It’s Valentines Day!!!
A phrase which, being perpetually single, I’m not ashamed to admit has caused a variety of negative reactions over the years. Including but not limited to; groaning, gagging, eye rolling, gnashing of teeth, avoiding going outside etc…
In my second year of uni, for the very first time I was excited to actually have V Day plans. We got dressed up, went to a nice restaurant, enjoyed a candlelit meal, got tipsy drunk, danced the night away and then went home together. She was my flatmate after all. Although it wasn’t called this at the time, I remember having the BEST night celebrating Galentines.
Valentines Day aka Saint Valentines Day aka the Feast of Saint Valentine can trace it’s origins back to 496AD, although there are varying beliefs for how it got started but the focus of the day has traditionally been on celebrating romantic, monogamous, hetero-normative love.
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You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘Love is a many splendoured thing’ and it is, it’s also incredibly complex and extremely varying. It looks different depending on who it’s being given to or received by. The love we have for our parents feels different to the love we have for our siblings, which in turn feels different to the love we have for our friends / pets / partners / self (you get the gist)…
English relies on one blanket term to capture the many nuances of the numerous versions of love. However there are 96 words to describe love in the classical language of Sanskrit and ancient Persian has 80 words for love. The Ancient Greeks used the below 7 words to describe the various forms of love.
Eros: romantic, passionate love
Philia: intimate, authentic friendship
Ludus: playful and flirtatious love
Storage: unconditional, familial love
Pragma: committed, companiate love
Agápe: empathetic, universal love
I’m sure we’ve each felt every type of love described above and all are special to us so I often question why we sometimes emphasise romantic love above others and don’t focus on celebrating all of the ways we experience love with the people in our lives.
Until quite recently I don’t believe society had really encouraged us to recognise or celebrate other equally important types of love, and some might say that these other types of love are less easily changeable than romantic love, but perhaps it’s this fleeting nature of Eros – passionate love that has caused us to place an emphasis on celebrating romance, as a way to nurture it.
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Whatever the reason I’m a huge advocate for nurturing all types of love especially the type of love that appears to me to be the most lacking in the world – Philautia – Self-love.
Here are some ways you can celebrate and nurture love using the receivers love language.
Words of Affirmation
When we’ve known someone a long time we can often take for granted that they know how we feel about them but all humans need reassurance sometimes, so set yourself an intention to actually give the loved ones in your life compliments. If you think something nice about someone, don’t just think it – say it! If you’re feeling creative you could write them a letter / poem / song detailing all of the things you love about them. Or write compliments on post it notes and leave them around the house for them to find.
Quality time means different things to different people. Some of us like to spend quality time engaged in lively conversation while playing a game or over dinner, whereas others prefer to spend it in companionable silence watching TV or reading. Some of us want to do high-octane activities like trekking or jumping out of planes while others prefer a more sedate pace like going for a park walk or visiting the zoo. When planning quality time with a loved one really think about what it is that they enjoy, and when you’re doing it set a rule to ditch the phones so you can both be present in the moment.
Now I’m not a very touchy feely person but there are so many people in my life who are and there are various ways you can give physical touch in romantic and non romantic ways. Did you know that the simple act of hugging can boost the immune system? Research has shown hugs increase dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, all ‘happy hormones’ and reduce feelings of loneliness, stress and depression. They also make us feel more connected and build trust and provide a feeling of safety. Other ways you can touch someone to increase feel good hormones are: rubbing their back, neck, shoulders or feet, holding hands, or kissing their cheek. And if touching a romantic partner you can add tickling, kissing, ear nibbling, and sensual (tantric) massage.
Acts of Service
Acts of service is about giving your time to someone and ‘serving’ them even when it may be inconvenient for you to do so. There are acts you may do every day like making them their preferred drink, cooking them dinner, recording their favourite show. Or you might want to help make their lives easier by helping them with a big piece of work they have to do, or give them a break from chores they normally do, or just think about the things they have to do that they don’t really like – for me it’s putting the washing out!
Gifts don’t always have to be extravagant (although of course it can be nice to receive something expensive especially if you wouldn’t buy it for yourself). But more so than that I believe the thought that goes into the gift is the most important thing. If you’re out and about and see something you know someone in your life would like and you buy it ‘just because’ it makes them feel special and lets them know you’re thinking of them. Equally giving someone the gift of an experience they’ve wanted but haven’t gotten around to can go a long way.
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As I said before it can feel as though it’s the hardest to attain but it’s so important that we focus on nurturing self love each and every day.
We’re our own harshest critics so be mindful when you’re berating yourself for something, balance it by highlighting something that you did well or compliment yourself on one of your numerous wonderful qualities. Or write yourself post-it notes and leave them in places you can find them later when you’re not feeling as kind to yourself (words of affirmation).
Schedule in time to do one of your favourite activities, whether its getting to the gym, cooking, doing arts and crafts, visiting a museum, reading, watching your favourite show, the list could go on (quality time).
Treat yourself to a massage, or find a guide to self massage, go to the salon – I love when someone else washes my hair – and my absolute favourite; masturbate regularly (physical touch).
Do some self care, get creative with the tasks you have to do and make them fun, promise yourself a small treat for each item you tick off your list, organise your wardrobe, put more thought into your weekly grocery shop and meal prep, hire someone to do certain things or automate tasks; such as paying bills (acts of service).
Save up and treat yourself to that expensive thing you’ve always wanted, take yourself on trips, invest in items that help you focus on your hobbies, allow yourself to indulge by buying the more expensive, tastier versions of things (gifts).
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Whether you’re celebrating, Valentines, Anti-Valentines, Galentines, Palentines, Famentines (I may have made this one up but I think we need a word for celebrating familial love) Valentines They (non binary celebration), Volun-tines Day (celebrating love for humanity by giving back) or you’ve chosen to abstain from celebrating at all today – stay safe, have fun and share love in all of it’s beautiful forms.
And I’m going to leave you with Lynden David Hall’s rendition of All You Need is Love.
*For those who don’t know him Lynden David Hall was a Black British r’n’b/neo-soul singer, songwriter, producer and you may recognise him as the singer from the wedding scene in the film Love Actually. He sadly passed away on Valentines Day, 2006. Rest in Power King!!*