There’s no reason not to show your love this Valentine’s Day—and to as many people as you feel affection for. Even if you don’t have a partner, you can still show your love and gratitude for those who make you happy.Plus, giving love and admiration to your favorite people is an excellent way to shift the focus off not being paired off on this most romantic day of the year.
The benefit of sharing your love and appreciation for those you care for may be greater than you would ever imagine. Research tells us that showing love and expressing gratitude are two of the most powerful positive influences on the future behavior of the person to whom we make the gesture. Plus, it makes us feel good.
You will improve your life and the lives of those around you if you show love and appreciation this Valentine’s day. Partners, parents, best friends, co-workers we appreciate, and children can be a recipient of our love and gratitude. In this article, I provide a ten ways to show your love this February 14th.
1) Strength Train Together
Working out with your love interest or partner is not for everyone, especially if one partner is in better shape or leaner than the other. Still, if you are compatibly fit with your partner, try doing a circuit workout together. Choose two exercises that target opposite body parts and switch off.
For example, pair squats with lunges, or dumbbell bench press and seated rows. Depending on your gym, you may be able to set up two barbells. If not, the workout may require more time to change weights if one of you is much stronger. An alternative is to pair a machine exercise such as leg curls with ground-based exercises like squats.
Dumbbell exercises are great for pair training, but you won’t want to do this exclusively because you’ll miss out lifting those really heavy weights with a barbell such as squats, bench press, or deadlifts.
Even driving together to the gym is a good way to ensure you show up, and if you struggle with staying motivated pre-workout, this can be a good way to take your mind off the physical challenges that lay ahead. It’s best to be fully focused once you start training, but there’s no reason why you can’t have a few laughs and show some love before hitting the gym floor.
Try this with your partner, teenager, friend, or love interest and it will undoubtedly bring you closer. But, be aware that if one person is weaker, less fit, or overweight, it may be uncomfortable. Try to keep lines of communication open and don’t pressure someone into being active in public if they don’t want to. In this case #2 may be a better bet.
2) Be Active And Playful
Be physically active and playful with your loved ones and you’ll both have a better body composition and increase insulin health. Avoid sitting around when you hang out with your partner or best pals and you’ll feel better and be healthier. Go walking, do yoga together, try taking a martial arts class, go biking or running, shoot baskets or kick a soccer ball. And even heading to the bedroom or giving each other a massage is a great alternative to sitting on the couch watching TV with your partner.
Think of being active with your loved ones as “play.” Remember when you could entertain yourself all day, day after day, by playing outside with friends? Research shows adults who “play” by doing something physically active are more cheerful, and feel more joy, and they also clown around and joke more. They have fun!
Can you think of anything you’d rather do with your favorite person than have fun?! Spontaneity is a big component of playfulness and fun, so try to incorporate more random, creative activities into the time you spend with your loved ones.
3) Go Dancing
Take a dance class, or if you’ve already got rhythm, take your mate dancing. Friends who are single can try this one too. If you can’t stomach trying to move gracefully in public, try dancing with your partner at home. The benefits go beyond getting a workout and being close to your partner in a romantic setting.
Research shows that more technical dances such as ballroom dancing can improve cognitive function and can help people prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Dancing can also improve coordination, muscle activation, and proprioception—the perception of movement and position of the body in space. This has been shown to improve balance and neuromuscular function.
At the very least, if you get down to music at home, you’ll move a little, have physical contact, and probably end up laughing and enjoying yourself. Nonsexual touching is good for friends, and with your lover it can be a great warm-up for more intimate activities.
4) Share Foods That Protect The Heart
Eating flavorful foods that protect the heart is a pleasurable way to show your love. Research shows that sharing food can strengthen relationships and support better absorption of nutrients in the body. Five of the best foods for your heart that are still a treat are the following:
Blueberries and blackberries are antioxidant-rich gems that reduce oxidative stress that targets the heart. They can lower bad LDL cholesterol and are low-glycemic, meaning they will not trigger a big blood sugar response, which is better for optimal energy levels and body composition.
