Do you feel loved when your sweetheart rubs your feet before bed? Does receiving a congratulatory card brighten your day? Or do you feel the most beloved when you get to spend the whole day at the beach with your kids? According to Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, there are five primary love languages:
- Words of affirmation
- Physical touch
- Acts of service
- Quality time
You probably receive love in all of these ways, but one or two may feel more significant to you. Differences in love languages can lead to confusion: perhaps you feel the most special when you are showered with beautiful baubles, but your friends only seem to express their devotion by inviting you to brunch! If you are speaking one love language (“you look radiant today, darling!”) but your partner is looking for love in another (“why doesn’t she ever want to just hang out with me?”), there may be a misunderstanding of each of your needs. Getting clear on how you like to both be offered and show love (these could be the same or not!) can help bring clarity to all of your relationships.
As the season of St. Valentine descends and expressions of love abound, consider these ways to show your care for friends, family, and other important relationships in your life.
1. Take a Yoga Class Together
Imagine holding hands in Savasana (awww!) or sharing a smirk with a friend when the teacher cues you to “blossom your heart open.” Sharing the physical, mental, emotional, and possibly spiritual experience of an Asana practice is a nice way to connect mind-body-spirit with someone else. The benefits of yoga are numerous and include strengthening the muscles, increasing flexibility, decreasing stress, and helping relieve mental health issues. Attending a class or practicing privately with a buddy or lover can be a beautiful way to bond. Yoga not enticing for you? Try a kickboxing class, swimming laps next to each other, or stepping outdoors to go for a walk or toss a ball.
2. Write a Letter of Gratitude
Think how much it might mean to your neighbor if you let him or her know thankful you were for holding your mail while you were out of town. Or what a note of thanks to your child’s teacher might mean to him or her after a hard day in the classroom. Words are so powerful and can convey much of what’s in the heart. Words of affirmation could make someone’s day or week or month! If you have a regular gratitude practice, you’ll know how affecting it is to consider all there is to be grateful for. Spread that attitude around and express your gratitude for someone for something they’ve done, given you, or for just being themselves.
3. Take a Hike
Spending time in nature grounds your energy and can contribute to an overall sense of well-being. Getting in some Vitamin N with a loved one is a way to share the beauty of the natural world, get some fresh air, and spend quality time together. Hiking not your jam? Take an urban walk to get the heart rate up together, plant something in the garden, or plan a trip to look forward to being outside together soon.
4. Take Out the Trash
Do the dishes. Make the bed. Make a cup of tea. An act of service as simple as a daily chore could convey to your beloved how much you care. Show up and be helpful. Your effortless act could be translated as love, devotion, respect, and demonstrate your devotion. Already doing those tasks? Organize the sock drawer, alphabetize the bookshelf, or bring home your darling’s favorite cereal just because!
5. Sign Up for a Workshop
Nonviolent communication? Composting? Financial planning? Sailing? Cooking? Songwriting? Tai Chi? Whatever floats your boat! Enjoy an experience of learning with a friend, family member, or co-worker to build connection. Your care in choosing a workshop he or she might take pleasure in could demonstrate your love. Your shared experience of learning a new skill and spending time together creates a sustainable link between you.
6. Write a Poem
Put pen to paper and get those creative juices flowing! Out of practice? Never been into rhymes? Take a deep breath and consider the person you’d like to express your love to. Think about how he or she will feel receiving a homemade, handwritten, or hysterical ditty from yours truly. Get some inspiration from the classics or allow the spirit of love to guide you and write freely. Does the thought of poetry make you cringe? Write a song, a rap, or a list of things you love about the person.
However you choose to express your love, share it freely and often! Compassion, connection, and truth are often in short order. The more you spend time with those you love, offer words of affirmation, do acts of service, give thoughtful gifts, and/or give out hugs, the better the world will be.