This article is written in partnership with Switch Research—they’re dedicated to making science-backed, self-love tools accessible to all, and we’re honored to work with them. ~ ed.
Almost exactly one year ago, I was tasked with the impossible.
In the grips of quarantine, and in the midst of consistent therapy, I decided it was time to flex my creativity muscle in writing. I had been a professional copywriter for years, but that was analytical, methodological, and what I wrote didn’t feel like it was mine. I was going to change that—by taking the Write Your Heart Out course through Elephant Journal’s Elephant Academy.
Each week we were assigned writing prompts, and our first task was to write about self-love, or as the Buddhists call it: Maitri.
I was in the trenches of unpacking the concrete trauma boxes that had been occupying space in my brain for decades. I wasn’t ready to take on that topic. Nonetheless, I breathed, I cried, I sighed, and I let my soul spill out onto a Google Doc.
I wish I could say that after writing that piece, Maitri and me marched off into the sunset. I wish I could say that a year later, I don’t even need to work that hard to access this newfound friend of mine. I wish I could, but I can’t.
Why is self-love so damn difficult to sustain?
Why is compassion something we can dish but we can’t take?
Loving-kindness and compassion require zooming out—way, way out. When we physically see, or hear, or speak to the people around us, we see all of them—their victories, their struggles, their softness, their hard lines. The picture stands right before us, in context, and in high definition.
Redefine how you view yourself with reflections in your Self-Love Journal. Get 20% off with code EJ20 >>
We don’t have the same luxury when it comes to ourselves. We can’t see our crows feet kiss our cheeks when we laugh at a “dad joke,” or our tears well up when we watch a powerful film, or our noses crinkle while we dream.
We don’t have a mirror showing us the best parts of ourselves. And the isolation of the last year and a half has narrowed our visibility more than ever. Lucky for us, though, there’s a brand new tool, a handy one, that can step in to show us our own, worthy reflections. It’s a Self-Love Journal—that would’ve been useful for my Maitri introduction a year ago—and it’s full of introspective truth bombs like this one:
“Feeling isolated and feeling a common sense of humanity are opposing forces.” ~ Switch Research’s Self-Love Journal
No strangers to the self-love struggle, the minds behind Switch Research and a psychologist with a PhD in behavior change partnered up to craft a carefully constructed, 91-Day journey in the pages of their Self-Love Journal.
It’s concise yet in depth, simple yet powerful, and a li’l bonus is that it’s really freaking cute to look at. It’s like a planner for your path to self-kindness, and it’s much more than your average notebook.
A Journal that even Non-Journalers can get Behind.
Over the years, I’ve been advised by my therapist to journal. Write about your thoughts, write-and-rip, write down what you want to say to your husband. Seems simple enough for a you know, writer, right? Wrong.
I hate journaling—and especially when my mental health is down the tubes, the act of journaling feels like yet another area that I’m falling behind in. *Self-judgement activated.*
Switch Research is attuned to that, with extensive psychological research behind their journal’s pages, and it segments each prompt to redefine journaling altogether so it feels a lot less overwhelming. (I assume this feeling of overwhelm is a common occurrence for many.)
In light of my own hesitations…and my Virgo nature…I created a list of reasons why I (and maybe you, too) might benefit from this journal:
- We can all benefit from an improved relationship with ourselves. Yes, all of us.
Seriously, I’ve never been a fan of self-improvement tools, but this one helped me better understand who I am and how to love myself.
- We all deserve to love ourselves and be happy.
Woah. Those words feel kinda strange in your mouth, huh? That’s probably because we’re so used to denying ourselves self-love or thinking we don’t, in fact, deserve it. Think of this journal as a book-sized version of your best friend, guiding you through the journey to loving yourself again.
- Our thoughts are not our friend.
Be honest: do you overthink things? Are you hard on yourself? Do you project negativity onto others or put others ahead of your needs?
Okay, don’t worry…you’re not alone. But this journal has been a really great place for me to let my brain seep out onto the pages—rather than fearing that talking it out with someone else is going to be throwing up on their proverbial plate
- Books and courses can only help so much.
