“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” -Lao Tzu
In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to address the importance of nurturing loving relationships in your life. Similar to other feelings, expressing love takes practice; however, feeling and displaying love can result in a huge shift in our lives. It’s important to remember that love comes in many forms. We can love our pets, our family members, our friends, and our significant others. Many people believe that love can solve many problems. As singers such as Perry Como, The Hollies, and Deon Jackson sang, “Love makes the world go round.” In essence, it’s a universal language.
Each of us probably has a different definition for love. In romantic love, there’s a magic that happens between two people. Psychologist Erich Fromm, in his classic book The Art of Loving, writes about the magic of two strangers meeting, and suddenly the wall between them is let down, resulting in a sudden closeness and oneness. This “is one of the most exhilarating, most exciting experiences in life,” he says (p. 3).
Those who have experienced this feeling know that there’s a magical connection when you’re with the right person. It might seem as if the rest of the world is slipping away. The man or woman you’re with is your world for the time that you’re together, and everything just seems easier. While it might feel as if it’s a momentary or fleeting state of mind, the truth is, it is most often a long-term state of mind. As psychologist and author Melanie Greenberg (2013) says, there’s something special about the feeling of two hearts beating as one. In that moment, there’s a deep connection where you’re moved by how the other person is feeling and inspired to make him or her feel good. In general, there’s a deep sense of caring.
Whether you’re in a romantic relationship or not, February is a good time to honor the concept of love by using the month as a springboard to create and nurture abundant love in your life. My father-in-law, who was one of 12 children, often spoke of his mother’s love by saying, “The more she loved, the more her capacity to love.” Love begets love and is indeed contagious.
Here are seven ways to express your love:
- Offer the gift of listening. Focus on others and hear what they’re really saying. Remember the 80/20 rule: Listen more, talk less. This allows others to share, and also gives you a chance to understand their feelings.
- Say please and thank you. This is a simple act you can practice every day, but many of us often forget to do so. It can make such a huge difference in our lives.
- Tell your loved ones how much you love and appreciate them. A little love goes a long way. Many of us are guilty of taking people for granted, so it’s good to acknowledge those who’ve impacted our lives, and those we could not live without.
- Offer to help someone in need. There’s always someone who needs something. Often helping others is a way to make you feel good, too. The person you help could be a close friend, a neighbor, or even a senior citizen or challenged individual.
- Write a letter or send a card to someone you love, and mail it. You’d be surprised by how much people appreciate this gesture. So many of us have gotten into the habit of exclusively sending e-mail, so it’s especially nice to receive a note in the mail.
- Write your loved ones a poem of gratitude. For some people, writing a poem is easier than for others. You can start by making a list of the reasons you love these individuals. You can also reminiscence about how you met them and what you hope your future together will look like. Also, consider reading love poems by Sufi poet Rumi, Leonard Cohen, or others.
- Practice the art of forgiveness. We often have little spats with loved ones, but as they say, “Pick your fights.” Try to release anger and frustration so that you can adopt a more positive attitude.
Originally published at www.psychologytoday.com.