If 2015 was the year of learning about myself - what was missing, what I needed, testing my limits - 2016 is the year of putting those lessons into practice. For me this means I am going to use this time to find out what self-care really means. 

Every new year most of us set expectations, some highly unrealistic, although they all have good intentions. Most "resolutions" don't last past January, and that's ok. But instead of just giving up, how can we shift our goals to make sure we are still trying to better our lives? Maybe try something different that makes you feel good for just a week, then something else the next week, and something else the week after that, so on and so forth. Sure, bad days are sure to come. It is in those bad days, though, where we can find the most love for ourselves if you're brave enough to go looking. 

I find it kind of ironic that after the 30-day surge of self-improvement that one of the most emotionally taxing times of year comes around: Valentine's Day . . . If you have a partner, there's a great deal of expectation about making one arbitrary calendar day exceptionally special. If you're single, it becomes an excuse to indulge in self-loathing thoughts or behavior, like eating entire pints of ice cream, boxes of chocolate, full bottle(s) of wine, or all of the Chinese take-out to numb any feelings of inadequacy or undesirability. Why does one over-commercialized day get to sabotage all of the efforts made in the past month to make you the best version of yourself? Once you strip away the heart-shaped candy boxes and overpriced flower bouquets, only one common theme remains: LOVE. 

So that's what I'm focusing on this year. I want to practice loving me, a little more each day, even if just with thoughts in my mind. Love isn't something we go looking for, it's already a part of us, naturally. Human beings aren't born with feelings of doubt and self-loathing. Why else are kids so damn blissfully happy (when they're not throwing tantrums)? The negative feelings we learn and adopt along the way. To take care of ourselves really is to love ourselves. The two are not wholly separate, in fact they are mutually inclusive. One does not happen without the other. 

So I challenge you to find ways to show yourself compassion and love, every day, big or inconceivably small to anyone but you. Your happiness is yours alone, you own it and you don't need to defend it. We only get this one vessel for an unknown amount of time, and the best thing we can do is treat the best we possibly can. 

Happy New Year