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If You Think Unconditional Love Is Impossible, You Might Not Know What It Is

If You Think Unconditional Love Is Impossible, You Might Not Know What It Is

Unconditional love is a gruesome, painful and sacrificial way to care for another human being. It isn’t butterfly kisses, a steamy night of passion or the joy a son brings to his mother’s heart. It is so much deeper than that. It is endless. It is profound. It’s powerful.

But is it possible? Science[1] says it is. Mario Beauregard, professor at Montreal University’s Centre for Research into Neurophysiology and Cognition, conducted a study and found that not only do all humans have the capacity to show unconditional love but, more importantly, specific areas of the brain are activated during this process, releasing dopamine—the chemical involved in sensing pleasure. Loving unconditionally is a mutually beneficial endeavor.

Unconditional love is hard because we misunderstand what it is

Loving someone unconditionally means loving the very essence of the individual. Just as they are. Despite what they do or fail to do, with no expectation of anything in return—including love.[2] However, it is one of the most misunderstood concepts. If offering unconditional love is your mission in life, you need to beware of these 3 subtle differences:

Unconditional love is loving someone no matter what happens, but it is not accepting abuse

It is supporting a person through every situation they face. Sticking with them through the good and the bad. It is not, however, blind devotion, unrelenting commitment and enabling bad behavior. Loving someone unconditionally involves doing what is best for them no matter what it costs you.

When you love a person you want to see them happy, but that does not mean neglecting yourself or becoming a doormat. When you allow yourself to be mistreated you are teaching your loved one that it is o.k. to mistreat people. You are reinforcing bad behavior.

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Forgiveness is a vital component of practicing unconditional love. It means you must be quick to forgive but at the same time, not available for abuse.

Many people misuse the this concept as an excuse to remain in toxic and unhealthy relationships or to explain why they refuse to hold their loved one accountable.[3] Often times, this is seen in abusive relationships. The victim may claim to stay with the abuser out of love. But sometimes love may mean severing ties, calling the authorities or taking other extreme measures to get them the help they need. You do what is best for the individual despite the cost.

Unconditional love seeks to provide happiness but isn’t over-protective

Love is an action not a feeling. It is a conscious choice that you make repeatedly—moment by moment. It doesn’t happen naturally. When a mother gives birth and holds her child in her arms for the very first time, we have been led to believe that the love is instant. And as magical and poetic as that sounds, it simply isn’t true. That mother chooses to love her child. Many times that choice is made and solidified some time during the pregnancy. Think about it. When a woman discovers that she is unexpectedly pregnant, she does not immediately fall in love with the fetus. It takes time. She must choose to love her child.

Providing for the happiness of your loved ones whenever you can is important and necessary but your desire to please them shouldn’t come at their detriment.

If a mother discovers her child is using drugs—love demands that she do whatever she can to assist them in breaking the addiction. Whatever it takes. And as painful as it may be, sometimes that involves allowing them to hit rock bottom, go to jail, or even become homeless. Pain and heartache forge character and tenacity, and help us to grow. Watching someone you love suffer is brutal, but sometimes it’s necessary. Allow your loved ones to experience set backs and fall. Just be there to pick them up when they do.

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Unconditional love involves respecting and accepting the life choices of your loved ones without being indulgent

Unconditional love is the complete and total acceptance of a person “as is.” It involves not withholding love because you don’t agree with their life choices. You don’t love because of—you love in spite of… Adopt a “care less” attitude.[4] Meaning, I could care less what you decide, I love you anyway. It means staying away from controlling behaviors and passing judgement.

That said—this doesn’t mean you stand blindly by and watch someone—especially a child—run head long into danger.

Many times a parent will not chastise a child, or challenge them for fear of retaliation or losing the child’s love. Enabling bad behavior is not love.[5] Unconditional love seeks what is in the best interest of that person above all else. It is supporting and nurturing that person into being the best version of them self.

