February is the month we choose to celebrate love. Whether that means a fistful of grade-school valentines, a dozen roses for that special someone or a box of chocolates for Mom, it's a bonus opportunity to remind friends and family that we care.
Human beings are social creatures. We thrive through connectivity. Studies show that healthy relationships are as vital to our personal well-being as nutrition, exercise and a good night's sleep. So get ready to share the love!
Unfortunately, our modern, high-tech lifestyle often works against traditional community building. We're so busy rushing around and checking things off our to-do list that we don't make time for personal interaction. Even when we do relax, it's often in front of the TV or a computer screen, rather than getting together with real people. In addition to impacting our physical health, this detachment can leave us feeling lonely, alienated and depressed.
Good news! In the same way that we work to change behavior around health issues like diet and exercise, developing relationship-building strategies just takes a bit of practice. And unlike waiting for the scale to drop a pound... experiments in connecting are instantly gratifying. The warm and fuzzy feeling we get from caring for others creates positive emotion, building self-efficacy and confidence to move forward with our own goals.
Reach out. Touch is powerful medicine. Reaching out to hold someone's hand or giving them a heartfelt hug is a simple way to show you care - with plenty of added benefits. In addition to putting a smile on your face, physical touch has been shown to reduce stress, boost the immune system and even lower blood pressure.
Speak up. Greeting someone with a "hello" or "I love you" is a great start, but don't stop there! Give them your full, undivided attention. Even if it's for just a few moments, allow yourself to connect outside of the normal stress and distractions of daily life - without judgement. You'll be channeling positive energy and be reminded of what makes that person and your relationship special.
Step out. Most of us depend on texting and social media to stay in touch... but only about 7% of human communication is actually delivered through words and content. Facial expression, body language, pitch and emphasis simply cannot be duplicated with emoji. Invite your friends to step out with you! Everyone is busy, busy, busy so begin with options that are easy and time-bound. Offer to meet folks where they already spend their day. Is there a museum or library nearby? How about coffee before work? A quick walk? Lunch in the park?
Be kind. Whether it's the grocery clerk, delivery driver, a waitress or the next person in line, Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to practice Random Acts of Kindness. My favorite? Find opportunities to give compliments. It's a simple way to brighten someone's day - and will make YOU feel good in the process!
So this Valentine's Day take a step toward personal wellness by committing to love and nurture the people in your life. By experimenting with a few daily acts of love you'll find yourself walking the path to health and happiness all year long.