Part of that Maitri thing I was talking about earlier has to do with not aggressively trying to change ourselves as a way to finally deserve our love; maitri focuses on unconditional self-acceptance, right where we are, warts and all. Books can sometimes coax us into thinking we should be a certain way or do certain things. It can be a bit of a trap to apply someone else’s advice to our own lives. With journaling, we learn from ourselves, so it sticks with us more than any book or course.
- Regular journaling is a snore (and a chore).
Staring at a blank journal page can be anxiety-provoking. I know there’s something in there that wants to come out, and not being able to find it can feel like a failure. We don’t need that in our lives. The Self-Love Journal gives you prompts to guide your entries, making it a seamless and enjoyable experience. * Insert sigh of relief here. *
The prompt on Day 5 hit me right on my self-critical nose. It began with, “when we fall short of our expectations, we can either approach the situation with self-kindness or self-judgment.” I’ve caught myself leaning for the latter, especially before picking up this journal. It was like this page was reading me—but I needed it, and I needed this example:
>> Harsh Self Judgement: “I am a horrible cook.”
>> Self Kind Response: “I often get compliments on my favorite dish.
Within each section, there are actionable, self-love subdivisions that allow you to reframe the image you have of yourself—the one that’s refracted by trauma, stress, and stories you’ve been told about “who you are” with affirmations like this:
“I am perfect in my imperfections, secure in my insecurities, happy with my choices, strong in times of weakness and beautiful in my own way. I am myself.” ~ Anonymous
- If this journal was on Rotten Tomatoes, it’d be a box-office hit.
Based on the results from the University of British Columbia’s controlled study, participants (aka journal-users) had a lot of, well, kind words to say about their journeys:
>> Users found their self-kindness increased by 49%
>> Their common humanity went up by 62%
>> Mindfulness increased by 42%
>> Self-acceptance rose by 38%
Self-love is a conscious practice until it’s embedded into your brain, and self-judgment is a habit. You can’t change a habit without setting a new one in its place. That’s where the Self-Love Journal comes in and serves up compassionate habit replacements on a platter.
It teaches you to be patient with yourself while you make these, well, switches. It helps you shift your focus. It allows you to zoom out. It reminds you that you are bigger, deeper, and richer than your thoughts are at this moment.
Self-Love is a Right, not a Privilege.
“One of the best ways to show yourself kindness and appreciation is to carve out time for yourself. Maybe this journal has been that time for you.” ~ Switch Research’s Self Love Journal
Yes, you, all of you reading this and beyond, are worthy—of kindness, appreciation, and time for yourself. Even if you don’t feel like it now, say it out loud for a moment. Speak the words as often as you can. You deserve it, and you deserve access to tools that will help you believe it.
Isolation in the past year and a half hasn’t been the only factor exacerbating the challenge of being kinder to ourselves. With 22 million jobs lost in advanced economies throughout the pandemic, funds to pay for therapy, and any supplemental mental health tools, have been harder than ever to come by. (1)
Switch Research refuses to allow that to prevent people from getting their hands on this transformative self-love resource. Not only do they offer both hard copy and online versions of their journal, they provide the option to request a free version for those who would otherwise spare the expense.
The Self-Love Journal and its upcoming installments specific to Trauma, Postpartum, and various offshoots of the hard things that life throws at us, are intended to be accessible for all. The goal is to make mental health a priority, and that’s a mission that Switch Research will keep in motion until anyone who’s had trouble seeing their own worth, owns a copy.
Oh, and remember the University of British Columbia’s controlled study mentioned earlier? They also reflected on the Journal’s impact on their well-being once day 91 was complete:
“I feel like I have someone cheering me on, and that comes from a confident place from within.”
“It helped me realize everyone feels the same and has issues and I am not as alone as I think I am.”
“I’m more aware of when I’m being too hard on myself and will remind myself of the lessons I’ve learned through using the journal.”
Self-love may feel like a foreign language right now, like it has for me, and so many others, in the not-so-distant past.
Just know that with time and a little bit of reflection—you may just become fluent in it.
Make Maitri your Mission.
1. Take a Peak Inside.
And a deep breath out.