Let me just preface this post by saying: I'm not one of those "anti" Valentine's Day people. I mean, it's a day dedicated to celebrating love. What's better than that? I'm all for it. What I'm not big on is the commercialization that seems to be so relentlessly intertwined with it. Now don't get me wrong. I love chocolate and flowers (tulips, please) as much as the next gal. And it's fun to have an excuse to get dolled up and go out for a nice dinner. But it seems that it's all too easy easy to become fixated on the material elements of the holiday. We get caught up in creating "the perfect day" and lose sight of what it is we're celebrating in the first place. (It's a phenomenon I've realized is rampant in the wedding industry as well, but that's a topic for a different post...)
So, in that spirit, I offer five (almost) free ways to say "I love you" on Valentine's Day or any day. These can be applied to anyone you care about: significant others, parents, siblings, friends, etc. Am I ready to swear off the chocolate and flowers? Let's not get carried away. But you know what? That stuff only means as much as the way we act toward each other the other 364 days of the year. (But still...the chocolate doesn't hurt.)
1. Have a conversation with someone with no agenda other than to really, truly actively listen to what they're saying. Instead of just awaiting your turn to speak, genuinely focus on the other person's words. Ask supportive questions and respond in a compassionate way, but most of all just listen. I'm always amazed by what an incredible effect this can have, even when talking about something seemingly mundane like what to have for dinner.
2. Ask someone in your life to tell you about their goals and dreams, and then (and this is the important part), ask what you can do to help.
3. Prepare a wholesome, nourishing meal to share with someone you care about. (Ok...so this might not technically be free, but it definitely needn't be anything fancy to be effective. Think simple.) Lovingly choose a recipe that you think the other person would enjoy (some ideas: wild mushroom risotto, veggie lasagna, or baked wild-caught salmon + braised greens). Use fresh and organic ingredients. If you'd like, you can invite the other person to help you in the kitchen, or you can hand them a glass of wine and share some good conversation while you cook. Put on some jazz tunes, light a couple soy candles and savor the experience of sharing a delicious meal.
4. Do a kind deed...just because. Offer to watch a frazzled co-worker's kids for an evening. Do the dishes when it's not "your turn." Pick out a pretty card to send to a friend. Again, this doesn't need to be extravagant at all. I've found that doing a simple, unexpected act of kindness not only makes the recipient feel good, but also makes me feel great.
5. Tell someone how much you appreciate them. It seems to me that we often take for granted that the people in our lives know how we feel about them. Yet it's so important to actually acknowledge it (i.e. say it out loud). This doesn't have to be a big production. It's as simple as saying, "Thank you for making coffee this morning. That was really nice of you."
Image via Bella Dia.