How to ‘Love Yourself First’

I’ve heard the expression thrown around so many times, I’ve used it so many times, that I think I ought to write in further detail about how one goes about ‘loving themselves first’ rather than just regurgitating the cliché time and time again.

Okay, here we go.

1. Look After Yourself

That sounds dead fucking simple but let’s be honest here, most things that sound simple are, in and of themselves, simplistic in nature. It’s in the implementation that people tend to fall down. In this case, I can describe what looking after yourself means. I can list ways that other people manage to look after themselves. I can link to studies showing that certain activities are proven to improve mental well-being. This would all be something that you’ve read before and if just reading about this shit made it all better, well you wouldn’t still be here reading more. It’s only through real intent and action following that intent that anyone ever makes a change in their life.

There’s no one remedy for every individual (life would be boring if our minds could be fixed so easily), but there is a framework we can all use. It exists in our brain and it’s called habit forming.

Chances are that if you are feeling shitty about who you are as a person, it’s not the underlying consciousness that you think is a piece of shit, it’s actually the person you habitually become every day when you wake up. It’s the way you think, the things you do (or the things you don’t do) that you are unhappy with.

The good news is that these things are all changeable. Make a list of the things you do, say or think that make you unhappy with yourself.

Seriously, go do it now. I’ll wait.

2. Change Your Habits

Then the next logical step is to correct your bad habits. Replace the old with the new. If the person you were unhappy with was a bit of a slob who spent every evening staring at a screen from the comfort of a couch, well then you know that the person that will make you happy must spend their evenings in another way.

This could be you, if you're into that sort of thing.
This could be you, if you’re into that sort of thing.

You can’t just give up a habit and not replace it with something else. Choose something that you love or even that you think you might enjoy and decide to practice that activity instead. Habits are literally etched into the neural pathways in our brain. This is why they’re so hard to break once they become automatic behaviours. To develop a new habit, you have to write that behaviour into your brain as a new neural pathway¹. It’s not quite brain surgery but you can see why it’s so difficult.

This relates to goal setting as well, but it’s important to aim for a lifestyle change rather than a physical change. For example, aim to get some exercise twice a week rather than aiming to lose a stone. Goals with deadlines are great when the work involved has a real deadline but when you’re looking to change your own habits, there is no benefit in setting yourself a finish line.

I find that deadlines in this context only serve to demotivate me in the case that I miss them or allow me to take the foot off the gas when I’ve surpassed them. This is the old habit fighting back, trying to get the mind to slip back into the comfort of the habit it knows. A personal example would be my efforts to refrain from smoking cannabis, “a whole week without smoking? Time to celebrate with a spliff”. You see how dangerous this can be?

Okay I’ve gone on quite a bit about habits but I hope you see the relevance. We don’t love ourselves because of how we feel. We feel how we do as a result of our experiences. We experience what we do because of our habits. Hence, changing our habits will change our experience, in turn changing our feelings towards ourselves.

3. Practice Mindfulness

“Boo! Go away with your bleedin’ mindfulness shite will ya!?”

Sorry but this has to be mentioned. If you do not try to be mindful, you will fail. In order to rewire the brain you have to actively monitor it (be mindful). If you do not monitor your behaviour (be it thoughts or actions), the mind will slip back into its default mode and before you know it, you’ll be back to your old habits once again.

This is where practising mindfulness comes in handy. I’ve spoken in depth about mindfulness before but the underlying concept is simply that of awareness of the present moment. Within the observation of the present moment lies the key to self-love. When you hear your inner voice giving you grief about something, instead of believing it, accept it as a thought (and only that) and then let it go.

Don’t fight against negative thoughts. I’ve read so much bullshit about only paying attention to positives and then you will only feel positive. It’s bullshit. Completely and utterly. Accept the negative and the positive. Resisting thoughts doesn’t solve our problems, it actually creates more because in doing so you not only have the negative emotion to deal with but also the feeling of tension that stems from resistance.

