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.
“It’s loving-kindness and compassion for oneself.” The words rolled off of (Elephant’s Founder) Waylon Lewis’ tongue like a “hey” or a “how are you,” while a cat immediately got mine. How the hell am I supposed to write about that?
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 started it with something my therapist had repeatedly told me, “Kaitlin, you need to talk to yourself like you would to a friend.” I wrote about how maitri happens in the moments—and how it requires an immense amount of awareness and consciousness to tap into it.
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.
Since the idea of self-love can feel vast and, when you’re in a bad headspace, daunting—they’ve broken it down into three digestible segments.
- Exploring the Fundamentals of Self-Compassion. Over the course of three weeks, your own humanity will be reflected back to you while you explore and confront ideas about self-kindness. With real-life examples and applications, it’ll warm up the water while you dip your toe into the healing pool.
- Expanding Your Self-Compassion. Now, you’ll be getting your feet wet with practices around self-acceptance and gratitude. This segment emphasizes the here, the now, and why whatever it is you’re feeling about it is completely and totally valid. It’s a reminder to come up for air.
- Establishing Self-Compassion as a Lifestyle. You’ll be fully submerged in the self-love water now—you might even dip your head in. Here, you’ll spot methods for applying self-compassion in your daily life beyond the journal’s hard cover. When I penned away at the prompts, this filled in the gaps where I’ve had the most trouble in my own journey: sustaining self-kindness.
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
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-judgement.” 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.”
Self-love is a conscious practice until it’s embedded into your brain, and self-judgement 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 their 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.
The reasons may seem obvious, but they’re also based on the results from the University of British Columbia’s controlled study, and its participants 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%
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.
2. Self-Love wherever you Go.
Take kindness with you.
3. Start a new Chapter.
Do it just for you.