What are you gifting yourself this Valentine’s Day? We know that Valentine’s Day can get expensive: In 2021, shoppers said they were planning to spend about $163 for the holiday, according to deal-finder site RetailMeNot, up from just $85 in 2020.
But that’s one of the good things about Valentine’s gifts for yourself — some of the best ones (more on that below) don’t cost a thing. They're all about showing yourself some self-love, which means appreciating your worth or value, according to its Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition.
Doing so helps you build self-esteem and self-worth, says Kate Evans, a licensed clinical professional counselor who runs her own life-coaching practice, Soulful Space Coaching, in Elgin, Illinois. And with practice, you get better at it, she adds. “Self-love is like a muscle that needs to be exercised.”
And remember, while it’s good to kick this off on Valentine’s Day, February 14 shouldn’t be the only day you practice showing yourself love, adds Lauren Schapiro, a licensed master social worker and psychotherapist with Liz Morrison Therapy in New York City. “This is something to try to practice and strengthen all year long.”
Below, you’ll find seven ways you can show yourself some self-love. Gift one (or more) to yourself and let the good feelings roll in:
1. A Love Letter to You, From You
No matter if you’re going through a frustrating time in your life, a transition period, or a happy one, you can benefit from some self-love. Schapiro recommends writing a letter to yourself stating what you are most recently proud of yourself for. “Whether you're in a relationship or single, speak kindly to yourself,” she says. This might be ways you showed up for yourself or showed up for a friend, or job milestones you recently met. The more specific you can be, the better!
2. Happy Time
Give yourself the gift of time to do exactly what would make you happy. This could be a whole day, a few hours, or 30 minutes — whatever you have available to you. “Ask yourself: What makes me feel loved and cared for?” says Schapiro — and do exactly that. (She recommends brainstorming ideas and making plans for this time before February 14, so you don’t fill in the time with something else, and you have whatever you need to make it happen.)
Bake a treat that you love. Cook a new recipe you always wanted to try, or make one that’s your favorite. Go for a long run and come home for a steaming mug of coffee (or morning hot chocolate). There’s no right answer to what you should do — because it’s all about what sparks joy for you.
3. Unplanned, No-Obligation, No-To-Do-List Time
Or set aside a block of time to do exactly what you feel like doing in that moment. Release yourself from expectations of productivity, says Evans. (If it can’t be on Valentine’s Day, plan a day when this is doable.)
“We have expectations on ourselves that create stressors,” Evans says. Even if it’s a list of things you love to do, planning too much can make you end up feeling defeated if (and inevitably when) you don’t accomplish it all. Instead, for this Valentine’s Day or whenever works for you, give yourself a block of time to do exactly what you feel like doing when that time comes up, she says. Maybe it’s sleeping in, ordering takeout, relaxing on the couch, going for a walk, or calling a friend. Just keep any “should dos” out of mind.
Sit down and write one thing that you’re grateful for this Valentine’s Day, suggests Evans. This can be anything, small or big. From how the grocery store had the juiciest, sweetest strawberries on sale to your nephew who makes you laugh every time you see him.
This is a good gift to give yourself this Valentine’s Day because it helps your mind focus on the positive things happening in your life, which comes with all kinds of stress-busting and mood-boosting benefits. Start it on Valentine’s Day and then make it something you do regularly. The habit will pay off: Gratitude increases life satisfaction and more life satisfaction leads to more gratitude (and so on), according to research published in November 2019 in Frontiers in Psychology.
5. A Personal Pep Talk You Can Come Back to Again and Again
Self-affirmations — as defined by the American Psychological Association — are positive statements about the self that are repeated regularly. They can help reverse negative thinking and improve self-esteem. And Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to give yourself the gift of developing a self-affirmation that you can use throughout the year to keep self-esteem and self-love up, Schapiro says.
You can search online for examples and inspiration, but remember that self-affirmations are completely individual, Schapiro says. Pick one or two to come back to (or make up your own) that you really believe and buy into, says Schapiro. Use the notes function on your phone to jot these down, so you can call upon them and repeat them aloud to yourself when you feel the need for a little extra self-love.
6. Puppy Love
If you have a pet, make an effort to show your pet some love today — because you’ll get love back. Research shows that cuddling canines improved well-being, positive feelings, social connectedness, and happiness, and decreases stress and loneliness compared with a condition where people were around dogs but did not interact with them through touching, found a study published in July 2021 in the journal Anthrozoös.
No pet? Sign up to volunteer at an animal shelter; after all, research published in 2018 in BMC Public Health showed that giving your time benefits your health, too.
7. Laughter (We’re Talking the Deep, LOL Kind)
Laughter really is a form of medicine. “Go do something that makes you smile and laugh hysterically,” says Evans. Listen to a recording of a comedian you love or go see one live. Pop on a movie or TV show that puts you in stitches. Or call up a friend and recount a shared memory that now makes both of you chuckle.
Research published in the July–August 2016 issue of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine showed that laughter is a bona fide stress-reducer. “Be silly and ridiculous. In essence, this distracts your brain, but it also feeds the part of your soul that might be feeling a bit neglected today,” Evans says.