How to Celebrate V-Day Your Way

Who says you have to spend Valentine's Day with a vat of cookie dough and a chick flick marathon? Or go to a wildly expensive restaurant with your broke boyfriend? Or do the dating dance with a guy you've gone out with a few times and now you have that awkward, "Should we get each other something or not" moment? You make the rules. You set the standard, not Hallmark.

Now I admit I'm a cheesy romantic. I've seen "Crazy, Stupid, Love" ten times. I overuse heart emojis. I melt into every lingering kiss. And yes, I love Valentine's. What's not to love about a day that's dedicated to telling others you love them? And I'm not just talking about your partner. I'm talking about friends, family members, anyone you truly, madly, deeply care about.

So how about nixing the pain of this pressure-filled day and let's get back to what really matters: expressing love. You don't have to ditch your diet and eat a 5-course dinner or gobs of chocolate to do it (although if that's your thing, go for it). Here are some tips to celebrate V-Day your way:

Ditch expectation and go with intention.
Many times we set the bar way too high, expecting others to reach it. This will set you (and your relationship) up for failure. High expectations can cause you (or your partner) to become stressed or depressed. Think about it this way: how many times have you expected someone to do something and he or she didn't do it? How did that make you feel? Set a simple intention instead, such as: I intend to have a fun, enjoyable night. The more you set your intent before action, the better results you will see.

Celebrate the day before.
Maybe you're the type who ditches stereotypes, dates against type, or doesn't listen to what your parents say is right and wrong. So why not change the date and celebrate Galentine's Day instead? Make plans to party on with your girl squad. Go to a favorite bar or have a house party with Pink Lady cosmos, Cupid cupcakes, and a deck of question cards. Celebrate with those significant BFFs who've supported you, stuck by you, and cheered you on in both good times and bad.

Spread the love.
Who says you have to know someone intimately to show them some love? How about doing a random act of kindness for someone you don't know. Let someone cut in front of you when they've got two items and you've got a full cart. Or help out that distraught Dad who forgot to pack his daughter's hair tie for gymnastics class (true story). Or buy an extra lottery ticket and hand it to the next person you see. I was standing in line at the grocery store, when the person in front of me had their credit card declined. I paid the bill. One kind, thoughtful act without expecting anything in return is all it takes.

Be spur-of-the-moment.
You can make the day fun, stress-free, and easy on the wallet. Want romance? How about taking a sunset drive and stopping in somewhere for a drink? Want casual? Chill out in your private lounge on the couch with Chinese takeout and Netflix (contrary to popular belief, some women actually do prefer a casual-night-in to a formal-night-out). Want something more special? Write love notes and hide them throughout the day. Whatever you do, choose from the heart and not from your wallet.

Don't forget YOU.
So often we acknowledge others, but we don't often do it for ourselves. It's crazy when you think about it: the person you spend all of your time with is the one you usually neglect. Why not cut yourself some slack and be a bit more gentle and loving? Treat yourself to some shameless self-indulgence: Soak in a bubble bath with a glass of bubbly. Or try a new 30-Day Fitness Challenge. Or just snuggle in with a cup of coffee and re-read a favorite book.

While we're on this lovefest, how about keeping it up all-year-long? It doesn't take much. Surprise your BF or a coworker with their favorite latte. Offer to babysit for a couple that doesn't get out much. Share your favorite book with a favored friend. Or give someone a hug, just because. A little love goes a long, long way.

So, how do you celebrate Valentine's Day?