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9 Ways to Love Yourself This Valentineís Day
The holiday of hearts and flowers is all about giving to friends and family; but maybe itís a time for a little giving to yourself, too.

It's difficult to love others around you fully when you aren't feeling god about yourself.

Feeling good shouldnít be a 'treat'óit should be a part of your everyday life.”
As February 14th arrives, so does the long list of expectations that comes along with it. If you are one half of a couple, itís crunch time to place flower orders and make reservations. If you haven't, then you may be dreading February 15th. 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? Showing yourself some love this Valentineís Day could be your sweetest decision yet.

Iím not saying to throw away the heartfelt cards and candies, or to cancel your date with your spouse. In fact, I think those things are important. What I donít want us to continue to do is to let ourselves get lost in the shuffle. If we donít take the time to honor and appreciate ourselves, how can we expect that others will?

In fact, the more we neglect ourselves, the more our other relationships suffer. If you are constantly doing for others and leaving yourself on the back-burner, 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.

Showing yourself some love doesnít necessarily mean sending yourself a box of chocolates or a dozen roses. Itís more about taking the time to think about the things you really want and what makes you feel goodÖ and ridding your life of the people and commitments that donít fit into that category. If youíre ready to add yourself to your love-list this year, I have some great suggestions for how you can get started.

Here are nine ways to think outside the chocolate box and show yourself a little love this Valentineís Day:

1. 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 donít really enjoy, I suggest 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? If the answer is that you hate it, then perhaps itís time to try out running or yoga or a meditation class instead. If you donít 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 donít make you happy.

2. 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? I suggest taking a long, hard look at your list and prioritizing the items that are truly important. In fact, 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. When your list feels manageable, youíll feel more energized to tackle it. And as you start to cross off each item, youíll feel a sense of accomplishment and happiness. Besides, as you mark off old items, you can start to slowly add back the new ones.

3. 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 donít allow for ourselves very often (if at all!). Instead of letting these pampering appointments fall into the "splurge" category, work 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. Feeling good shouldnít be a "treat"óit should be a part of your everyday life.

4. Do a relationship detox. As you start to weed out the activities in your life that donít 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 donít really like or get along with is literally bad for your own well-being. Do yourself a favor and start investing your time with the people who make you feel good and make your life better.

5. Be okay with your opinions. You have opinions, and itís likely that they donít line up with the opinions of everyone you know. And thatís okay. Whatís not okay 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 arenít true to yourself and your opinions, it feels bad. You feel disingenuous and dishonest. It is perfectly okay to have your own opinionsóin fact, thatís 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 areóand those in your life who love and respect you will be okay with that.

6. Cancel your plans. Itís happened to everyone at some point or another: You commit to a dinner out, a party, or an event that you really donít want to go to and as the date and time of the engagement draws nearer, your dread grows. 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 donít want to be will only leave you feeling frustrated and empty. 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 canít attend. A heartfelt apology explaining that you canít make the party is enough.

7. Stop deferring to everyone. If you find that you are constantly letting others in your life make the decisions, itís time to stop. Quit deferring to everyone else in order to make them happy. Instead, you should stand up for the things you want and speak up for yourself. Tonight, you pick the restaurant. If you donít want to see the movie that everyone else has picked, say so.

Itís great to compromise some of the time, but when you are constantly putting your own wants and needs aside for the sake of others, youíll be unhappy and dissatisfied in the long runóand that doesnít help you or anyone else in your life.

8. Take a "judgment free" nap if you want and 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 nightís sleep feeling unhappy? Instead of guilting yourself out of that afternoon nap in order to complete one more chore, you should let yourself relax and catch some sleep instead.

Push your Saturday morning workout back an hour or two and sleep in. After all, all of those things you "have to do" will still be there when you wake upóand youíll be more refreshed and energized for taking them on. Give yourself the gift of guilt-free shut-eye. I promise you wonít regret it!

9. 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, I suggest 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. Visit that museum exhibit youíve 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 othersóyouíll be able to come back to those relationships happier and recharged.

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. Make loving yourself a year-round commitment, not just an effort you make only on special occasions. Youíll find yourself happier, healthier, and more fulfilled the whole year through.

Todd Patkin, author of "Finding Happiness: One Manís Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety andóFinallyóLet the Sunshine In" and "Twelve Weeks to Finding Happiness: Boot Camp for Building Happier People," grew up in Needham, Massachusetts. His new book, "The Sunny Days Secret: A Guide for Finding Happiness," is coming in 2014. After graduating from Tufts University, Todd joined the family business and spent the next 19 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. You can also follow him on Google+ here.

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