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COLUMN: Celebrating Valentine's Day should be encouraged

The day of love is coming soon, and I encourage you to make it just that — a day when you try a little harder to show your loved ones you care. 

Valentine’s Day is a holiday that understandably generates mixed reactions. An internationally recognized celebration of love can be a convenient excuse to act even more like a couple if you are in a relationship, or an annoying distraction if romance is not your thing. 

However, holidays can also provide helpful reminders of attitudes and behaviors. These can improve our lives no matter what time of year we apply them.

You may not be interested in over-sized stuffed animals and expensive flowers, but hopefully, you see the value in finding some way to let your favorite people know how much they matter. 

It can sometimes feel like the smart and cool thing to be cynical rather than sentimental. We have all — likely when we were single — made at least one snarky quip about this holiday.  

Personally, I know I have walked past grocery store displays and bitterly joked to friends about our capitalist society’s commodification of human emotion. 

But bitter jokes aside, think of how much better it feels when you decide to stop being apathetic and start being affectionate.

If you cringed at that, don’t worry — I did too. But I also meant it, and I happen to be aware of a helpful bit of psychological research to back me up. 

Research that began with the Harvard Study of Adult Development compared the life experiences and health of study participants as they aged. The results showed that maintaining close relationships helps delay mental and physical decline. 

This trend also appears in research reviewed in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, which explains that social support can improve mental and physical health by decreasing the negative effects of stress. According to the study, social support also reduces the risk of mentally and physically unhealthy behaviors.

In this case, research supports a conclusion that most of us can intuitively acknowledge. Whether you are giving or receiving, spreading the love is good for everyone. 

Even if you think life is just a random series of events between birth and death, wouldn’t it be nice if more of those events made you and others feel loved? 

It’s fair to point out that Valentine’s Day still mostly focuses on romantic rather than platonic love. After all, the holiday did originate in Rome as a fertility festival

In 2018, though, Valentine’s Day is not just for couples. There are plenty of festive, affectionate things you can do to celebrate. 

You don’t need a hot date to go out to a nice dinner, and you can hand out cute valentines to your friends regardless of your relationship status. The bottom line is that tomorrow can be a great day if you want it to be. Don’t be afraid to get into the Valentine’s Day spirit and push yourself to love a little more. 

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