As February 14th looms on the horizon, so does the long list of expectations that comes along with it. If you are one half of a couple, it’s time to start placing flower orders and making reservations. And if you aren’t, then you may be dreading the upcoming holiday and looking forward to February 15th instead. But what if this year you choose to do things a little differently? What if, when you make your list of valentines, you include yourself this time? Author and speaker Todd Patkin says showing yourself some love this Valentine’s Day could be your sweetest decision yet.
“I’m not saying to throw away the heartfelt cards and candies, or to cancel your date with your spouse,” says Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95, www.findinghappinessthebook.com). “In fact, I think those things are important. What I don’t want us to continue to do is to let ourselves get lost in the shuffle. If we don’t take the time to honor and appreciate ourselves, how can we expect that others will?”
In fact, says Patkin, the more we neglect ourselves, the more our other relationships suffer. “If you are constantly doing for others, and leaving yourself on the backburner, you become susceptible to feelings of bitterness and resentment, and your outside relationships will suffer as a consequence. There is nothing selfish about taking care of yourself. I truly believe that taking care of YOU is one of the most important things that you can do for the ones you love.”
As Valentine’s Day rolls around, Patkin says that showing yourself some love doesn’t necessarily mean sending yourself a box of chocolates or a dozen roses. It’s more about taking the time to think about the things you really want and what makes you feel good…and ridding your life of the people and commitments that don’t fit into that category. If you’re ready to add yourself to your love-list this year, then Patkin has some great suggestions for how you can get started.
Read on for nine ways to think outside the chocolate box and show yourself a little love this Valentine’s Day:
Take notice. Sit down and really think about your daily life. Evaluate what really makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad. Instead of forcing yourself into the things you don’t really enjoy, Patkin suggests doing more of the things that make you feel good.
“Ask yourself, Do I actually enjoy going to the gym or do I hate it?” Patkin says. “If the answer is that you hate it, then perhaps it’s time to try out running or a yoga or meditation class instead. If you don’t enjoy going to your monthly book club meeting, then quit. There is no reason why you should continue to force yourself into the things that don’t make you happy.”
Do a relationship detox. As you start to weed out the activities in your life that don’t make you feel good, start to do the same exercise with the people in your life as well. Distance those who make you feel bad, even if its family.
“Toxic relationships can be a huge barrier to your happiness, and constantly forcing yourself to be disingenuous around people you don’t really like or get along with is literally bad for your own well-being,” Patkin warns. “Do yourself a favor and start investing your time with the people who make you feel good and make your life better.”
Cancel your plans. It’s happened to everyone at some point or another: You commit to a dinner out, a party, or an event that you really don’t want to go to and as the date and time of the engagement draws nearer, your dread grows. Patkin says that (as long as it is not an important milestone event for a close friend or family member) one of the best things you can do for yourself is to cancel your plans.
“Forcing yourself to be somewhere or with someone when you really don’t want to be will only leave you feeling frustrated and empty,” Patkin explains. “Instead, choose to spend your time on things you actually want to do. And no need in coming up with a long, complicated story for why you can’t attend. A heartfelt apology explaining that you can’t make the party is enough.”
Be okay with your opinions. You have opinions, and it’s likely that they don’t line up with the opinions of everyone you know. And that’s okay. What’s not okay, says Patkin, is when you try to hide or cover up your opinions in the company of others in order to keep the peace or be “PC.”
“When you aren’t true to yourself and your opinions, it feels bad,” warns Patkin. “You feel disingenuous and dishonest. It is perfectly okay to have your own opinions—in fact, that’s what makes each of us so great! The best thing you can do for yourself is to own those opinions proudly. They may not always be popular but they are a part of who you are—and those in your life who love and respect you will be okay with that.”
Trim your to-do list. Having a list of to-dos is a great way to stay organized, but it can also cause you to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Look at your own personal to-do list. Is it pages long? Does it make you feel good or constantly behind the eight ball? Patkin suggests taking a long, hard look at your list and prioritizing the items that are truly important. In fact, he says, you should cut your list by 50 percent.
“Focus only on the have-tos and want-tos instead of the things you have on there just because you think you should,” Patkin explains. “When your list feels manageable, you’ll feel more energized to tackle it. And as you start to cross off each item, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and happiness. Besides, as you mark off old items, you can start to slowly add back the new ones.”
Stop deferring to everyone. If you find that you are constantly letting others in your life make the decisions, Patkin says that it’s time to stop. Quit deferring to everyone else in order to make them happy. Instead, he says, you should stand up for the things you want and speak up for yourself. Tonight, YOU pick the restaurant. If you don’t want to see the movie that everyone else has picked, say so.
“It’s great to compromise some of the time,” he continues, “but when you are constantly putting your own wants and needs aside for the sake of others, you’ll be unhappy and dissatisfied in the long run—and that doesn’t help you or anyone else in your life.”
Take a “judgment free” nap if you want. Sleep in on the weekends. Getting plenty of sleep is one of the simplest things you can do for yourself to improve your overall mood and health. After all, when was the last time you woke up from a great night’s sleep feeling unhappy? Instead of guilting yourself out of that afternoon nap in order to complete one more chore, Patkin says you should let yourself relax and catch some sleep instead.
“Push your Saturday morning workout back an hour or two and sleep in,” he says. “After all, all of those things you ‘have to do’ will still be there when you wake up—and you’ll be more refreshed and energized for taking them on. Give yourself the gift of guilt-free shut-eye. I promise you won’t regret it!”
Date yourself. Investing time in relationships is important, and that includes the relationship you have with yourself. Just as you schedule time to date your spouse, or go to dinner with a friend, Patkin suggests marking out some one-on-one time for you and, well, you.
“Go to a movie all by yourself and order popcorn just for you,” he suggests. “Visit that museum exhibit you’ve been wanting to see. Try out the new restaurant that just opened in town. Spending some alone time, doing things that you enjoy, is a great way to recharge your batteries. Investing in your relationship with yourself is just as important as investing in the relationships you have with others—you’ll be able to come back to those relationships happier and recharged.”
Make massages a “regular” thing. For most of us, taking time out to get a massage, manicure, or hair appointment is a “treat” that we don’t allow for ourselves very often (if at all!). Instead of letting these pampering appointments fall into the “splurge” category, Patkin suggests working them into your regular routine.
“There is nothing wrong with taking the time to take care of yourself on a regular basis, whether that means a bi-monthly massage appointment or working in the time for a long, hot bubble bath several nights a week,” he says. “Feeling good shouldn’t be a ‘treat’—it should be a part of your everyday life.”
“The most important part of this exercise is that you make it last long past when the red-and-white heart decorations have been packed away,” Patkin concludes. “Make loving yourself a year-round commitment, not just an effort you make only on special occasions. You’ll find yourself happier, healthier, and more fulfilled the whole year through.”
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About the Author:
Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In and Twelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People, grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. After graduating from Tufts University, he joined the family business and spent the next eighteen years helping to grow it to new heights. After it was purchased by Advance Auto Parts in 2005, he was free to focus on his main passions: philanthropy and giving back to the community, spending time with family and friends, and helping more people learn how to be happy. Todd lives with his wonderful wife, Yadira, their amazing son, Josh, and two great dogs, Tucker and Hunter.
About the Books:
Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and—Finally—Let the Sunshine In (StepWise Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-9658261-9-8, $19.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, from major online booksellers, and at www.findinghappinessthebook.com.
Twelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People (New Focus Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-9885092-0-7, $13.99) is available from Amazon.com.