With Valentine’s Day approaching, love is in the air. It surrounds us everywhere we go. Pink hearts, red roses and dark chocolates fill storefronts, websites, and Instagram feeds. Once I shake off my initial cynicism about merchandising love, I do appreciate being reminded to take a moment to tell my loved ones just how much I care. And, of course, if you are not the expressive type or words fail you, Hallmark is there to help. So why is love so important?
It’s important because love is one of the most fundamental human needs. To be in love is to be happy and to be loved is to be blessed. Psychologists say that the desire to be loved is one of the strongest emotions. But while receiving love is fulfilling, so is giving love. In fact, research shows “expressing love or compassion for others benefits not just the recipient of affection, but also the person who delivers it,” as said by Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. Not only that, small acts of kindness make you feel just as happy as major acts of doing good, he adds.
And guess what? Contrary to the famous Beatles song, money can buy me love and happiness according to Michael Norton, a psychologist and co-author of a study on this topic. The catch, he says, is that the money has to be spent on helping others, not yourself. In his TED Talk, How to Buy Happiness, Norton describes the benefits of spending money on creating social impact or making someone’s life happier.
So if you flip it around, all the merchandising around Valentine’s Day makes sense. Don’t just think about what love is or what your loved one is doing for you, but about how you will show your loved ones how much you care. And this mindset obviously goes beyond generosity to your loved ones—kindness and generosity to strangers, even a simple wishing someone a happy Valentine’s Day. will make you feel happy. Remember, love is happiness.
When you strip away all the commercial aspects, the sentiment of Valentine’s Day reminds us to give love. So what will you do? I plan to celebrate first by giving thanks to my loved ones for all their caring and love. I also plan to take in, savor and reflect back the love and kindness of all my friends and extended family. And of course, I will wholeheartedly welcome the beautiful bouquet of red roses, the lovely Hallmark cards, the heart shaped candy, and heartfelt phone call that croons the Stevie Wonder song, “I just called to say, I love you. I just called to say how much I care, I do….and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.”
Read about happiness, the power within.