Dark chocolate is also high in antioxidants, called flavanols that abolish free radicals in the vascular system. The flavanols have also been showed to lower blood pressure, improve the flexibility of blood vessels, and support insulin health. Opt for organic dark chocolate that is above 70 percent chocolate.
Red wine with food is the only alcohol that provides health benefits, and it provides impressive protection for the heart, lowering chronic inflammation that affects the cardiovascular system. Red wine is high in antioxidants, and if you drink it with food, it will improve insulin sensitivity. More is not better though—benefits drop off once you drink more than 8 ounces.
Olive oil—the extra virgin kind—is packed with antioxidants, especially CoQ10 (a very effective, high priced antioxidant) and the vitamins E and K. It provides a wealth of benefits for the heart including lowering LDL cholesterol and supporting detoxification of chemical pollutants than can cause heart disease.
Salmon provides omega-3 fats that are essential for cardiovascular health because they counter that “silent killer,” inflammation, and support cell health and insulin sensitivity. Salmon is a tasty way to get omega-3s but you can also get them from fish oil capsules if you aren’t a salmon fan or want to avoid fish.
5) Avoid Foods That Don’t
There are loads of foods that are not about love and will slowly kill the heart. Five that you should avoid are the following:
Soda—both regular and diet—is packed with chemical sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup and toxic dyes. Soda should be eliminated from your diet completely. The chemicals and dyes cause systemic inflammation, are linked to greater risk of obesity, and poor insulin health, all of which put you at risk for cardiovascular disease.
Donuts provide a highly concentrated source of unhealthy fats, sugar, and refined carbohydrates. Donuts are bad news for anyone who cares about a lean physique, insulin health, and having healthy cholesterol.
French fries, even when they are baked with minimal fat, contain an amino acid called acrylamide that causes oxidative stress that targets the cardiovascular system. Potatoes are on the higher end of the glycemic index, and when you fry them in hydrogenated fats and throw in the acrylamide that is produced, they become toxic for the heart.
White flour products are just more trouble than they’re worth. They provide no health benefits, generally produce a large insulin response, may cause oxidative stress, and are bad for heart health. Bread, pastries, cookies—avoid them.
Alcohol other than red wine should be avoided because it lowers insulin sensitivity and causes oxidative stress. Alcohol other than red wine will increase the enzyme aromatase that turns testosterone into estrogen, which is unfavorable for both sexes. Stick to red wine if you love your heart.
6) Share Aphrodisiac Foods With Your Mate
The number one aphrodisiac food to share with your mate is oysters. Well known as increasing arousal in both sexes, oysters are super high in zinc—they have more then ten times the zinc of beef, which is the next largest source. Zinc will boost testosterone, and because oysters are brimming with this mineral, they are a sexy treat for Valentine’s day. If you’re not an oyster fan, try one of these other delectable, aphrodisiacs:
Pomegranates increase blood flow and sensitivity.
Vanilla increases nerve sensations and the smell is known to foster lust.
Coffeeincreases alertness and drive.
Pine nuts are high in zinc and boost testosterone.
7) Make The Gesture
Make the gesture of giving a Valentine’s gift or token to those you love, especially your mate. A common error that men are more susceptible to making than womenis to think you can make up for a Valentine’s gesture by being a good partner year-round, or that you don’t have to make a gesture on February 14 because its obscenely commercialized and the typical presents are outrageously expensive.
First, the vast majority of women want their man to make the gesture. The best way to do this is to give something that you want to give. Men don’t have to give flowers, chocolates, or take their woman to dinner. Women don’t have to give cheesy guy gifts like shaving cream, shirts, or ties. Take a step back, think about what you love about your partner, and give something that reflects that.
