Why putting yourself first actually makes you happier


Oddly enough, we’ve been taught that putting yourself first is selfish. We’ve been conditioned to believe that focusing on Doing You means that you’re failing at other things.

So almost three months into my first Adult job when I realized that my early morning runs were the key to my sanity, I thought that I’d have to give them up. My ritual (along with my sanity) was dwindling each time a 7:30am meeting with my team in Asia popped onto my calendar.

Which kept happening more often than you could imagine (like, every day).

One day I put my Big Girl Pants on, and made a suggestion to my team. “Couldn’t we alternate our meetings between my morning, and yours?” I asked, secretly wondering if I just killed my career.

But, my suggestion ended up doing the entire team good: not everyone on the team enjoyed staying at their office to talk to me until 10pm. And, I didn’t really enjoy giving up my morning ritual.

This small conflict was my first, stark choice between Me versus Them. Very early on in my Adult life, I realized that I need Do Me when I can — which means that those small wins are so much sweeter.

It is hard to put yourself first when there are so many other demands on your time. Whether it’s work, or your FOMO — how do actually you find the time to do something for You?

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I gave a little thought to the habits I’ve created to help me Put Me First. And, I’m not ashamed to say — these little habits have made me a happier human.


Are morning runs your thing? A 5-minute evening meditation? A long, solo Saturday coffee & book session?

Whatever your thing is (or you want it to be), pencil it into your schedule. When you’re a Big Working Adult, it’s hard enough to even find time to do your grocery shopping — let alone things for you.

Make time for it. And then, make it a habit.

For me, Tuesday evenings are devoted to my favorite gym class (Equinox is a cult). But, I seriously have to put a recurring meeting request on my calendar. I have literally scheduled a date with myself to workout.

It works. I treat it like a legitimate meeting that I can’t change. And, I’ve rarely missed a class.

It’s easy to loosen commitments to yourself when they’re not set in stone.


This is opposite of everything I’d ever normally recommend. I’m all about saying yes to everything, ever.

But in order to Do You — you have to say No sometimes.

That means saying No to your boss when you have too much shit on your place (I might finesse that No a little bit). It means saying No when your boyfriend wants to go out on a Friday night, and you feel like being a grandma (I mean, wine is always better on your couch, my friends).

And, it means saying No when you really want to go to that gym class, but your friend asks you to go to happy hour instead.

Saying no can be hard when the other side looks enticing, or even scary. So, it helps to practice saying no in small ways.

And, like I did with my 7:30am switch up, it’s much easier when you propose a solution instead of a flat out No. You can say to happy-hour-friend, “I already signed up for a gym class tonight, but maybe Thursday?”

It’s that simple.

Try it the next time you had Me plans, and something else gets in the way.


What happens when happy-hour-friend needs a drink? Pronto.

Listen, I get it — protecting your time isn’t always that simple. Friends nag, bosses seem scary, boyfriends are just…boyfriends.

Well, of course there are going to be times that no matter how hard you might try that No will fall on deaf ears. Being an Adult is (sadly) not always as fun as we want it to be.

But, if you assess the situation (friend is not dying, boss is not breathing fire), and it’s appropriate for you to push back on that push back — do it. You deserve this. You are strong enough.

Sometimes, it’s easy to avoid drama by sacrificing your needs, and giving into others. But, keep track of those times you do things you really don’t want to. Write down the times you get staffed on a project you didn’t think was up your alley, or skipped spin for drinks (even if you got charged for that late cancellation — been there). Assess how many times you put other’s needs before yours.

From there, push yourself to Say No. To create those little rituals. And stick to them! Hey — it only takes 30 days to create a habit.

Try being a bit more conscious about what makes you happy this Valentines day, because you loving yourself never hurts.

soulKatina Mountanos