A healthy relationship with yourself, like any relationship, is built on honesty, respect, trust, kindness and good communication, according to Carmen Cool, MA, LPC, a psychotherapist who specializes in emotional eating and chronic dieting in Boulder, Colo.
She described it as an ongoing process, which encompasses these questions: “How am I relating with myself today? How am I holding myself? How am I treating myself? How am I taking care of myself?”
A healthy relationship with yourself also is built on daily gestures — the ways we treat ourselves every day. As author Gretchen Rubin has said: “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”
Here are four ways to build a healthier relationship with yourself throughout the day.
1. Listen to yourself.
“Healthy relationships of all kinds include deep listening,” Cool said. She suggested carving out time throughout your day to simply pause and listen to your thoughts and feelings.
“This isn’t about doing anything; it’s about tuning into yourself and making room for what you notice.”
To remind yourself to do this check-in, schedule specific times, download a mindfulness bell on your computer or set an alarm on your cell phone, she said.
2. Use a loving gesture.
We tend to be our harshest critics. When you notice yourself being self-critical, try a loving gesture instead, Cool said. She gave the example of reaching up and lovingly touching your cheek. Another option is putting your hands on your heart.
“I find that it’s really hard for self-criticism to continue at the same time I’m physically being gentle and loving with myself.”
3. Use daily habits to activate intentions.
Use daily habits, such as brushing your teeth or buckling your seatbelt, to initiate an intention, said Deb Burgard, PhD, FAED, a psychologist specializing in eating disorders and one of the founders of the Health at Every Size® model.
Your intention can include “whatever you want to have more of.” Burgard shared the example of having more appreciation for your body.
When you find yourself in that situation – such as brushing your teeth before bed – pause and consider one thing your body has done for you in the last 24 hours, she said.
This “is a way of letting everyday events work for you to create a habit that gives something back to you, as opposed to all the ‘self-improvement’ demands that we make on ourselves every day.”
4. Prioritize pleasure.
“Include pleasure in your day as much as possible,” Cool said. This can be anything from a satisfying stretch to reading a short poem or quote to walking outside to feel the breeze against your skin, she said. Basically, this is “something that is pleasurable to you and includes your senses.”
Again, building a healthy relationship with yourself includes truth, trust and self-compassion. Consider what kindness might look like for you on a daily basis. How can you build self-trust? How can you speak your truth?