Happy Valentine’s Day! A day to celebrate love. And it is worth celebrating – whether or not you subscribe to the Hallmark holiday.

Our valentine is just one of many relationships we have – so maybe today we should take some time to be grateful for not only the love of our life but for all of our relationships. They are in fact the biggest factor for our well-being.

Humans are naturally social. And yet we seem to be reducing the quality and quantity of our social relationships. This comes from:

  • no longer living in extended families, or even near each other
  • delaying getting married and having children
  • living alone
  • spending more time on electronic communication than we do on face-to-face time

In a UK survey, it was found that 10% of people feel lonely, 30% have a close friend or relative who they think is very lonely, and 50% think that people are getting lonelier in general. Similarly, in the US, over the past two decades, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of Americans who say they have no close confidants. 

Relationships and mortality

A large meta-analysis study in 2010, (where they combine the results of similar studies), looked at the extent to which social relationships influence our mortality. The results came from 148 studies on 308,849 participants.

These findings showed that the influence of social relationships on the risk of death is comparable to that seen with risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption. In fact, the impact of social relationships exceeded the influence of physical inactivity and obesity. Thus the lack of social relationships is as detrimental to our health as are smoking and alcohol consumption, and worse than physical inactivity and obesity!

The gift of our full attention

So today is a great day to start supporting our relationships. Appreciate your relationships and work at them. Tell the important people in your life that you love them. It’s all too easy to half-listen or not really pay attention to someone else. Put down that phone/iPad/laptop, stop thinking about work for a moment, and give people your full attention – it’s the best gift you can give someone.  

I know I am frequently guilty of half-paying attention – and my hubby will be nodding his head as he reads this! But he and I do set aside Saturdays as our day together every week. It is a day we look forward to. We plan what we are going to do together. And it is always special – even if we don’t do anything special.  

What can you do to focus your time on someone? Here are some simple ideas:

  • a date day once a week for just the two of you
  • a leisurely breakfast together one day a week with time to talk 
  • a walk with a friend every two weeks
  • lunch with a friend once a month
  • coffee every Friday… 

Yes, it’s not just a one-off fix. Relationships need continued effort. But they are worth that effort.

Start today with your loved one. Show your love with focused attention — the best Valentine Day’s gift of all. Then expand it to other relationships. 

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