Love and Happiness


romantic-dinner-celebration-valentine

There is this one day of the year where big things happen. People get engaged, people finally admit hidden feelings, and some people cry themselves to sleep with a quart of melting ice cream. People also buy a TON of stuff. According to the National Retail Foundation, the average person celebrating will spend $126.03 (this is the biggest number since this yearly survey began 10 years ago), this Valentine’s Day, for a total of $17.6 billion spent nation-wide.

 

sell-diamonds-cashValentine’s Day is a time for romance to get the spotlight on TV, Radio, Billboards, and shop windows nation-wide. There are diamond commercials, wedding planning ads, flower sales, candy sales, and more shades of pink and red than E.L. James would know what to do with.

Well, that’s nothing unusual, right? Every holiday comes with its fair share of commercial opportunities. What makes Valentine’s day different from, say, Christmas or Halloween? While Christmas is allegedly a religious holiday, it quite often isn’t celebrated as such. Besides, mixing business and religion is nothing new. Halloween has very little personal or religious meaning to anyone. While Halloween is ultimately the modern American version of a fall harvest celebration, most people think of it as party/candy time, and not much more. Now what about the commercialization of Valentine’s day, a holiday strictly about the personal connection between two lovers (or even just good friends, in some instances)? What can we do to avoid losing sight of the important things on this wonderful holiday?

When we add monetary value to things we are monetizing them. When people are told over and over again that they need to purchase flowers, diamonds, etc. in order to have the perfect Valentine’s Day, or even more directly, to make their partner happy, we are putting a dollar value on love and happiness. This behavior fuels another type of behavior that many people, especially in the developed world, don’t even realize they are engaging in. By monetizing love and happiness we are saying that you need to buy (consume) things in order to be a good partner. This social expectation may have some roots in the “breadwinner” concept of centuries past, but is totally irrelevant today.

The expectation that we have to purchase things in order to please our partners places value in the wrong place. Trust, love, forgiveness, and caringlove better than $ are some of the most important things in a relationship, but where does “willingness to purchase gifts” fall? It sounds ridiculous, right? But then why is Valentine’s Day so commercial? Because we buy into it. Advertisers pay a lot of money to figure out how to sell us things we didn’t originally want, and that holds true on Valentine’s Day, too. They wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t terribly profitable.

So what can we do to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a way that doesn’t buy into the commercial machine? Well, we can start by not buying the stuff. I buy flowers and chocolate for people I care about year-round and they always love it, no matter what day it is. I don’t buy a lot of diamonds, and if I ever do, it will be because I am perfectly ready to get engaged, not because a bunch of sappy advertisements and social pressure encourage me to. Teddy bears and other knick-knacks are exactly that: knick-knacks. If your partner really wants a Teddy bear, that’s fine. But purchasing one just because you have to get something on Valentine’s Day is wasteful and a rather careless.

We can also preserve the spirit of love and devotion in Valentine’s Day by sticking to exactly that: you and your partner spending time together. Instead of spending a ton of money on an over-crowded and possibly over-priced dinner, try cooking it yourself. Chances are, your partner will appreciate the effort and thought you put into it a lot more than you just paying a stranger to do it. Decorate your house or apartment in a romantic way. Do something unusual and fun. The point is:  it’s your time, your energy and your love are what matter in a relationship, not the contents of your wallet. Don’t let the advertising-influenced societal pressures tell you otherwise and your partner will love you for it.

self hugFor those of us who don’t have a partner, Valentine’s Day can be a bit rough. But the same advice applies to the have-nots as well: stick to love and happiness and you’ll be fine! If you don’t have a partner to share with, find another single friend (male or female). If all of your friends are taken (weak), practice being loving and happy with yourself. Make it a special, relaxing night. C00k yourself a yummy dinner or get a massage. Maybe put off your homework for a night and just spend some time reading that novel you’ve been neglecting or watching your favorite show. Let’s not forget the cardinal rule of relationships: no one can love you if you can’t love yourself.

Practicing self-love is very important to everyone’s personal well-being and self-esteem. It’s been said by many-a-psychologist that one of the best ways to improve your self-esteem is to help others. So, if you’re feeling especially ambitious, I suggest volunteering on Valentine’s Day. It will give you a chance to connect with other people, to spread love and happiness to others, and ultimately to help yourself feel good about you.

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