9 ways to treat yourself on Valentine’s Day

February 14 is an ideal day to practice a little extra self-care and celebrate *you.* Read on as mental-health pros share simple, creative ideas you’ll love.

Valentine’s Day is about honoring the people you love—including the one in the mirror. Sure, a velvety box of heart-shape chocolates is one way to celebrate, but treats don’t have to be all about food. Everything from a restorative yoga session to a solo screening of a favorite movie can count.

The key is taking time to do something that feeds your soul. “Make it about celebrating you and your special qualities,” says Megan Logan, a licensed clinical social worker and the author of Self-Love Workbook for Women. Try one (or more!) of the ideas below, and we guarantee you’ll be feeling the love.

1. Take a social media temperature check

Some people adore dotting friends’ Valentine’s Day posts with tiny hearts. But for others, scrolling through a holiday feed stirs up negative feelings. If you’re in that latter group, log off on February 14. “Taking a temporary [social media] break frees up mental space for reconnection with yourself,” Logan says. “Once unplugged, you can fully engage in activities that need you to be in the present moment.” (No shortage of ideas below!)

2. Get outside

Admire the icicles on your roof glistening in the sun. Take a walk on a local trail, tuning in to the rhythm of your feet hitting the ground. Sit outside and listen to the chirps of your neighborhood’s birds. “The more connected we are with nature, the more connected we are with ourselves,” says clinical psychologist Zoe Shaw, PsyD, author of A Year of Self-Care. “And since we are often seeking connection on Valentine’s day, [getting outside] is an ideal way to celebrate.”

3. Indulge your animal instincts

Give your fur baby some extra snuggle time. Spending just 10 minutes with a pet increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone connected to feelings of trust and bonding, according to research on pups and their owners. No pet? Cue up some cute animal videos instead. “It’s practically impossible not to smile when you see a picture or video of sweet puppies and kittens,” Dr. Shaw says. “And one smile or laugh can produce a ripple effect in your body that lowers blood pressure and creates a sense of calm.”

4. Send yourself a Valentine

“Think about all the amazing, quirky, unique, and beautiful things you appreciate about yourself—and write them down in the form of a letter,” Dr. Shaw says. This writing exercise can be beneficial unto itself, but for an extra boost, seal, stamp, and mail the letter to its intended recipient (you!). “Reading complimentary things about yourself creates feelings of validation, confidence, and love,” Dr. Shaw says.

5. Create a mini sanctuary

Kids build forts to carve out a private spot for themselves—why should that stop after childhood? This Valentine’s Day, set up a cuddly corner in your living room or bedroom, complete with cozy pillows, blankets, and flame-free candles. Crawl in and read, watch a movie, meditate, or just doze.

6. Bask in some blooms

You know that warm feeling you get when someone gives you flowers? You can get a similar boost by picking up your own bouquet: Simply looking at flowers helps decrease negative emotions, according to a small study recently published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. This Valentine’s Day, select your favorite mix of blooms at the market, and create a festive arrangement for yourself. And since generosity also buoys happiness: Make an extra bouquet to leave on a friend’s doorstep, too.

7. Craft an affirmation wall

Write down self-affirmations—positive truths that help challenge negative thoughts—on paper hearts or colorful sticky notes. For example: I am enough; I’m surrounded by loving friends; and I grow from my mistakes. Put them up where they won’t be missed, like on a bathroom mirror or the fridge door. Research shows that reading self-affirmations activates the reward centers of the brain, which can help us feel motivated and fulfilled.

8. Pamper your skin

Take some time to appreciate the amazing skin you’re in by indulging in a DIY spa treatment. You can even get your friends in on the action by emailing recipes in advance for masks that everyone in your group can prepare, and then apply together over Zoom. “Lovingly touching yourself creates a feeling of stability and warmth,” Dr. Shaw says.

For a skin-soothing solo massage: Pour half a cup of sunflower or flaxseed oil into a squeeze bottle, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil (make sure you’ve done a skin sensitivity test first), then place the bottle in hot water to warm up. (Fill your bathtub while you wait.) “Sit in your tub and massage the oil into your scalp,” Dr. Shaw says. “Next, massage your face with the oil, and then use long, circular strokes over your entire body, finishing with your feet.” Lie quietly for about 15 minutes, allowing the warm oil to soak into your skin.

9. Make a vision board

February 14 is the perfect day to remind yourself what makes your heart sing. To do it, create a collage of images that make you feel happy, peaceful, curious, and excited, Logan says. Think about your hobbies and favorite memories—as well as the people and places you love—and gather photos and magazine clippings that represent them. Glue the images onto a piece of cardboard or create a digital version with the help of a website like Canva. Logan recommends looking at your board every morning to remind you of what matters most.

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Holly Pevzner is a health, parenting, and family travel writer living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in such publications as EatingWell, Parents, Real Simple, and Prevention.

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