BY: Summers McKay & Kristy Jansen
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha
Love is the most curious and powerful of forces. It has the unique ability to both build strong alliances and tear down unnecessary walls. It can both create and destroy – and all for the good. At The Optimist Daily, we are big fans of the strength and unending focus that comes from love – love of self, love of others, and love of community. We see love and optimism as intimately intertwined. Yes, there’s romantic love. Yes, there’s familial love. And yes, there is love and passion for the way we interact with our community and our world. We firmly believe that despair won’t save the world; love on the other hand might.
On Valentine’s Day, love is often celebrated with simplistic and romantic tendencies. Flowers, candy, and ubiquitous heart shaped valentines spread celebratory joy and for many are a wonderful opportunity to offer a token of affection to someone you care about.
This year, we are challenging each other to do more. Whether you are involved in a romantic relationship or not, Valentine’s Day is a day for you to celebrate love and connection.
This Valentine’s Day, which looks different for many than those of previous years, we invite you to explore love in a new way. Look at love as a tool to help heal, to help grow, to expand yourselves and our world – and change it for good. Here are three practices to get started.
Give yourself the gift of love
Kindness to yourself, above all, is the anchor of love. Call it “lifeguard rules” but the simple fact is, unless you are able to be kind to yourself and express love to yourself, it is very difficult to give love to others. Like Optimism, Love is a tactical skill that must be regularly practiced in order to master. Here are a few ways to practice self love.
- Say it like you mean it. Yep, look in the mirror and say “I love you.”
Awkward? Perhaps, but after a few times, you’ll learn to be more comfortable with the practice and certainly, you’ll start believing it.
- Send yourself flowers and write yourself a valentine.
Recently, I sat down and wrote myself a love note. It had been a particularly trying week and I was left questioning my resolve and strength. It wasn’t long. It wasn’t complicated. It was a brief note that I included in an order of flowers that arrived at my door a few hours later. Still blooming across from my desk, I see the note and the flowers and am reminded that loving myself first makes me better at loving others.
Give someone else a reminder that they are loved!
We often forget that giving voice and expression to our loving feelings is a specific action that pays off just as much, or even more for the one expressing that love than for the recipient. Yes I feel wonderful when my friend or lover says “I love you”, but when I tell someone else how much they matter to me, and why, I am connected to the positive loving part of myself in a more powerful way. ASU’s Kory Floyd and other researchers have found that communicating our positive feelings for others through words or actions offers a wide range of health benefits. These include lower stress hormones, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system.
- If you have a partner, or even a friend, write a top 10 list of things you love about them, just because.
- Frame a friend’s favorite song lyric or quote and give it to them as a present.
- Recognize that all your relationships matter and have a meaningful place in your life. Check out our Thought Leader, Rinaldo Brutoco’s perspectives on the power of relationships and share it with someone you love.
- Showing love to strangers can also be equally powerful and perhaps even more impactful. Simply commit to acts of kindness or generosity: pre-pay for someone else’s coffee, write a thank you note on a receipt when you are giving a tip, or take a moment to tell an essential worker how much you appreciate their efforts.
Send love out to the world
After you’ve taken care of yourself and someone you love, it’s time to turn to our beautiful, expansive and extraordinary world and shout “I Love You!” Ok, so maybe shouting I love you to trees feels amazing, but like the other recommendations, here are a few practical tasks to show your love to the world.
- Send love to pollinators by increasing biodiversity in your garden
- Learn how to reduce your impact by learning how to eat local
- Check out our guide on 5 ways to give back to your community during (and after!) the pandemic
- Reduce your personal ecological footprint to show love for our planet. Embrace plant-based food options, make your bathroom more sustainable with these tips, and recycle or upcycle clothing.
This past year has been a challenge for human connection. Even those of us who are usually social butterflies are filled with a sense of loneliness. Finding a sense of connection, and reconnection, is what this Valentine’s day should be about for all of us. Use the power of love to reconnect with yourself, those around you, and the world. It’s time we all got back to love.