Allow yourself to feel sad. Do not however, dwell on negative thoughts by humouring them. When we focus our attention on something, we give it our energy. We give it power to sustain. That’s okay if it’s thinking about how happy we’ll be when we’re on holidays, but why would we ever want to fuel a negative thought about our body image with more fire?

The main point I wanted to get at here was mindfulness with regard to maintaining habits. The optimal technique for this (in my opinion) is starting a morning meditation ritual. That doesn’t mean setting aside an extra hour every morning, it can be done in 10 minutes or less. You can download an app for guided meditation or if you feel comfortable doing so, just sit for a few minutes in relative silence and focus on your breath. Think about your intent for the day while you meditate.

Another great piece of advice I’ve taken on board in my own self-improvement is to start the day by writing down what I intend to accomplish throughout the day². Putting it onto paper makes it that bit more real. It’s harder to dismiss something real as opposed to ignoring a thought alone. If you do this over an extended period of time and keep it in some sort of organised format, you’ll be able to look back over all you’ve accomplished and feel pretty great about it. Which brings me on to my next point.

4. Reflection

And I don’t mean looking at yourself in the mirror. I mean to think carefully and deeply about your progress. As humans we are blessed with the ability to self-reflect. Meta-cognition is one hell of a drug. We have the capacity to exercise introspection and a willingness to learn more about our fundamental nature, purpose and essence (straight from Wikipedia!).

So what I’m saying here is to put that ability to good use. Reflect critically on your progress and also on your failed attempts at progress. This is how we learn what works for us and what doesn’t. It also turns failed attempts into something of value. When you try something out and discover that you don’t like it, you learn a lot about yourself. You know where not to waste time in the future. It’s important to be aware of our own shortcomings so that we can either work on them or try something different.

Think of reflection as a way of fine tuning our technique for self-improvement to suit our specific needs. You’ll make far more progress with a technique that’s specific to yourself than you will a general approach. If you don’t reflect, you won’t know why it’s not working.


Loving yourself is not an easy task for somebody who has developed some bad habits and allowed their mind to build absolute 4 lane motorways of neural pathways for these habits. By focusing on the fact that all we’ve done is build roads in our head, it becomes easier to know that you can tear them down and build new ones.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was an emotionally stable, self-loving, content mind.



  1. Understanding the physical process taking place in the brain can be helpful in changing habits. Focusing on the fact that we’re fighting against the current state of the mind as opposed to combating the mind itself motivates us. It reaffirms the idea that this is a battle we can win.
  2. I use a journal (or diary for those that wish to slag me over it), and follow the structure outlined here to track my progress. There are many online tools that provide the same functionality as paper except you know, on a screen.

You Will Die & You Will Be Forgotten


I’m sure a lot of you will read the title of this piece and think to yourself, “Jaysus, that’s a bit depressing isn’t it?”. I once thought that but through reading the works of the Dalai Lama (translated), I now believe the exact opposite to be true. I will attempt to shed light on this perspective but I’m only one man with a keyboard and someone else’s idea.

You will die and soon after (in the grand scheme of the universe) you will be forgotten. Everything that you’ve ever known will fade into non-existence. Everyone you’ve ever come into contact with, your close friends, lovers, classmates, enemies, they will all die and their existence will become a memory which will also fade into non-existence. Shit buzz.

But is it really? Consider the possibility that you won’t die or that you won’t ever be forgotten. What is the point of life if there is no end to it? Where would the motivation to do anything come from if one had an eternity to do it in? The brevity of our time here is what makes it so precious. This is what I think about when I consider my own demise. It’s constantly approaching. The end is coming and there’s no stopping it. My body is literally disintegrating before my eyes. I believe it important to remind myself of this as often as I can.

In accepting this as truth, there comes a great freedom. The freedom to do instead of sitting and pondering what we could do. I speak from experience when I say that the belief that we ‘have time’ leads to us losing an awful lot of it. The idea that time is a possession of ours, that it is something we can have even a smidge of control over is complete and utter bullshit and we should all accept this.

