Love Your Way to Happiness
It is no accident that we choose to write to you about love right after Valentine’s Day. At Westside Psychotherapy, we believe that the most important days to show love lie between February 15 and February 13.
Sustaining love is challenging. Life wears us down, disappointments and resentments accumulate, fatigue sets in, the dullness of familiarity may begin to rankle. And it turns out that no one, no matter how wonderful, can rescue us from ourselves. However charmed our love connections are, we still have to grapple with our individual struggles to find meaning in life, do the things that matter to us, go to work, raise our children, and continually strive to become the best versions of ourselves that we can.
It is very easy to focus on all the ways our partner is letting us down. Maybe she or he isn’t attentive, doesn’t express emotion or affection, won’t do the things we want to do, doesn’t listen to us. Maybe there is disparity in housework, decision making, child care, sexual interest, financial contributions, activity levels, or compromise. Whatever the issue, the easiest and most common thing to do is blame the other person.
What would happen if instead, you focused all your attention on being the best partner you can possibly be? What if you made it your business to express love and appreciation every way you can think of, and to not expect anything in return? It turns out that by being different yourself, you can entirely change your experience of almost any situation. If you find a way to feel love in your heart, and show that feeling, you will feel better, no matter what is going on around you. Many years of research have supported the notion that feeling love is good for you physically, psychologically, and mentally. You are healthier, happier, and smarter if you can sustain feelings of love.
Gary Chapmen brought us the model of the Five Love Languages, which is a handy aid to thinking of different ways to express love. The five languages are: 1)Words of affirmation (say something nice), 2) Acts of Service (do something nice), 3) Physical Affection (a hug, anyone?), 4) Gifts, and 5) Quality Time. Although this book was written for couples, these principles hold for all relationships. Not only your spouse, but your child, your colleague, your parent, your student, your sibling, and your friend need and deserve your love.
So give it a try! Make it your business to show love every day in every one of the 5 languages, and pay attention to how you feel! Keep this up for a week, and see if your baseline level of discontent changes, see if you feel a little bit more in charge of your own happiness. Keep it up for a month, and maybe you’ll begin to find yourself healthier, happier, and smarter.