connections to celebrate valentines day 2024Valentine’s Day is promoted as a day to celebrate romance. While it is great to enjoy that type of relationship if you have one, other connections are just as important. They are worth celebrating too. 

Connecting with people, connecting with nature, and connecting with yourself are key factors in a healthy life. Spending time investing in these connections will increase your overall wellness and enjoyment of life.

The benefits go past the emotional level; these connections affect your physical health as well. Once you realize the impact they make, you will want to be intentional about devoting time to them each week.  

Let’s explore some of these connections and expand our view of Valentine’s Day to more than just romantic love. 


Connecting with Others

The American Association for the Advancement of Science published a study that found “a lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure.” Positive connection, on the other hand, improves your immune system and leads to a 50% increased chance of longevity. 

So, what is social connection and how do we cultivate it? Author and researcher Brene Brown defines connection “as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”  

The first step to developing this type of relationship is to find people that you would like a deeper relationship with. Look for people that you share common interests with and see regularly. If you don’t already have people like this in your life, try finding some through community groups (meetup groups, book clubs, local schools, spiritual communities, etc.) 

It takes time to establish deep friendships, but here are some ways to increase the likelihood of developing them with the people in your life… 


Make time for important people in your life

  • connect around the dinner table a few times a week
  • invite friends to go out for coffee 
  • have a game night at your house
  • hang out in the evening with the people you live with
  • call a family member
  • text an old friend

Do an activity together

  • go for a walk
  • enjoy a round of golf
  • do some shopping
  • head to the bowling ally
  • challenge yourselves to a room escape

Encourage Depth 

  • express your love in words
  • use the power of friendly touch 
  • make room for laughter
  • be attentive to their needs
  • ask them what they think and how they feel
  • truly listen to get to know them without an agenda
  • share the deeper parts of your heart with them


*Put your cell phone away when you are connecting with others in person. (Research has found that the mere presence of a cell phone interferes with connection.)


Connecting with Yourself 

You can not deeply connect with others if you are not connected to yourself. Knowing who you are and what you value is the foundation on which all other relationships are built. It is an important first step that can help you discern what relationships you want to invest in. It also allows you to show up in these relationships in an authentic way, making the relationship richer for both parties. 


Slowing down can help you connect with yourself, but it can be tricky to know where to begin. Your body can help you notice feelings that may have been overlooked for far too long. Start by noticing what is going on in your body. Is there tightness in your body from stress? Do you feel a sense of lightness when you are peaceful or happy? 

Recognize these emotions without judgment or an attempt to change them. Each one provides valuable information about things that matter to you. The intensity of an emotion can be an indicator of how important something is to you.

Everyone will do this a little differently, but here are some ways to connect with your inner world...

  • go for a relaxing walk. 
  • try meditation.
  • read a book and contemplate your reaction.
  • take some time to journal.
  • sit alone by the fire
  • go to a coffee shop on your own (Kindred in West Chicago is my favorite)
  • do a guided self-compassion meditation (with Kristen Neff). 
  • practice box breathing (also known as Four Square breathing).
  • use art as a tool for self-connection. (You don’t have to be an artist, even an adult coloring book can help with reflection.)
  • experiment with the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise.
  • work with a therapist to get in touch with your internal world.


Connecting with Nature

According to Seppala, a recent study shows that “taking walks in nature can increase our well-being even in the case of depression, and another study showed that exposure to nature increases our value of connectedness and closeness.”  

Don’t skip this because you feel that you don’t have room in your schedule; even a short time in nature will be beneficial. You may enjoy a/an…

  • walk at a forest preserve. (Herrick Lake, St. James Farm, Blackwell, etc.)
  • visit to Cantigny
  • night stargazing
  • bike ride
  • outdoor sporting event
  • bit of time to act like a kid (climb a tree, skip stones at the lake, etc.)
  • day fishing, kayaking, canoeing, etc.


Connections to others, yourself, and nature can have a positive impact on your emotional and physical health! Let me know what you have done this week to encourage these connections. 

Dr. Jamie 


P.S. For more great ways to improve your social connections check out the National Institute of Health’s Social Wellness Toolkit