What represents the energy of positivity more than the month when we celebrate love? 

Valentine’s Day marks one day of the year when we often demonstrate our love through gifts such as flowers, chocolates, shiny baubles, and fancy dinners. But while Feb. 14 usually represents outward displays of affection, most of us agree that feeling loved comes from something more meaningful- and it may surprise you what it is.

Americans largely agree that small gestures are what matters most when it comes to what makes us feel loved. In a Pennsylvania State University and University of California, Irvine study, researchers found that small, non-romantic gestures topped the list of what makes people feel loved. Showing compassion in a difficult time; after a long day of work, your pet is happy to see you; or receiving a snuggle from a grandchild are what matter most. 

Meanwhile, the study also showed that controlling behaviors, such as someone wanting to know where their partner is at all times, were viewed as the least loving. 

The research also set out to see whether the majority of Americans could agree upon what makes people feel loved on a daily basis, or if it was a more personal thing. The results showed the top scenarios that came back weren’t necessarily romantic. 

It is possible for people to feel loved in simple, everyday scenarios. Showing love doesn’t have to be the over-the-top gestures that mark a single day in February. These results hold a nice reminder of the simple things we can do to show our appreciation and gratitude for one another during the remaining 364 days of the year.

Even though the research reflects how Americans as a whole feel about love, each of us still can (and do) have our own personal feelings about what makes us feel loved. 

The fact is we all have unique love languages. To better enrich your connection, start by learning your love language and that of your partner’s so you can strengthen, grow, and positively nurture your relationship for many years to come. 

The bottom line is that whether we feel loved or not plays a vital role in how we feel from day to day.

Tracey Briggs is the supervisor of UNM Employee Wellness. She has over 35 years of health and wellness experience, holds a Master’s degree in Psychology, is certified as an AFAA Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist, ISSA Master of Performance Nutrition and GWS Wellness Coach. She is presently working toward a PsyD. in Clinical Psychology.