mood and even help combat depression or anxiety. If you feel like singing along, it’s a great idea since singing can also positively affect our mood. To avoid any tear-jerking ballads, collaborate with friends to make a playlist of empowering songs and feel your mood lift as you play it before bed.


Read about the various ways love can show up in our lives – from friendship to familial love to passion to mature love and far more – in our article about love in its various forms

The post Can Self-Care Improve Mental Health? 10 Ways to Show Yourself Love This Valentine’s Day first appeared on MQ Mental Health Research.

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