February is the Month of Love! Here are 3 Tips for Loving More Mindfully
Valentine’s Day is almost here, and this year, whether your Valentine will be a dear friend or family member, a romantic partner, a caring colleague, or even a beloved pet, showing them your love more mindfully may be just the gift they will appreciate receiving the most.
These days, Valentine’s Day often gets a bad rap for becoming a commercialized holiday where people may feel pressured to buy expensive gifts for their loved ones and where restaurants increasingly require patrons to submit to pricey pre-fixe menus. This can leave people feeling disenchanted with the holiday altogether, disappointed with their loved one’s gift or restaurant choice, or guilty for not being able (or willing!) to pay lofty prices to celebrate their love.
Bringing a more mindful approach to the way you express your love and care to others this month—and all year long—can inspire feelings of connection and gratitude that can outshine even the prettiest of diamond bracelets or cufflinks.
Here are 3 tips for a more mindful approach to expressing your love:
- Give the gift of your attention—Studies have shown that between computer work, TV, streaming, apps, and social media, adults in the U.S. spend upwards of 17 hours per day on screens. While experts can’t agree on how much screen time is too much for adults, it goes without saying that more screen time means less connecting with the people (or pet!) right in front of you. Whether you opt for a fancy dinner out or a comfy meal at home, give your Valentine (or Galentine!) the gift of your full attention. Make a point to put away your phone and tablet, turn off the TV, and find a way to connect more meaningfully, like learning something new about each other or playing a game together—you may even find it more enriching than Netflix!
- Give the gift of warmth and affection—Warmth and affection are qualities we all need to thrive, and studies have shown that people who are affection-deprived are more likely to suffer from depression, stress, anxiety, and lower well-being. This is also known by psychologists as “skin hunger” or “touch starvation,” and it has even prompted the creation of cuddling-related businesses like the Snuggle Salon. Affection doesn’t need to be romantic to fulfill our biological human need for touch. A simple hug, holding a friend or loved one’s hand, petting your cat or dog, or a warm video chat can help to boost our oxytocin levels (the “love hormone”). With your Valentine’s permission of course, the gift of a little affection can go a long way.
- Give a meaningful gift they can savor—If your “love language” is gift giving, or that’s the love language of your Valentine, consider a more mindful approach to your gift selection process by slowing down and taking the time to reflect and plan ahead. Start by asking yourself these simple questions:
- JOY: What does my Valentine love the most in life? What brings them joy?
- SAVORING: What might bring your Valentine positive emotions for weeks or months to come, rather than just for a day or two? What would they savor?
- THOUGHTFULNESS: What meaningful gift or experience would your Valentine deeply appreciate that they wouldn’t or couldn’t get (or do) for themselves? What might they perceive as particularly thoughtful or helpful?
- HEART: A sincere and heartfelt note or gift will likely be remembered (and kept!) far longer than a hastily storebought item. What could you give your Valentine that would come from your heart?
Giving of yourself for the good of another in meaningful ways can have a powerful impact, so let this month of love inspire you to bring a more mindful and intentional approach to the ways you engage with your loved ones, whether they happen to be family, friends, or pets—and remember that these strategies can also enrich your relationships all year long.
The YMCA of Greater Houston offers many ways to learn more about bringing mindfulness into your daily life. Join a group class, like our weekly ZOOM Mindfulness Meditation on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm for YMCA members. This Valentine’s Day, a special guided Loving Kindness Meditation will be offered during this Tuesday evening class. Visit the YMCA of Greater Houston’s website for more information or to join the Y today.
Finally, Valentine’s Day can be a very difficult time for some people. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, know that help is available. Visit the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for a list of resources. For immediate help 24 hours a day, call or text 988.
About the Author
Wendy Saunders is a Certified Teacher and Facilitator through Emory University in CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) and SEE Learning®, a K-12 educational program designed to build social, emotional, and ethical competencies through attention training, compassion cultivation, and trauma-informed resiliency skills. Wendy is also a facilitator of the Community Resiliency Model (CRM) ®, a program of the Trauma Resource Institute, the Founder of Compassionate Leader, LLC, and has worked with thousands of people in business, non-profit, education, and healthcare organizations across the country and internationally to cultivate mindfulness, compassion, love, resilience, and leadership skills.