Give Memories, Not Chocolate

Family walking in nature

Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be about candy. The idea behind the holiday is, well, love. And as it turns out, giving and receiving love is great for your brain.  A 2016 Global Council on Brain Health report on social engagement and brain health found that meaningful relationships can help maintain thinking skills and slow cognitive decline later in life.

Luckily, many have already figured this out. A 2016 AARP survey of more than 2,500 Americans age 40 and older found 57 percent planned to celebrate Valentine’s Day by either going out to dinner or staying at home, while only 12 percent bought chocolates. And 63 percent of those in another recent survey of adults over age 50 said spending time with a romantic partner, friends and family is the best way to celebrate the holiday, while only 13 percent preferred receiving flowers, candy or other gifts, according to a new AARP Foundation survey.

Even if you don’t have a sweetheart this Valentine’s Day, consider giving a hug, a smile, a card or a phone call to a beloved friend or relative. It will be great for your brain—and your heart.  Just take a little extra time to think about the things that they love and get them the things that will make them happy. Always remember the one thing that will most likely make them the happiest is spending time with you.

Whether you are looking for romantic Valentine gifts or Valentine’s Day gifts to give special friends and family, good Valentine’s gifts are the ones that come from the heart.  Here are a few ideas:

Make a magical memory scrapbook.  This is a great personalized Valentine’s Day gift as you can incorporate your favorite photos or words to express the magic and love you have shared with this person. Print out photos, find pictures in old magazines, use your favorite markers, paint, and stickers (just as you would for scrapbooking) and begin to design your book to personalize this Valentine’s Day gift. Use your words and creativity to bring the magic of memories of your history together with your loved one.

Cook a special Valentine’s Day meal for your loved one.  Nothing says “I care” more than making your Valentine’s favorite meal whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner. Sharing a meal is not only a beautiful way to bond, but it’s also an excellent way to show how much you care.

What I Love About Your Journal.  Write a small journal of all the things you love about this person and give it to him/her on Valentine’s Day.

Monthly Date Night Subscription Box.  Each month put together a themed box full of games and activities that you can mail to your special love or give it to him/her in person.

Gift Experience voucher.  A great adventure awaits, but it’s up to your love one to decide when and where it’ll be. This voucher can be redeemed for a two-person experience of their choice.

Plan a Trip.  Rather than spending money on stuff, spend it on travel, even it it’s just a weekend road trip.  Bring a camera and take lots of photos!  Travel tends to make us happier than material things, and the memories and good feeling will last far longer than a bouquet of flowers and a fancy dinner.

Spend Time Together.  Give the gift of your time.  Unplugged, undivided attention.  Just talk or do something together that you‘ve always wanted to do but haven’t found the time for.

Make Something.  Take a pottery class.  Build something for your home together.  Learn how to carve a wooden spoon or do a bit of landscaping or buy a big canvas to paint.  By letting your creative thoughts soar, you might learn something new about each other.

Get Active.  Go out dancing!  If dancing isn’t your thing, take a hike, or attend a yoga class together.

Experience something beautiful.  Try an early morning nature walk and marvel at the dew-laced leaves and spider’s webs, drive to the ocean and just watch the waves or find a quiet place to stargaze.

Laugh together.  Laughing together is fun!  Plus, it helps us bond to one another, relieves stress, and has a host of other physical and emotional benefits.  Plan a night in playing a board game that always makes you laugh.  Alternately, go see a funny play or art exhibit, or grab tickets to a comedy show.  As a bonus, you’ll be supporting your local arts community.

Do some good together.  Volunteering together and watching each other’s compassion in action can bring out a new aspect to your appreciation for one another.  Plus, turning Valentines Day’s focus on love toward loving others or loving mother earth is a fun twist to the holiday if you’re a non traditionalist who really doesn’t like the holiday all that much to being with.  Perhaps there is a women’s shelter that needs volunteers to put on a Valentines’ Dinner for residents.  Try visiting a nursing home with an armload of valentines or even playing with puppies for a day at the humane society!

However you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate), and whomever you celebrate it with, remember that there are no rules for Valentine’s Day, and that you can make it meaningful for you and the ones you love however you’d like.