• Ariel Garten

Deepen love in surprising ways -- even if you're not really feelin' Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is often seen as a day for lovers and romantics to celebrate their love. This can be awesome for some, but leaves many out in the cold, feeling less loved rather than more. It’s so tempting to resist Valentine’s Day if you don’t have “a special someone” in your life, or to reject it for its commercialism, or to do an “anti-Valentine’s Day”. But resisting love doesn’t tend to make life better. Why not transform it into a day when love is elevated, and feel that warmth and lift?

I think Valentine’s Day is a day for everyone to celebrate love of all kinds. If you agree, this year I encourage you to use Valentine’s Day as a chance to spread love more widely. This could be love within your family, love between you and your friends, love for yourself, and love in the many nooks and crannies of your life where it is needed.

My mom used to do special loving things for us on Valentine’s Day, and when I was school aged I didn’t get it because I thought Valentine’s Day was just supposed to be about grownups expressing romantic love. In our family, it became tradition to use the day to express our love for each other and to feel closer to one another. We maintain that tradition today.

If you want to change the way you celebrate this year, I have some suggestions for you to generate, elevate and spread love of all kinds. I hope these tips will help you create more love in your life, rather than leaving it out in the cold.

1. Eat together

Gather at the table over a meal or throw a blanket on the living room floor and have a whimsical winter picnic. It never hurts to whip up something special for someone you love, or to cook something together. Or if there’s not a someone special in your life at the moment, shift the focus to the office where you can take the time to go out to lunch with a few colleagues or just have a good ol’ gab at the water cooler.

2. Express gratitude

Practicing gratitude is so key to health and happiness. Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to articulate what someone means to you and how much you value and love them. Write it in a letter or whisper it in their ear. Or at the dinner table, make the leap and go around the table and let each person express their gratitude for another family member. You might even try this in the office. At the start of our meetings, sometimes we go around and just say the name of one person at the table that we are feeling thankful for. Try it, it really changes the dynamic for the better and bonds teams of all sorts like families or co-workers.

3. Make something by hand

You can always pick up a gift for a loved one at a store, but they'll remember the gifts you make by hand more. If you have kids, help them make something to give to your partner or your children's friends. Make cards by hand for your children or whip up a batch of cookies to feast on. Making valentines together is super easy. All you need is some red construction paper and a pair of scissors. Or, if you don’t have that on hand, use just find a sheet of any paper, a red pen/crayon/marker and scissors and you’re off to the races! You can make them more personal by adding family photos to the cards. You can even save the valentines you exchange from year to year and put them around the house as decoration in the coming years.

4. Share the love

Doing something nice for a stranger is ALWAYS appreciated. Give a compliment to the checkout clerk, flash an extra smile to the people in the elevator, or buy a homeless person a meal or a coffee. While you’re making your valentines cards, have your kids make a few extra and hand them out to friends or strangers throughout the day. We can brighten the day of complete strangers just by sharing our humanity. We can also strengthen bonds with the people we interact with daily – the guy who makes your coffee will appreciate it.

5. Connect with friends

If you’re single, Valentine’s Day can make you feel like you want to curl up in a ball and be left alone. Rest assured that, if you just can’t handle it, Valentine’s Day will come and go. Before you give up on it, try to use the day to celebrate the connection and love in the places where it does exist in your life. When you connect with the people in your life who support you – like friends, teachers, co-workers, and even the people you meet regularly in your day (coffee guy or gal) – you strengthen that support and those bonds and networks. Use it as a day to express gratitude for those relationships. Give them a valentine, or buy a cup of coffee for the guy in line behind you. Be the love. It feels pretty great to do something nice for someone, and it may strengthen your connection with them in the months ahead.

6. Set the mood

Consciously create a positive atmosphere in your home on the day. Think positive and say positive things to your kids and partner to reinforce those good vibes. If you have kids, encourage them to tell you about the things they love. Make your space smell nice with something yummy on the stove or in the oven. Greet everyone who enters with a hug. If you’re single, don’t overlook the power of self love! Try to think about what you’re proud of this year, and what you like about yourself most. Light a few candles, have a relaxing bath, romance yourself!

7. Reach out to someone having a hard time

At some point, we all have friends and family members who are under great stress or who are experiencing heartache. If there’s someone in your life who is going through a rough time, make sure to pay them a visit or give them a call on Valentine’s Day to show you’re thinking about them and are there for support.

Happy Valentine's Day! Don’t forget that when you spread the love, you feel it too. I hope my tips help you enjoy some extra love this year. May it keep you warm through the winter and multiply!