February is the month of loooove, so it’s only fitting we take a look at the proverbial heart balloon in the sky. But instead of hoping Cupid’s Arrow hits us this month, I want to talk about how we can share our love with those around us that mean the most—our friends and family.
Humans practice prosocial behavior, such as helping, sharing and working together. We’re meant to be in a community and showing our love and kindness keeps us healthy and happy—mind, body and soul. It also means being open and vulnerable, which for all of us can feel very scary and risky. We’ve all had our heart broken, even the sarcastic loner Bart Simpson.
But here’s the rub, we can’t ever feel the really good stuff in life without having experienced the opposite feeling as well. It’s the yin and yang, babe. And the more we are willing to be open and courageous enough to show our love to others, the more we can heal the wounds of the past.
It starts with expressing what’s in your heart without the expectation of reciprocation—and here are my Top 5 ways to start showing the world how much love you have to give, in big ways and small.
First off, it’s important to remember that how another person receives love might be different than how you give it, so to avoid conflict, it might help to review and recognize how your friends and family receive love, especially your romantic partner.
If you want to do a little research, I’m a big fan of The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book describes the five ways people express and experience love that Chapman coined “love languages”: receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (kindness), and physical touch. Everyone has some combination of these five languages. For me, my top three are physical touch, words of affirmation and quality time, but that doesn’t mean I hate receiving gifts!
You can check out the book and do an online assessment here, and in the meantime, here are some ways to get started spreading some love.
1) Starved for Affection
Frankly, we take physical interaction for granted. Especially in this age of forever sitting behind a computer screen or burying our faces in our smartphones. Touch is super important to our whole human species as a form of silent communication that can “convey important messages that words and deeds simply don’t deliver.” It’s that prosocial behavior again. We all need touch; it’s a basic physiological need. A baby can even die without being held!
Personally, I am very affectionate with my friends, and I look for that quality in a partner as well. A lack of affection and intimacy is the top reason why couples seek counseling. In addition to strengthening your bond with your partner, physical affection “can not only ease pain but also soothe depression.” So, touch is super important to our bodies and our relationships.
Share your affection for others with gentle touches. It can be a hug, a shoulder squeeze, a high five, or a pat on the back, all the way up to more intimate affection like kissing and sex.
2) Listen With Your Heart
Has this ever happened to you—you’re catching up with a friend and they talk about themselves for 45 minutes straight? Then when they ask how you’re doing, you’re out of time and feeling annoyed. Yep, we’ve all been there!
We feel validated when we’re truly heard, but it goes both ways. When we listen to others, we reap the benefits as well, not the least of which is that it’s proven to make us more likable. It’s no surprise then that people who are considered very charismatic are usually excellent listeners. When you speak to them, they are so focused in on what you have to say, it makes you feel like the only person in the world.
As a coach, I have to be a good listener and really involve my whole body. According to author Kare Anderson, the co-founder of the Say it Better Center, “Simply gazing steadily and warmly at that person, nodding at times and reiterating what you heard will activate an empathic, mirror-neuron response in both of you.” Think of this process as the in-person equivalent to “Like for Like” or “Follow for Follow”.
It’s a huge gift to just be present and in the moment with someone, and it’s a beautiful way to show your love.
3) The Secret Ingredient: Love
I so enjoy cooking for my friends and loved ones. There is something very meditative about it for me, and the social benefits of getting together to share a meal can lead to some pretty awesome health benefits. According to dietitian Ben Atkinson, “Eating together is linked to less obesity, kids doing better in school, and less substance abuse within the family.”
I always try to put a lot of care into my dishes. Food made with love, even if it’s a simple meal, just tastes better. When you cook for others (and yourself – self care, baby! (grab your self-care planner HERE), the energy, thoughtfulness, and time you put into the food transfers those good vibes into your body when it’s consumed. Plus, you’re not eating those processed foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar.
4) You Get What You Give
Random acts of kindness and service are proven to make the giver feel as joyful as the receiver. And what better way to show someone you love them than to lend them a helping hand. Take out the trash without being asked. Wash the dishes after dinner. Take your boyfriend’s car in for an oil change. I love getting a warm beverage in bed to start my morning. Whatever you think will make their day a little less stressful; the sky’s the limit!
Special surprises are also a wonderful way to show someone you’re thinking about them. And it doesn’t have to be an expensive luxury gift. Bring your co-workers a snack or write your clients a nice note of appreciation. Send your friends a postcard on your next vacation. I used to get real crafty during the holidays for friends years ago, and they still have these gifts in their homes. It makes me feel good knowing I made them something they cherish.
5) This One Is Complimentary
We need to feel seen—and there is no better way than to be verbally acknowledged. I dole out compliments as much as possible, and you might want to try it too.. If you notice it, mention it. Nice shoes, great haircut, good job, that’s so smart, you’re the best! You can visibly see a person’s energy shift when you look them in the eye and sincerely tell them how awesome they are. Compliments are king, er – Queen!
How do you show your love to your friends and family? Do you know what your Love Language is? Let me know in the comments below!
Moniqua is a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Real Food | Real Life Expert. As the Owner and Founder of The Plante Life, she helps women (and a few good men) get their groove on through real food, self care and radical self love so they can live the kick ass, healthy, energetic lives they're meant to live.