3. Be your own best friend.
Aging Well: Page 4
Why it matters: People often fall into the trap of being kinder, more loving, and more forgiving to those around them than to themselves. We beat ourselves up about an imperfect diet or a missed opportunity. We hate our looks (waist, hair, nose -- there's always something). We neglect self-care. In general, we fail to be our own number-one cheerleader. Lacking compassion and a sense of worth about yourself leads to making unfortunate choices that can damage health and well-being.
"Stress occurs when the mind perceives you're not enough or don't have enough," says Eva Selhub, the senior staff physician at the Benson/Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of The Love Response (Ballantine).
Liking one's self, on the other hand, infuses everything you do with a more positive outlook. You make better choices -- about what to eat, whether to smoke or drink, what you deserve in relationships. And you build greater stores of resiliency that can help you bounce back from outside stressors.
What to try: Work on celebrating what's likeable, worthy, and good about you. To reprogram negative thoughts about yourself, Selhub recommends an "appreciation journal": For 28 days, write four things about yourself and four things about your life that you appreciate; try to come up with new things every day. Say the list aloud to yourself in the morning. Before you decide what to eat, do, or say, practice using the mental phrases, "I deserve to . . . " and "I'm worthy of . . . "
Pinpoint cravings or addictions you might be using to fill yourself up in the absence of self-love: food, drugs, excessive Internet use, unsafe sex, cigarettes. They all activate the brain's reward centers, which cause us to turn to them when we lack the self-approval that can calm us and help us accomplish the same thing more healthfully.