Anyone who has ever suffered with procrastination (read: all of you) will relate to this. “I have 6 weeks to do this assignment” quickly turns into “Oh my god, it’s due in two days!” when we believe we are in control. We don’t value the time because we think it is plentiful. But isn’t it amazing how much work we can get done in such a short time as a result of a deadline induced panic? Consider how much we can get out of that little bit of time at the end when we are truly dedicated to the task at hand. Imagine being able to unlock that focus, that determination to accomplish a given task at all times. Imagine how rich our lives would be if we could be here and now always.

Know that your time here is precious. It truly is. If you can realise this, then you will see the value of making the most of your time. The top 5 regrets of the dying really put this into perspective. Live a life true to yourself, don’t work too hard (at a career you don’t love), express your feelings, stay in touch with friends and let yourself be happy (not easy!).

No matter what you do in your life, no matter how many people you impress, no matter how many women you seduce, no matter how much money you accumulate before the lights go out.. it doesn’t matter in the end. It matters now. Now matters. The future is going to be here in its own time so just let it come to you instead of preparing for it all the time. If your mind is always distracted by the future, the future will never come. It’s always just ahead of you. Don’t waste now thinking about then. Be here now because it’s all there is.

Mental Health in Ireland

In light of hearing the news regarding the 5 suicides in one weekend in Galway, I thought it was time I wrote an article about mental health in Ireland to shed some light on the magnitude of this issue. Ireland has the 5th highest suicide rate in Europe, with more people dying each year as a result of suicide than there are deaths on the roads. The purpose of this article is to address the (potential) reasons for this and to increase awareness of the underlying issues.

According to research published by the RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland), 1 in 5 young adults in Ireland is suffering from a mental health disorder. The research also found that suffering from a mental disorder at a young age greatly increases the chances of further episodes of mental ill-health during their adult years. It cannot be denied that this is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. To put it bluntly, this is fucked up.

With such a complex issue, it seems difficult to approach.. where does one begin? Well it always make sense to find the root cause of an issue to gain a better understanding of it. The causes of mental ill-health are varied and plentiful. The 3 types of factors that effect mental health are; biological, psychological and environmental. I will briefly run through a couple of examples of each to give you a deeper understanding.


  • Genetics (heredity): If somebody’s family has a history of mental illness, they can have an increased susceptibility to develop one of their own in the presence of other factors such as abuse, neglect, trauma and so on.
  • Substance abuse: Long term substance abuse has been linked to anxiety, depression and paranoia. Although it does not directly cause mental health problems, it can worsen pre-existing conditions or increase the chances of mental disorders coming to the surface.


  • Severe psychological trauma suffered as a child including sexual, emotional or physical abuse.
  • Neglect
  • A poor ability to communicate with others
  • An early loss of a parent or other guardian


  • Death or divorce upsetting family life
  • A dysfunctional family life
  • Substance abuse in the individual or the parents of the individual
  • Feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, anxiety, anger or loneliness
  • Social or cultural expectations such as the image of overly thin women in the media causing eating disorders in young women

As we can see, there are an awful lot of factors that can cause mental illness and certainly quite a few that there is no easy fix for. Instead of trying to stop the issue at the cause (a losing battle), we need to increase awareness, offer support services and lose the stigma around mental health if we ever want to see an overall improvement of the mental health of our countrymen (and women).

As it stands in Ireland today, mental health is a taboo subject. People are afraid to talk about it, they bottle up and get awkward whenever the topic is brought up in conversation. In order to overcome this taboo, we need to desensitize people to it. The great thing about this solution is that everybody (including you, reader!) has a part to play in it. All you have to do is talk!

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”

Never has the above quote been more apt! If you don’t talk about mental health, then you are prolonging the stigma. The stigma around mental health is the greatest factor in the high suicide rates we are encountering today. People feel like they can’t talk about their problems so they bottle them up inside. On the outside, they ‘keep up appearances’ and act like everything is okay because they don’t want to come across as weak. This is not right. Nobody should have to suffer in silence, struggling to cope with inner turmoil while keeping up a façade of mental well-being.

