We may live in a world that tells us to go it alone, but at heart, we are social creatures, longing for genuine connection and craving the company and love of our fellow humans. The data is beyond dispute: happiness doesn't only come from within, it also comes from with. In the spirit of Valentine's Day, celebrate connection and expand your circle of love.
While chocolates and flowers are nice, here are seven ways to provide what we all crave — the experience of "felt love."
Showing you care isn't just for Valentine's Day. Research from UCLA shows that how we respond to one another significantly predicts the quality of our relationship. The next time a loved one shares news, look up from your phone, or even better, put it away. Genuinely engage. Give them your full attention. Say these three magic words: "tell me more." And mean it.
Why do kids get to have all the fun making arts and crafts? Break out the glue and glitter and spend some time making a beautiful Valentine's Day card. Plus, a handwritten note is so much more meaningful than a Hallmark cliché expression of love.
In The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests doing novel and exciting things together (skydiving, ballroom dancing, etc.). Couples who engage in new experiences report more satisfaction with their relationships than those who engage in routine activities like going to a movie or cooking dinner.
Walking hand-in-hand and side-by-side is a physical way to be more in sync with your partner and be attuned to their needs. Synchronized movement generates what psychologist Barbara Frederickson calls "positivity resonance" — a synthesis of shared positivity, mutual care and concern, plus behavioral and biological synchrony. These micro-moments of connection deepen our social bonds and satisfy our longing to love and feel loved.
Novelty wears off in life and love. Researchers call this process of getting used to things hedonic adaptation. As the old saying goes:
The first kiss is magic. The second is intimate. The third is routine.
Spontaneity makes a difference. People are reminded of their attraction to their partner when they see them in an unexpected context — like watching them give a speech if they never have before, or running a marathon for the first time. It reminds them that there is more to the person they brush their teeth next to in the morning.
Disrupt your routine — go to a new brunch place on Sunday mornings, switch the side of the bed you sleep on, visit a different bed and breakfast. Banish "we always..." from your vocabulary. As Lyubomirsky writes, "we are less likely to take our marriage for granted when it continues to deliver strong emotional reactions in us."
Charge yourself with detecting one way in which your partner is different each day. Looking for subtle differences shifts your expectations and will remind you of what attracted you to them in the first place.
According to a study, couples who wrote about a recent disagreement from the perspective of a neutral third party had greater relationship satisfaction, passion and desire over the long term. No essay is required. Writing about conflict resolution for seven minutes every four months did the trick.