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Valentine's Day -- Really?

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Valentine's Day: What does it represent to you? Is it a reminder of the passions of new romance or the love that you are longing for in your life? Is it a commercial orchestration fabricated by the greeting card, flower and chocolate industries to make us buy more? Here's the real question: Can Valentine's Day remind us of the enormous capacity for love that we already carry within?

From the day we are born, not only do we need love and affection to thrive, we constantly give and generate love. Benjamin Disraeli says, "We are all born for love. It is the principle of existence, and its only end." Yet the word love in itself is confusing. It means so many different things to different people. Here are some of its faces:

• the protective affection felt by parents for their children
• the resonance felt by sharing interests and true friendship
• the sexual expression of love that also can hold the potential of transcendence
• the sense of caring for others' welfare -- what we call unconditional love.

There are times when each of these types of love takes the lead, but throughout the ebb and flow, one thing is constant: however love is expressed, the more you give it, the more it grows. Here are a few ways to keep that love vibrant within yourself, so you can share more of it with others.

1. Don't Forget to Love Yourself

This is not about a narcissistic or self-indulgent love. It is the idea of cultivating self-compassion and treating yourself as you would a good friend. How?

• Self-kindness means being warm and understanding to yourself when things don't go your way.

• Common Humanity: Rather than feeling isolated, remember that everyone goes through hard times. It's not personal -- it is what makes us human.

• Mindfulness: Try a mindful perspective -- observe your thoughts and feelings as they are without trying to suppress or deny them. Do not judge or criticize yourself!

If you can also practice activities that help you re-center and tap into your gifts, that too goes a long way to loving yourself. There is nothing selfish about it -- the more you take care of yourself, the more you have to offer to others.

2. Create Love Grounded in Trust

While romantic love can stir the senses, hormones and take over our lives, consider also cultivating a caring type of love. It does not have to be showy; quietly authentic and consistent expression goes a long way to building trust. In this day and age, knowing that someone truly has your back means a lot! If they want the best for you, no matter what, that is priceless. I have a friend who is there for me. It can be months between calls, but when we connect, it is effortless and caring and true. The quality of trust makes all the difference in romantic relationships too. It deepens a connection and allows the relationship to survive the challenges that come up. I love the image of an ocean. Though there may be turbulent waves on the top, below there is a depth that remains untouched by what is showing up on the surface. Resonating with someone is the first step... trust goes the distance! That's the kind of valentine I am most grateful for!

3. Invest in Experiences rather than Trinkets

Flowers wilt, chocolates get eaten and things lose their shininess in time. What remains in our minds and hearts are the memories of experiences that make us come alive. Whether that's hiking to a sunset beach with someone you care about, trying an activity that you never thought you could do, or designing an event that makes you both feel amazing, there's no limit but your imagination and curiosity. Even the planning of it adds to the fun. What experience can you create to make a moment in time memorable? By the way, this is not just for Valentines' Day. Sprinkle some of this into the year -- it will make you smile.

At the end of our days, what is most important is not only who we loved, but how graciously we expressed that love. The challenge is to make this Valentine's Day focus on love a practice. Can you be even more present for yourself, your family, friends and even people you may not know? Love is a seeds that sprouts in places we may never know. It opens hearts; it melts the walls that separate us. By focusing on expanding our capacity for giving and receiving love, and for compassion, who knows what could happen? We are truly all in this together and have more power than we know to shape our collective future.

Oliver Wendell Homes said, "Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness." How about taking on some of that?

What does Valentine's Day mean to you?

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