If you would like to see an end to this disgraceful social norm, there are a number of things you can do to improve the situation. First of all, spread the good word. Just talk to your friends and family about your mental health, discard your barriers and see that once people get used to the idea of openness, they too will open up and share their story. The other thing that you can do is come along to the March for Suicide Prevention taking place this Saturday, 31st May. The march will begin at The Garden of Remembrance at 2pm. The already minuscule budget for mental health services has been reduced in the latest budget and this march serves to increase awareness about the issue. Even if you can’t attend, please share the event on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media. It’s all about being heard and the more voices spreading the word, the greater the noise we can create.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Who Are You?

I haven’t written any new content in almost a month and I’d like to correct that today. I have been kept busy with college work but more relevantly, I’ve been reading a book, ‘The Untethered Soul‘ by Michael A. Singer. I have learned an awful lot from this book and today I’d like to share with you some of the ideas contained within. This book has changed my relationship with myself and the world around me for the better and I absolutely implore you all read it too. I promise that you will not be disappointed.

I want to start by asking you a simple question. Who are you? The majority of you will answer with your name. But that’s not who you are at all, that’s just a label you’ve been given so that people can address you. Who are you? You may go on to tell me a bit about yourself. You may tell me about your occupation, your hobbies, where you live, your childhood.. but that’s not who you are either. That’s just things that you’ve experienced or things that you do. Who are you? You might say, “Okay I am the voice in my head that experiences all of these things”. But that’s wrong again, you are not the voice in your head. You hear the voice in your head, you listen to the voice in your head, you observe the voice in your head. The very act of observing this voice makes it so that it cannot be you. You are not the voice in your head in much the same way that you are not the computer sitting in front of you (which you are also observing). There is a subject-object relationship where the voice in your head is the object. So that means you are the subject. “What is the subject then?”, I hear you ask. It’s the awareness, the consciousness. That’s you.

I am the one who sees. From back in here somewhere, I look out, and I am aware of the events, thoughts, and emotions that pass before me.

Okay, now that we know that we are the consciousness that experiences life we can start to look at the world in a different light. Imagine your mind as a blank canvas. Everything that goes on around you shows up on this canvas for you to observe. There is so much going on around us that it can’t all fit onto the canvas simultaneously, so things come and go. Imagine that as you walk down the street the shops along the roadside, the people walking past you, the footpath you walk on all pop up on this canvas in your mind. Let’s imagine that one particular thing grabs your attention, a woman walks past that resembles an ex-girlfriend you had years ago. You focus your attention on this woman on your canvas. Instead of coming onto the page briefly and leaving again to make room for more items, she slows down and eventually stops moving at all and grows in size taking up the entirety of the canvas. This only happens because you focus your attention, your consciousness on this object. You hold onto the thought, feeding it your attention which allows it to grow in your mind. All of a sudden you snap out of it and realize you’ve walked for 5 minutes without noticing the path in front of you. You were too busy focusing on the woman that looked like your ex and now you’ve gone and upset yourself. Oops!

By constantly reminding ourselves that we are not our thoughts or emotions, we can detach ourselves from them. You can’t learn this just by reading what I write here now. You have to put this into practise if you want to truly control your own happiness (and it can be done). The next time you feel yourself getting annoyed about something, I want you to take a step back mentally, become aware of the feeling rushing through your body and mind. You can really feel your body tense up as your mind denies the reality taking place around you. When you stop and become aware of the feeling, don’t concentrate your mind on it. Just feel it, let it pass and it will. If you focus your attention on it, you remove yourself from the seat of the Self. It is when we are removed from this seat of higher consciousness that we make poor decisions, think negatively about others or even say things we shouldn’t. You can’t stop reality from unfolding the way it does but your mind still tries to kick up a fuss about shit it can’t change, to put it bluntly. You can’t stop these thoughts from popping into your mind but you can decide not to humour them. When you remind yourself that you are the one who experiences your thoughts, you detach yourself from them and free yourself from the stress and anxiety associated with them.