Why is making the gesture so important? It goes back to an ability to give to others, even if just material things. Research shows that if you live a charitable, generous lifestyle, you will have less stress, be more optimistic, and will inspire feelings of gratitude and love in the receiver. And as corny as it sounds, evidence suggests that when you make the gesture and give something to someone, you realize that person matters more to you than you thought they did.
8) Be More Grateful
Relationships psychologists know that expressing gratitude for your partner will make your relationships more satisfying and make you feel good. Gratitude, or a feeling and expression of thankfulness for the efforts or traits of others, is very persuasive and influential.
Research shows spouses feel gratitude for a partner when they perceive that partner’s behavior is responsive to their needs. That feeling of gratitude then motivates behavior in return that is responsive back to the needs of the partners. A positive cycle develops because when the partner perceives that reciprocal behavior, feelings of gratitude result in them as well. You both feel grateful and behave more lovingly!
Do this in a relationship by paying attention to the supportive and positive things your mate does. But if your partner’s words feel like nagging or irritate you, check yourself first. Is your partner trying to get you to change or project their needs and views on you? If so, perhaps you should communicate the negative experience you have to their words. But, when your partner is being good to you, take note, and show love back with gratitude, support, and actions that make them feel good too.
There’s been a lot of media buzz about the benefits of an “attitude of gratitude,” but that’s because it really does work. It can be very challenging to focus on what we’re grateful for in our lives or our loved ones (especially if we feel sorry for ourselves and are focused on what we want and not on all that we already have). It’s really not acceptable to say we are too busy, stressed out, or focused on what we want or want to get rid of in our lives.
If you don’t already “practice gratitude,” start this Valentine’s Day. Try creating a list of why you love your mate (or why you’re grateful for them) and give that as a gift. The gesture will mean more than you can imagine.
9) Go Screen Free: Communicate Face to Face
Communicate face to face as much as possible. Instead of sending in house or in office electronic messages, go talk to the person face to face. Two benefits will come out of going screen free as much as possible.
First, speaking face to face to people will likely produce a more fruitful interaction. Research shows it inspires more creativity and can make people more productive. Talking face to face instead of sending a message to a person in a cubicle 8 feet away has been shown to increase brain activity and support plasticity in the brain—a primary component of cognitive health. Second, getting up, walking, and speaking face to face to colleagues or loved ones will get you to move more and help you fight sedentariness.
Minimizing screen time when you’re spending time with your mate, family members, or best friends will lead to stronger relationship and help you live longer. Turn off the TV, avoid turning to your phone every other minute, close the computer, and pay attention to the person you’re spending time with. Being fully present when you spend time with loved ones will produce more optimalconversations that build stronger social relationships.
Research shows that those with stronger social ties have a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival over those who live more solitary lives. In fact, lack of strong social relationships is a major risk factor for health and may impact health more than other factors such as smoking, poor diet, obesity, or lack of physical activity.
10) Touch More
Touch the people you love more. Appropriate touch that is welcomed has been shown to lower blood pressure and increase the immune response by boosting production of the hormone immunoglobin A. Handholding or even shaking hands will stimulate activity of the valgus nerve, one of the 12 cranial nerves in the brain, which in turn decreases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Research shows that all kinds of appropriate touch have positive effects on health and well-being, and that deeper, total body touching provides the greatest beneficial influence. Deep tissue massage will boost immune function, raise white blood cell count, and lower inflammatory biomarkers much more than a short light massage in both sick and healthy individuals. Touching and cuddling works for friends, family members, and lovers as long as it is suitable and welcome. It can be as simple as a hug, a rub on the arm or back, or holding hands.
Touching and hugging will also trigger the release of oxytocin, which makes people feel secure, boosts mood, and makes people feel happier. Evidence suggests that in families where appropriate physical interaction and touch is common, relationships are more positive and members have stronger relationships.
From a networking standpoint, physical interaction has been shown to increase the number of contacts people make and friends that they have. A lack of touch can make people more violently aggressive, depressed, unhappy, and more at risk of having relationship problems. Spread the love with touch!