I usually go into a deep malaise after the first of the year. The weather is cold. The days are short. The month drags on and on.
And then it’s February! Valentine’s Day is coming!
When I was dating in my teens and early 20s, I received red roses every year for Valentine’s Day. I could count on roses, no matter which boyfriend was in the picture. There were some chocolates. There were some gifts. There were some dinners in some decent restaurants. I don’t even remember the details as none of it was particularly remarkable or adventurous, but it became tradition.
Then I got married. Then I got divorced. Then I got remarried.
My current husband doesn’t buy into Valentine’s Day because he believes that couples in love should be in love—and show it—every day. I can get on board with his way of thinking, but I’m still drawn to Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s all those years of roses. Or maybe it’s just that I’m female and I’m wired for it even though, like most other holidays in the United States, it has been commercialized.
I recently read The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin’s 12-month journey to happiness. One of my 2014 projects is to create my own happiness project as a way to combat this winter malaise. With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’m using it to give myself a present that’s way better than flowers or chocolate: happiness.
In the spirit of happiness, I’ve chosen some Valentine’s Day gifts to myself:
1. Go to bed earlier. This may seem ridiculously simple, but for someone who’s been a night owl for more than 20 years, it’s a big deal. Getting into bed, even if the lights are on, is still more relaxing than midnight snacking, sitting on the computer or pretty much any other activity that comes to mind. Starting on Valentine’s Day, I’m going to take a bubble bath, put on my heart pajamas and read a good book—all before midnight!
2. Get rid of clothes that don’t fit. I’m in the process of going through every article of clothing I own because it’s ridiculous to keep staring at things that need to be dusted before they’re worn. If something doesn’t fit, I just get depressed visiting it and my closet shouldn’t be a museum anyway. Likewise, I’ve decided to stop worrying about sizes and concern myself with clothes that flatter. Who cares what number is on the label if it works for my body type? I will continue to say this to myself until it sinks in for good.
3. Remember that real life is more important than social media life. Just because someone is gushing on Facebook or Twitter about how fabulous her day, week or month was doesn’t mean her life is without issues or problems. Everyone has highs and lows, but usually it’s the highs that make social media headlines. I’m going to try hard to take it all with a grain of salt and even better, focus on what I’m doing rather than what I’m reading about what others do.
4. Stop comparing myself to everyone. If we were all the same, life would be pretty boring. I need to stop the comparison game because there’s no winner. I can be grateful for plenty of things that someone else probably envies. But even more important is the fact that I do have good stuff happening—I need to focus on that, every day.
5. Remind myself that yoga is a practice. It’s called a yoga practice, so I must treat it that way when I’m doing it. Why am I so kind to others about their flexibility issues, but I beat myself up so badly? A yoga teacher said to me, “It’s called yoga practice, not yoga perfect.” I’m going to start every yoga class with this reminder.
6. Take time for a project. I have sand and shells from my wedding sitting in a plastic storage box in my office. My intention is to do something fun and creative with a shadow box. The reality is that I keep putting it off because it has nothing to do with marketing one of my projects or cleaning/organizing the house. There is no good reason I’m not playing around with this sand—especially when outside it’s in the single digits and the snow is falling. I need to tell myself that fun, creative activities that benefit only myself are fine things to spend time on.
7. Travel with intention more often. My passion is meaningful travel. This can take on many different forms so it doesn’t so much matter which way it’s done as long as it’s done. While I am lucky to travel, I can travel even more if I sit down with my husband, decide on a travel goal and then figure out a plan to support that goal.
8. Be patient with and forgive myself. There’s a good chance I’m not going to get right all the items on this list until they become habits. Because new habits take practice, I must remember to be patient and forgive myself when the habit isn’t formed as quickly as I planned.
The good news is that all these items are free! The challenging part is that it would be easier to buy myself a box of chocolates than to implement these types of gifts.
I will be patient—and I will forgive myself—until these things become habits.
This will be a Valentine’s Day adventure worth remembering.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Kathryn Rutz / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Courtesy of the author