I’d like to add here that this isn’t just the opinion of a bloke who wrote a book I liked. This is Zen. Being in the seat of the Self is the highest form of consciousness. Think about what happens when you watch TV. You focus all of your attention on what’s happening in the box sitting in front of you (unless you’re also scrolling through your newsfeed on your phone!). You can easily let 30 minutes go by without ever once being aware of the other sofa that’s sitting across from you. That is a narrowly focused consciousness. When the program ends, you instantly expand your consciousness back to the room in which you sit. It’s the same principle with becoming self-aware. You have to constantly remind yourself that you are focusing on something (we always are) and just by doing this, we become aware that we are the one who is aware.

For those of you who are still taking me seriously, I have some homework for you! Try it out. That’s it, just try it out. As you walk to college/work tomorrow, listen to the voice in your head narrating reality take place around you. Listen to the opinions it has about everything. Seriously, it doesn’t shut up does it? All I want you to do is remind yourself that you are the one who observes. When you realize that you are just the awareness of your thoughts and emotions, it is a lot easier to let them pass through you without disturbing your psyche.

The Hole in my Chest


Today, I would like to talk to you all this comic strip. This very comic strip has made a lasting impact on my life and how I live it. I’d like to add that I actually do have a hole in my chest. It doesn’t go all the way through of course, that would be ridiculous, but nonetheless, I have a large indentation in my chest which led to a lot of insecurity growing up. I’ll get back to this point further on but for the moment I’d like to talk about the Dude (as I will refer to him from now on) in the last panel and how he is the only truly happy person in this comic strip.

Happiness has become this grand thing that everybody thinks is always just out of reach, just around the corner but really, it’s something that comes from within. We have the potential to live it all the time, as long as we look for it in the right place. I’m not going to turn this post into a rant about evil corporations or anything but it has to be said that these companies want us to think we can buy happiness. Why? Because everybody wants happiness and because if we can be tricked into thinking we can buy it, of course we are going to! It’s not evil per say, it’s just the business of making money. But when that business is based on creating an illusion of happiness coming from material things instead of being an intrinsic part of human nature, it kind of pisses me off.

But, as I said, I’m not here to complain about the ‘bad guys’. I’m here to help you see what I see. At this point I should note that I’m not denying the fact that external things can (and do) make us happy. I’m just saying that this happiness is often short lived as nothing lasts forever. Especially if that happiness comes from having an iPhone (n) when the iPhone (n+1) is surely coming along faster than light!

It seems like everybody is keeping themselves busy (trying to fill the hole) but the thing is, we don’t need to fill it. The Dude is the only truly happy person in the whole comic. Why? Because he isn’t depending on external sources to give him happiness! There’s a child-like innocence to the Dude’s way of thinking and I think we could all benefit from living a little more like him. This is related to my last article about mindfulness as well. The Dude is most definitely living in the moment and being aware of his surroundings.

We all want a purpose in life. We want to feel important, like we’re here for some grandiose reason, like we have a calling in life that we must fulfil. We don’t. Each and every one of us is born the same. We aren’t given directions and a manual on our way out of the womb, we make our own way. That’s the beauty of it. We decide for ourselves. We create meaning by living.

The last point I want to make about the Dude is how he is happy with what he’s got, even if what he’s got is a hole in his chest. I’m happy with the hole in my chest too! I wouldn’t change it because it’s part of what makes me who I am. What we have might be great but as soon as we start comparing what we have to what we don’t have, we immediately think less of what we do have. Why? Because there are infinite things that we don’t have and only a finite number of things that we do. When we stop comparing ourselves to others, we stop worrying. I don’t compare myself to anybody except past and potential versions of myself because it’s absolutely pointless. We are incredibly critical of ourselves and we know ourselves better than we know everybody else. We only see everybody else’s highlight reel but we see all of the out-takes of our own life. How can you make a fair comparison with such little insight? You can’t. So don’t.