You Don’t Have to be in a Relationship to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

There are a number of different ways people approach Valentine’s Day.

Some people enjoy the chance to buy chocolates and flowers for that special someone and to get into the romance of it all. Parents — and I speak from experience here — use it as an opportunity to get all Pinteresty with the Valentine’s cards their children swap with their classmates at school. One year, my daughter begged me to help her bake heart-shaped, pink-frosted cookies for all of her friends.

Then there are those who flat out despise such a happy, rainbows-and-unicorns kind of holiday, because if you don’t have a Valentine, well, then, the day might just serve as a dismal reminder. Others are turned off by the sheer commercialism of it all, with greeting cards given on Valentine’s Day amounting to about 25 percent of the cards given all year.

But the cutesy, hearts-and-flowers stuff aside, let’s think about the day for just a minute. Valentine’s Day is a day that celebrates love. It doesn’t matter what gender or race you are, or who you vote for; love, thankfully, does not push a political agenda. And despite its murky beginnings, which according to different legends could have either Christian or pagan roots, or both, there’s nothing religious about the holiday today. It is a holiday about love, and only love.

What is wrong with that? Isn’t there enough hate, distrust and sadness in the world today? Is it really so bad to add just a little extra love into the mix?

In this issue of the Health Journal, we focus on love. You’ll learn about the five love languages — different expressions of love that each of us are said to gravitate toward. Learning which language our partners most identify with — be it physical touch or acts of service, for example — may help strengthen relationships.

You’ll also learn how love affects your brain (it’s a good thing), and whether certain kinds of food can help put you in the mood. You’ll also get a glimpse into a story about a boy with Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes him to unconditionally love and trust everyone he meets, in a Q&A with author Jennifer Latson.

Loving and trusting everyone. Isn’t that a concept? Imagine if we all tried to love others just a little bit more, or cared a little bit more about the world around us. Did you know that some studies have shown that a cynical attitude along with a general mistrust for people is linked to an increased risk for heart disease? On the other hand, spending time and laughing with a friend can give your emotional health a boost, and that’s good for your heart, too.

So this Valentine’s Day, why not try embracing love? You don’t have to be in a relationship to celebrate. There’s plenty of love to spread. Hug your dog. Call your mom. Call your grandma. Play with your kids. Shovel your neighbor’s walkway next time it snows. Take a shopping cart back to where it belongs. Smile at a stranger. Buy a cup of coffee for the homeless guy on the corner.

As you’ll read in these pages, love can be a pretty good thing.

About the author

Kim O'Brien Root

Kim O'Brien Root has been a reporter for 20 years previously working for the Daily Press and The Roanoke Times. She's been a freelance journalist since 2010, balancing writing with being a chronic volunteer. She lives in Hampton with her husband, a fellow journalist, two children and a dog.