Receiving love is great. Giving love is even better.
As I scrolled through my Facebook news feed on February 14th, I couldn’t help but smile at all the positive, encouraging messages and photos of people openly expressing their love to each other. There were love quotes from songs, movies and authors, and beautiful messages of gratitude.
Just for one day, we got more love than angry political memes or depressing news stories.
On Valentine’s Day, we find it much easier to express love to others. After all, that’s what the holiday is about. We feel good doing it, and when it’s returned, our heart’s flutter. But do you ever wonder what would happen if we loved like that every day?
According to the Stanford Medicine Center for Compassion and Altruism Research & Education (CCARE), we would be much more creative, calmer, and resilient to the stresses of life. Preliminary research being done at the center has shown that increased compassion and altruism (two expressions of love) not only enhance our connection with others, but also lead to reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.
As it turns out, giving love is not only good for the people who are receiving it, but it’s really good for us, too.
Ever notice how when you do something loving for someone else, you instantly feel better? Go for a walk and smile at a stranger or secretly pick up the tab for someone’s coffee. Even the smallest acts of love can have a tremendous effect on your energy and outlook in life. This is the power of love.
It’s no surprise that counselors and psychologists have told their clients (especially those who struggle with depression) that one of the best things they can do is to go out and volunteer their time or give random acts of kindness. Instead of focusing so much on ourselves and what we’re lacking, let’s learn to step outside of ourselves and focus on giving our love abundantly.
So what is it about love that makes it so powerful? For starters, it can heal a broken heart, lift up your spirit, and raise your faith in humanity. On a body level, you get increased doses of dopamine and oxytocin, two feel-good neurochemicals that trigger a sense of closeness and reward. Love also deactivates the part of your brain that’s linked to fear and negative judgment of other people.
So yes, love is great and makes us feel good. But let’s look at its powerful ability to change the way we view ourselves and the world.
If the Law of Attraction has taught us anything, it’s that your thoughts have a huge impact on what you attract in life. When you get bogged down by the negativity surrounding you and your thoughts become negative, you naturally draw in more negativity. Your brain, in turn, looks for more “evidence” to maintain this mindset.
Right now, we’re living in a time where we’re surrounded with so much negativity. Everywhere you look or read, there’s some new story that can convince you we’re heading to our demise as a country. During such an intense time, it’s critical that you balance out the negativity with the opposite: more love. The consequence of not doing so can quickly lead you down a path of illness, cynicism, loss of hope, and burnout.
So how do you get out of this vicious cycle? Give love to yourself by practicing self-care. Give love to strangers. Give love to your family, co-workers, and friends. Let your brain find the evidence to maintain a ‘love mindset’ by actively looking and giving thanks for the love that surrounds you every day. When you practice living from a place of love, your energy will change. You’ll experience those effects of increased creativity, joy, and fulfillment that Stanford’s CCARE center has found.
As the late Dr. Wayne Dwyer said, “Change your thoughts…Change your life.”
For some people, it might be tough to come up with ways to share the love, which is why I find the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation to be so wonderful. They have dedicated an entire website to ideas on how to share love with others. Literally, there are thousands of ideas. Everything from cooking, helping your neighbors, or things that you can do for children or senior citizens. If you’re really feeling inspired, you can sign up to become a Raktivist—A Random Acts of Kindness Activist. Check it out by visiting https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a Love Reset. A reorientation of how we view and express love that isn’t just saved for one day a year. Let’s honor the immense power love has to change our thoughts, uplift our hearts, and transform our lives. And let’s commit to making love our purpose and way of being of service every day of our lives.