Why we should practice unconditional love when it’s so hard

Unconditional love is transformative. It has the power to change you and the person you love. It is a balancing act that requires you to constantly adjust and readjust your actions and attitude. But it is worth it in the end. Some of the benefits of learning to love unconditionally are:

  • You learn to accept and love yourself.
  • You become more empathetic.
  • You are better able to cope with change and deal with disappointment.
  • You develop a deep understanding of what true love is.

10 keys to unlock the door to loving unconditionally

How can finite beings love infinitely? When most people think of this kind of love, people like Mother Theresa, Ghandi and the Pope come to mind. But how can we—mere mortals—transcend our inherent, natural tendency towards selfishness and love without condition or expectation of a reward?

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Here are 10 things you can do to begin loving unconditionally:

1. Practice forgiveness.[6]

2. Practice empathizing[7] with others.

3. Learn to love yourself unconditionally.

4. Practice open and honest communication.

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5. Love them the way they need to be loved. Love isn’t a one-size-fits-all; what might be loving for one person could be harmful to another person.

6. Accept yourself and others “as is.”

7. Accept and respect the boundaries of your loved ones.

8. Choose to be loving. Ask yourself in each situation, what is the most loving response?

9. Don’t try to be a human shield. Allow your loved ones to hurt and support them through the pain.

10. Perform acts of service daily, with no expectation of anything in return.

What actions will you take to demonstrate your unconditional love?

Reference

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Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 14, 2020

Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

Today didn’t turn out as you planned, but it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It simply means that you’re human, and you’re not bad just because you had a bad day.

“Not everyday is a good day but there is something good in every day.” -Alice Morse Earle

It’s not the end of the world when you find yourself thinking “I had a bad day,” but it can feel like it. You may have had plans that fell apart, experiences that set you back, and interactions that only did harm.

You may have started the day thinking you could take on it all, only to find you could hardly get out of bed. When you have a bad day, you can forget to look at the good.

Sometimes, self-care helps us to remember why we are worth it. It helps us to recharge and reset our mindset. It helps us to know that there are still options and that the day isn’t over yet.

Love yourself today, no matter how hard it’s been. That’s the way to find yourself amidst the hardships you have. That’s how you center yourself and regain focus and live a more meaningful life. Give yourself some credit and compassion.

Here are 7 ways to rebound from a bad day using self-compassion as a tool. If you had a bad day, these are for you!

1. Make a Gratitude List

In a study on gratitude, psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted an experiment where one group of people wrote out gratitude lists for ten weeks while another group wrote about irritations. The study found that the group that wrote about gratitude reported more optimistic mindsets in their lives[1].

Overall, having a gratitude list improved well-being and made one truly grateful by counting the blessings in their lives.

Write a list of what you are grateful for if you had a bad day. Make it as long as you like, but also remember to note why you’re grateful for each thing you write.

What has given you the most joy? What has set you up for better days? Keep a tally of triumphs in mind, especially when you do have the bad days.

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The day doesn’t define you, and you still have things of value that surround you. These could be material things, spiritual connections and experiences, relationships, basic needs, emotional and mental well-being, physical health, progress towards hopes and dreams, or simply being alive.

Here are some other simple ways to practice gratitude.

2. Write in a Journal

Journaling affects your overall mental health, which also affects physical health and aids in the management of stress, depression, anxiety, and more[2].

All you need is a pen and paper, or you could do an online, password-protected journal such as Penzu. The key is to get started and not pressure yourself on how polished or perfect it is. You don’t need to have prior experience to start journal writing. Just start.

Write out everything that is bothering you for 15 minutes. This helps with rumination, processing problems, and can even aid with brainstorming solutions.

However you approach it, you can find patterns of thinking that no longer serve you and start to transform your overall mental state. This will impact all areas of your life and is a great coping skill.

3. Meditate

Meditation can help you overcome negative thought patterns, worrying about the future, dwelling on the past, or struggling to overcome a bad day[3]. It shifts your mentality and helps you focus on the present or any one thing you truly want to focus on.

Here is an example of a meditation you can do:

Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Rest your body, release tension, and unclench your jaw. Tighten and release each muscle group in a body scan for progressive muscle relaxation.

