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"When your thoughts and actions are good for your heart, they are also good for the hearts of others around you," says Shannon Skinner, a writer and inspirational speaker, and the host of the web TV show Extraordinary Women TV with Shannon Skinner.
She offers six tips on how to love yourself and follow your heart.
1. Open your heart with gratitude
Skinner suggests starting off by establishing a daily gratitude practice.
"Negative feelings about people, situations and past events that we dwell on make the heart shrivel up. When we live with gratitude and open our eyes the heart opens," says Skinner.
The best way to shift those negative or painful feelings is to keep a gratitude journal. Buy a notebook and each night write down three things that you were grateful for that day. They can be minor things, such as "I'm grateful I can afford nutritious groceries" or "I'm grateful my husband offered to wash the dishes tonight."
If you can't think of anything you're grateful for, force yourself to come up with something.
"This exercise will balance your mind and open your heart," says Skinner. It will allow you to focus on the good in your life instead of the bad.
2. Believe in yourself
"The best way to believe in yourself is to consciously increase your self-worth. Do whatever it takes to believe in your abilities and talents," says Skinner. "One of the best ways to increase your self-worth is to challenge yourself, even if they are small challenges at first," she says.
When debating something as simple as what to wear or what to order at a restaurant, rely on your own thoughts and make your own decisions rather than asking others for their opinions.
"Every time you make a decision your self-worth grows, and eventually you will feel more comfortable when making bigger decisions," says Skinner.
3. Love your strengths and weaknesses
Once you're aware of all your strengths and weaknesses, it's important to own them, says Skinner. "To see both sides of yourself is to have a perfect balance," she explains.
These traits can advance us and also hold us back. But the key is to love all of them for better or for worse.
4. Have regular dates with yourself
Carve out some alone time, suggests Skinner. "When we spend time alone, we can rejuvenate, recharge our batteries and think more clearly about what is important to us," she says.
Her suggestions? "Go for a walk and allow yourself to dream. Sit on a park bench on a sunny afternoon and read a few chapters of a book you have been eager to dive into. Buy yourself flowers, book a massage or have a bubble bath," she says.
Relationships work best when they act as a bonus in your life, rather than a must-have to make it complete.
5. Stay inspired
"Inspiration is like gasoline. Sometimes our tank runs empty and inspiration gets depleted," says Skinner.
Take steps toward the things that inspire you to help get your motor running again. Whether you're going through a loss or a breakup or a health issue, it's easy to lose inspiration, and often the more comfortable route involves giving up.
"When we feel inspired, darker feelings can be overshadowed by the excitement, passion and drive," explains Skinner. "The key, though, is to know what inspires you and to do it over and over again."
When the going gets tough, be sure to maintain the things in your life that make you happy and fulfilled.
6. Follow your heart
Trust your gut to tell you what's right and what's wrong. "Listen to what your heart says, because that is your intuition speaking to you. Write down what your heart tells you and do not judge. Sit on it. If the whispering continues it is likely your truth," says Skinner.
"When you have a love affair with yourself, you will become an inspiring person to others and to yourself," she says.