Valentine’s Day is no longer exclusively reserved for couples. From Galentine’s Day to heart-shaped treats for your pets, this wintry holiday—which has its roots in raucous Roman fertility festivals and marks the start of American stationery—has become more about showing love than simply celebrating romance.
And who better to shower with affection than yourself? (Yes, you.) Whether you’re single or betrothed, married or between mates, use this February 14th to honor all that you do. Here are 6 ways to sweeten up your Valentine’s Day with some tender, loving self-care:
1. Honor how far you’ve come
Setting goals and striving towards them is an admirable enterprise that keeps our lives exciting, our brains vibrant and our spirits lively.
But where we’re headed often overshadows where we are, where we’ve been—and how far we’ve come.
This Valentine’s Day, concentrate not on where you’re going (or what you may be lacking) but on the overall growth you’ve experienced. Whether you received a promotion last month, stopped smoking two years ago or dealt with an important conversation just last night, chances are you’ve achieved, overcome or discovered more than you realize. Honoring those milestones will reaffirm that you’re on the right path—and will embolden you to keep moving forward.
2. Treat your feet
We know that dental care is critical, skincare is essential and nutrition is vital. But how often do we consider foot care a significant part of our health and happiness? And yet, your feet are responsible for a number of crucial tasks, from allowing you to dance well into the night to providing balance when you’re standing upright. With 26 bones and an intricate system of nerves, ligaments, muscles, and tendons, they also absorb the impact of your body with every step you take. In other words, they’re prone to wear and tear if not lovingly handled.
Express your appreciation for them this Valentine’s Day with some extra nourishment. Spa pedicures can be magical, wherein a good soak is coupled with a massage, nail treatment and healing ointments. Reflexology—a style of massage that dates back to ancient Egypt—is guided by the tenet that certain pressure points in our feet can offer healing and release in corresponding parts of the body. Prefer to decompress at home? Try a detox foot soak: combine hot water with Epsom salt, apple cider vinegar, bentonite clay and your favorite essential oil. Pop in a romantic comedy, kick back and prepare for lasting relief—your toes will be thanking you for days.
3. Invest in your comfort
Few things compare to the delight of slipping into a comfy sweater after braving the elements or a long day in an air-conditioned office. And for good reason: swaddling ourselves in something soft supplies a sense of comfort and safety. (Is there any wonder why Linus told Charlie Brown that “happiness is a warm blanket”?)
Cozy on up to yourself this Valentine’s Day by investing in something that offers warmth and security, whether it’s a muslin blanket, a cashmere scarf or a pair of silky pajamas. Over time, the piece will come to represent home—no matter where you happen to find yourself.
4. Eat chocolate without the guilt trip
In 1861, Richard Cadbury—yes, he of Cadbury Crème Egg fame—began selling “eating chocolates” in heart-shaped boxes. Those chocolates went down fast but the boxes that remained—often adorned with rosebuds and pictures of Cupid—proved to be a great place to stow love letters and mementos, thus launching our association between romance and chocolate.
But chocolate is much more than an aphrodisiac. Dating back to the Aztec era—when cacao beans were so precious of a commodity they were treated like gold and used to pay taxes—chocolate has been recognized for its nutritional value. While the inclusion of milk and sugar has, over time, weakened its reputation as a healthy treat, recent research on the merits of dark chocolate has gotten everyone’s heart soaring. Indeed, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and flavonols, which can neutralize free radicals and shield us from damage caused by toxins and aging. It also naturally supports heart health.
Dark is key here, however, as research shows that processing cacao with milk and sugar (as well as other additives) destroys flavonols and diminishes chocolate’s overall benefits. Select a high-quality piece with at least 70% cacao (or cocoa, which is grounded, roasted cacao) and savor it in small quantities. It’ll make the experience all the more decadent.
5. Move your body
The act of indulging is often synonymous with something to consume—a “naughty” slice of cheesecake, an extra glass of wine, a plate of fries. And while certainly tasty, there are a number of other ways to spoil your senses and generate pleasure.
Chief among them? Exercise. We may bemoan a workout or inwardly grimace at the sight of stairs, but we all know that moving our bodies feels downright fantastic. This Valentine’s Day, invigorate your body in a fresh, exhilarating way by ditching your usual gym routine and trying something new—whether it’s an early morning bike ride to your favorite café or heading to the mountains for an afternoon of snowshoeing. The point is to ease anxiety, release endorphins and fortify the bond between your brain and body. One exercise that’s sure to brighten your holiday? Antigravity Aerial Yoga—an innovative routine that utilizes a hammock as a soft trapeze to enhance alignment and offer joint relief. (Such great heights, indeed.)
6. Empty your calendar for a day
Sound impossible? Think again. Or, rather, think of what might happen if you don’t work a day off into your schedule. Moderate to high stress poses a number of potential hazards, from weakening your immune system to making you prone to snap under pressure. To counter the daily-ness of life, step away from it on a regular basis—and use this Valentine’s Day to start the trend.
Meaning, if it’s your day off from work, treat it as such: take care of errands before your time off, alert family members and colleagues that you’ll be unreachable, and unplug completely. Sleep in, linger over coffee and the paper, take a leisurely walk, disappear into a novel, tend to your garden—the choice is up to you, but the aim is to escape the constraints of the clock, reacquaint yourself with your mind, body, and spirit, and focus on small pleasures. When you return to the world, you’ll be that much more ready to give—and receive—love.