February 17 is Random Acts of Kindness Day! When showing others how much you love them, it’s important to remember that we all give and receive love a little differently. Enter the five love languages. If you aren’t already familiar with them, check them out: they are a great tool to learn about yourself and your loved ones and to build trust and intimacy.
If you want to surprise your significant other, your best friend, your mom, or just about anyone with their favorite love language on this special day, here are some ideas to get you started.
This love language most of all consists in your presence. Someone who values quality time feels most loved when you give them your full and undivided attention, in the little things—like being an attentive listener—and the big things too—like clearing your calendar to spend time with them. Here are a few ways to show love through quality time:
- Schedule a phone call with a loved one who lives far away, even if it is only for 15 minutes.
- Ask a loved one if they would like to keep you company on FaceTime while you do chores or go about your day.
- Share an interactive activity with someone you love, like a board game, a puzzle, a craft, or read aloud together.
- The classic coffee date is a simple way to spend time together. Picking up the tab doesn’t hurt either!
Did you know that hugs have health benefits? In a healthy and appropriate context, physical affection not only feels good, it’s good for us. This love language can have all kinds of expression, in all kinds of relationships, romantic and platonic. Here are some ideas for how to show you care through touch:
- If you are in a romantic relationship, do an activity where you can be physically close with your significant other, like sitting together during a movie, letting your knees touch while sitting at the coffee shop, or holding hands during a walk.
- Braid or brush your friend’s or sister’s hair.
- Give a gentle neck or back massage—or give a gift card to your loved one to have a professional give them one (it’s good for you!).
- Does someone you love like physical gestures of affection, while such things don’t come naturally to you? Think beyond hugs and kisses. A reassuring pat on a friend’s shoulder, a casual touch on the arm, and sitting close to a loved one are all small and simple ways to be physically close.
Acts of service
For someone who is service oriented, actions really do speak louder than words. The trick to this love language is to anticipate your loved one’s needs. Not only will you be doing them a favor, but you are showing them that they are on your mind, and that they are worth your time and effort. If you need help thinking of some ideas for acts of service, here are a few to get you started:
- Do someone else’s chores. Clean the dishes before your spouse can get to them, make your sibling’s bed while they are eating breakfast, defrost the car for your dad before he leaves for work, or get up early to make coffee for your roommates. Bonus points if the task is something your loved one dreads doing.
- When a new baby arrives or a loved one passes, it’s common practice to set up a meal train for the family. Think about how much peace of mind it gives you when lunch or dinner is already waiting for you in the fridge. What if we helped one another with meal prep, just because? Surprise someone with a batch meal or a gift card to order in—it’s a little luxury they are sure to appreciate.
- Do someone else’s shopping. Run an errand so your parents don’t have to, like picking up stamps at the post office or taking returned merchandise back to the store. Volunteer to pick up your roommate’s grocery list. Or give gift cards so your busy friends and family can shop online on their own time.
A gift signifies the time, effort, and thought that you put into a relationship. Someone who receives love through gifts cherishes items not only for what they are but what they represent. The trick to giving a good gift, then, is to focus most of all on the intention behind the present. Here are some ways to think beyond your annual Christmas list to give gifts year-round:
- Pick up a treat from the grocery store or Starbucks drive-thru on the way to see your friend or significant other. When my fiancé and I were first dating, he learned my drink order and would have it ready for me when I arrived at our usual coffee place. The gesture made me feel seen and loved.
- Make or pack lunch for a family member. Add a personalized note to surprise them, if they will be opening their lunchbox at school or at the office. Little treats like mini candy bars and fresh baked cookies are a nice addition too.
- A little gift can go a long way. Send a loved one a small gift card for a little indulgence: $5 for coffee, $10 to drop on the dollar section at Target, $25 for a new pair of earrings at their favorite store. Enclose the gift in a cute “thinking of you” card.
- If you have time for something more labor-intensive, assemble a care package for a faraway friend or relative. Little decorative touches, like wrapping the items or stuffing the box with tissue paper, will make your box extra special. Ideas to get you started include a scented candle, a book you recommend, a novelty mug, small pieces of jewelry, and chocolate.
Words of affirmation
Telling someone that you love them and why you love them can really raise their spirits. Giving and receiving genuine compliments can brighten your mood and increase your performance. In a world filled with so many negative words and images, we could all use more affirmation. Here are some ways to start spreading the love:
- If you have a hard time saying how you feel, try writing it down. Write a card or a letter to tell a loved one how much they mean to you and what you admire and love about them.
- Make a habit of giving thoughtful compliments. If saying these things out loud does not come naturally for you, practice makes perfect. Start with some positive thinking: mentally make a note of something good that stands out to you about the people you encounter. Then start giving out small compliments (“nice outfit!”) and build towards more personal ones (“I really admire your sense of style; I know how much thought goes into your wardrobe, and your personality really comes across in how you dress”).
- Text a friend or loved one first thing in the morning to tell them you are thinking of them.
- One year for my birthday, my roommates asked all of the guests at my birthday party to write down words of affirmation to go in a jar for me to read. It was such a personal and lasting gift, which I treasure even more now that some of the guests have moved farther away and I don’t see them as often. A gift that keeps on giving!