According to Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, each person communicates their wants and needs via one of five primary emotional love languages; words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
As a marriage counselor, Chapman theorized that once you and your partner learn how to speak each other’s primary love language, you can uncover the secret to a successful relationship. But learning your own love language can be more than just a tool to help you master romantic relationships; it can also help you unlock your most optimal form of self-love.
Whether you identify with one of the love languages or multiple, each can teach us how to effectively display love for one another and for ourselves. Learn more about each love language below and find out how you can use them to practice self-love.
Words of affirmation are best expressed through encouragement, kindness, or humility. Encouraging words inspire courage within us, reminding ourselves that we can get through a tough presentation or succeed at reigniting a creative passion project. Kind words are best expressed with the same tenderness you would show to your closest loved ones; try using verbal complements to express forgiveness to yourself for a mistake you’ve made in the past. Humble words require us to be gentle in our goal-setting, requesting things of ourselves rather than demanding an outcome or engaging in negative self-talk.
Quality time requires our undivided attention. When focusing inward, think of conversations you can have and activities you can do without the distraction of your phone or other chores that may be nagging at you. Quality time should be free of distractions, judgment, or self-censorship.
Giving yourself a gift doesn’t necessarily mean you need to purchase an expensive present. It can be any tangible symbol of self-love. Receiving gifts is a way to acknowledge that we deserve to treat ourselves, whether the gift is a flower you picked from a nearby park or an iced coffee from your favorite café.
Acts of service are an expression of love that allow us to diminish future anxiety and increase overall positive feelings. This can be completing a task we have been putting off, getting a pedicure, or simply recognizing our need to rest. Acts of service are best executed by doing something of self-interest in a nonjudgmental manner.
In babies, physical touch is essential for healthy emotional development, so it’s unsurprising that physical touch is necessary throughout adulthood too. Physical touch can manifest as a tool for self-love through positive body talk, meditation, gentle physical activity like stretching and yoga, or even giving yourself a hug. Our bodies are an extension of ourselves. If we practice kindness to our physical form, we can drastically improve our mental state.
Learn your love language by taking the free quiz here. (~3 min)
1. Words of affirmation
Place a sticky note on your bathroom mirror to remind yourself to engage in positive self-talk.
Set a goal to give yourself one new compliment each day.
For a week, keep a record of all the words of affirmation you gave yourself. Review it at the end of the week.
Notice words of affirmation in conversation, on TV, on social media, and in books. Write them down and periodically use them as inspiration for words of affirmation toward yourself.
Write a love letter to yourself.
Speak highly of yourself in conversation with others. Ditch the self-deprecation and acknowledge a personal win to those around you.
2. Quality time
Write a journal entry or record a voice note expressing your thoughts, feelings, emotions, or desires. Re-read the entry or listen to your voice note to experience both the speaking and the listening portion of a quality conversation.
Go for a walk and listen to your favorite album or discover a podcast or audiobook that brings you joy.
Pick an old favorite or a new restaurant and treat yourself to a solo dining experience.
3. Receiving Gifts
Keep a log of items you see in stores or online that you want in the future. When you’re in need of a pick-me-up, set out to fulfill one of the things on your wish list.
The next time you go for a walk, a hike, or spend time in nature, look for a shell, stone, or flower that speaks to you. Take it home, set it in water, or display it somewhere you can see.
Plant a tree, buy yourself a book, or donate money to a charity of your choosing to feel the lasting effects of a self-given gift.
4. Acts of Service
Make a list of all your tasks and errands that need to be completed and try to check off one or two a day for a week.
Spend an afternoon reading a book, cleaning your room, or reorganizing your closet.
Before a busy work or school week, set aside a couple hours to meal prep so you have food for the rest of the week.
Designate a day to do nothing but catch up on your favorite TV shows with your phone on silent.
5. Physical Touch
Hold your hand on your stomach or heart while you take deep breaths.
Practice yoga or set aside time to stretch.
Practice positive body talk. Rather than finding ways to improve on or nitpick at your body, think of all the ways you love your physical self.
Wrap yourself under a weighted blanket.
Take a bath with your favorite scents.
Invest in a body scrub or full-body exfoliator to use on yourself.
Give yourself a hug!
The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, Gary Chapman, 1992