Focus on your breath, taking a few deep breaths. Let your belly expand when you breathe in for diaphragmatic breathing. Empty yourself completely of air, then return to normal breathing.

Next, focus on the idea of self-love and let it erase negative thoughts. Think about the ways you’ve been judging yourself, with the narratives coming up that your mind may create.

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Give yourself unconditional love and release judgment. Take your time meditating on this because you matter. This is particularly important if you had a bad day.

Check out this article for more on how to get started with a meditation practice.

4. Do Child’s Pose

Yoga Outlet says:

“Child’s Pose is a simple way to calm your mind, slow your breath, and restore a feeling of peace and safety. Practicing the pose before bedtime can help to release the worries of the day. Practicing in the morning can you help transition from sleeping to waking.”[4]

When you do Child’s Pose, it can be between difficult positions in yoga, or it can be anytime you feel you need a rest. It helps you recover from difficulties and relax the mind.

It also has the physical health benefits of elongating your back, opening your hips, and helping with digestion[5].

To do Child’s Pose, rest your buttocks back on your feet, knees on the floor. Elongate your body over your knees with both arms extended or tucked back, with head and neck resting on the floor[6].

Had a bad day? Try Child's Pose.

     

    Do this pose as a gift to yourself. You are allowing yourself to heal, rest, get time for yourself, recover, and recharge. When you’ve had a bad day, it’s there waiting for you.

    5. Try Positive Self-Talk

    Engage in positive self-talk. This is essentially choosing your thoughts.

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    When you have a negative thought, such as “I can’t do this,” replace it consciously with the thought “I can do this.” Give yourself positive affirmations to help with this.

    Negative self-talk fits into four general categories: personalizing or blaming yourself, magnifying or only focusing on the negative, catastrophizing or expecting the worst to happen, and polarizing or only seeing back and white[7].

    When you stop blaming yourself for everything and start focusing on the positive, expecting things to work out, and seeing the areas of grey in life, you reverse these negative mindsets and engage in positive self-talk.

    When you speak words of kindness to yourself, your brain responds with a more positive attitude. That attitude will affect everything you do. It’s how you take care of yourself if you had a bad day.

    Check in with yourself to know when you are having negative self-talk. Are you seeing patterns? When did they start to become a problem? Are you able to turn these thoughts around?

    6. Use Coping Skills and Take a Break

    Use your coping skills. This means not letting your thoughts take control of yourself.

    You can distract yourself and escape a bit. Do things you love. You can exercise, listen to music, dance, volunteer or help someone, be in nature, or read a book.

    It isn’t about repression. It’s about redirection. You can’t stay in thoughts that are no longer working for you.

    Sometimes, it’s okay to get out of your own way. Give yourself a break from the things going on in your head. You can always come back to a problem later. This may even help you figure out the best course of action as sometimes stepping away is the only way to see the solution.

    If you had a bad day, you may not feel like addressing what went wrong. You may need a break, so take one.

    7. If a Bad Day Turns Into Bad Days

    “I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.” –Jim Carrey

    If you’ve been feeling out of control, depressed, or unstable for more than a few weeks, it’s time to call a mental health professional. This is not because you have failed in any way. It’s because you are human, and you simply need help.

    You may not be able to quickly rebound from a bad day, and that’s fine. Feel what you feel, but don’t let it consume you.

    When you talk to a professional, share the techniques that you have already tried here and whether they were helpful. They may tell you additional ideas or gain insights from your struggles of not being able to rebound from a series of bad days.

    If you’re having more than just a bad day, they will want to know. If you don’t have the answers, that’s okay, too. You just need to try these tools and figure out how you’re feeling. That’s all that’s required of you.

    Keep taking care of yourself. Any progress is progress, no matter how small. Give yourself a chance to get better by reaching out.

    Final Thoughts

    If you had a bad day, don’t let it stop you.

    Know this: It’s okay not to be okay. You have a right to feel what you feel. But there is something you can do about it.

    You can invest in yourself via self-care.

    You are not alone in this. Everyone has bad days from time to time. You just need to know that you are the positive things you tell yourself.

    More Things You Can Do If You Had a Bad Day

    Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

    Reference

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