Mental Health First Aid instructor, Andy Elwood, explains why it’s important to learn to love yourself so you can love others.
Love is an emotion that we can feel in many different contexts. We’re obviously thinking a lot about love this month, because it’s February and Valentine’s Day. It’s all over the media, and the commerciality of it all can feel a bit overwhelming. But we can feel love in many different contexts, not just romantic love.
It can be with an intimate partner, family bonds, friends, and pets, as well. So, choose what works for you this month. It’s very hard to ignore the message of love and the focus on love from music to films, TV, adverts and so on. But choose what works for you.
The love we have for our pets is a great one for many people, and not to be trivialised at all for many of us. That can be where we find unconditional love and feel good about ourselves. We can find intimacy as well in that connection with our pets, and it’s proven to be good for our wellbeing.
The rate at which we stroke our pets, that physical contact, has proven to be good, not just for our mental health, but for physical health as well, lowering our blood pressure and our heart rate.
So, whether you want to do something special for your pet or that special friend or family member, it is a fantastic thing to do and it needn’t be something we spend a lot of money on. We can do small things such as creating a playlist, cooking or baking something for them; we could write someone a lovely letter, or we can tell them what they mean to us and how they have improved our lives, or how we love spending time with them. None of those are expensive.
This connection which seems so human to have with other people, many of us, when we don’t have that or we’ve lost it, or for all of us who have felt heartbreak, that’s just what happens when love is lost. The death of something unique. “The broken-hearted are the bravest among us, they dare to love,” as Brené Brown says. So, if we are able to reflect back on that rather than ruminating on it, and take the gratitude and celebrate what we had with that person and that relationship, then that is fantastic.
Brené Brown, by the way, is a researcher into shame and emotions based in the United States. She has an amazing body of work and is respected around the world. She works with high profile organisations, and gave one of the most watched TED Talks ever. Her latest book, Atlas of the Heart, really focuses on emotions.
Most people can only name three or four, according to her research, and she has found, that there are 87, and this book is all about them. What she says about love is, love is not something we give or get, it is something that we nurture and grow. We can love others only as much as we love ourselves.
And this is really a key message for this month. Enjoy those loving relationships if you’re in one at the minute, but if you’re not in a partnership, an intimate relationship, whatever the best wording is for that, then look for where love is in your life and try to grow that. So, if it’s with friends, family members, your pet, try to celebrate that this month.
But where it all starts is with ourselves. It can be really difficult to build yourself back up after a breakup or the end of a relationship, but the best way to do it is to start by valuing yourself and loving yourself. Not only will that lift you up, but when you do that, you seem to become much more attractive to others as well. They want to be around you when your mood is lifted, when you have more self-respect, motivation, self-esteem, self-love.
So, that seems to be where it all starts. If you love yourself, everything else will follow. So, a quote from Louise Hay is, “If we really love ourselves, everything in our life works.” That’s what I really would like people to focus on and challenge people to do something for themselves this month. Value yourselves.
Andy Elwood is a Mental Health First Aid instructor and an ambassador for Movember. He creates safety and trust by sharing his own vulnerability and gives a unique ‘behind the scenes’ insight into life and death situations from his 20 years’ experience working in the emergency services as a paramedic on search and rescue helicopters.