This year for Valentine’s Day, instead of focusing on heart-shaped things and material symbols of love, why not plan a day that makes your heart truly sing? Make it all about nurturing the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of your own heart, the ones you love, and even the hearts of pets and people you don’t know. The great thing about such an approach to Valentine’s is that it matters not if you are partnered, single, surrounded by friends and family, or feeling alone in the world just now. Here are a few ideas for making this February 14 a happy, healthy Valentine’s Day:
Renew vows for healthier, happier living. Perhaps you made a New Year’s resolution—to quit unhealthy habits, lose weight, exercise more, eat less sugar and refined carbs—that you have already let go. It’s never too late to get back on track, so make February 14 the day you forgive yourself for transgressions and renew the vows you made to honor and care for own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Cook at home. One of the heart-healthiest things you can do for yourself and your family is to cook real foods from scratch at home where you control menu choices, ingredients, flavors, and portion sizes. If you’re not the greatest cook or need to lighten up your repertoire, make a Valentine’s date for yourself—and maybe a mate—for a heart-healthy cooking class. If you’re already handy in the kitchen, spend quality time with loved ones finding and experimenting with new heart-healthy recipes and finding different ways to add flavor to food with healthy spices and seasonings rather than excess fats and sodium.
Get active. Research shows that a moderate-intensity walk or hike can yield the same heart-healthy benefits as high-intensity running. It’s also a great way to escape distracting devices, chores, and other cares, and share quality time and conversation with the ones you love. If it’s too cold to go outside, find ways to get active inside: climbing stairs, dancing, or practicing yoga with an app or online video.
Go outside. Wintertime depression is closely tied to a lack of Vitamin D, which your body manufactures from exposure to natural sunlight. If your winter climate is cold, you might be especially susceptible to the February blues. Hiking, sledding, skating, skiing, and even ice fishing are all great ways to get outside, boost vitamin D stores, and tend to your heart happiness on Valentine’s Day.
Give compliments. How often have you thought of nice things to say to people, but, for some reason, just never said them? Resolve to spend Valentine’s Day looking for reasons to appreciate people in your life and then following through and verbalizing the compliments—or, if you are really shy, writing them. While you are at it, be sure to find a few compliments for yourself.
Do anonymous acts of kindness. While, for many, Valentine’s means grand romance, it can be a hugely painful day for anyone suffering loss, grief, or loneliness. The act of making others happy—without taking credit—always rebounds to the giver, so resolve to spend at least part of your Valentine’s Day doing random, anonymous acts of kindness for those who really need it.
Practice gratitude. One of the best ways to relieve stress, to make your heart sing, and improve heart health is to spend a few moments of each day in a state of pure appreciation and gratitude for all you have—be it your partner, family, friends, acquaintances, knowledge, talent, passions, possessions, and life itself. If you don’t do this regularly already, let Valentine’s be the day you start a new habit of daily gratitude and appreciation.