Lent is a season for pruning away stuff that blocks love and planting whatever adds love to your relationships. We’ve explored how to use brain science to prune away clutter and electronic overstimulation, and how to plant gratitude. Now we will use brain science to plant love with the people who are most important to us.
Love is most powerful when delivered in small, positive and meaningful acts of kindness. Relationships come alive when we initiate 5 positive interactions for every negative one. Relationship scientists call this the “small things often” approach.
This formula works for marriages, families and even workplace relationships, where the warmth and quality of relationships are consistently found to be a key to job satisfaction. Here are five fun ways to plant love with those you care about:
- Do “the empathy exercise”. Take a minute and visualize a typical day in the life of your spouse (or child, or co-worker, etc.). Imagine waking up in their room, walking through their day, and focusing on each typical interaction with you. Are these exchanges positive? Relaxed? Are you happy to see them and smiling?
- Love people with your face. A warm smile that says “I’m so glad to see you” is the most powerful love weapon you have in your arsenal. Use it!
- Give a full minute of attention. When you see people for the first time of the day, allow a full minute to let them know they matter, share an appreciation, or show genuine interest and curiosity in how they are doing.
- Make a specific love list. Everyone likes different things. For example, many years ago Karen and I wrote down a list of little things (i.e., make me coffee, ask me to pray, etc.) that we appreciate being done for us (here’s how). Make your own list. For example, what is your kids’ and co-workers favorite beverage? If you don’t know, start today and ask.
- Let go of the outcome. Plant love because it is good for your heart, not so people will notice. And be patient. The effects of planting love show up after weeks and months, not days.
We have only two weeks to go until this Lenten springtime is finished! Let’s use this time to plant love in our relationships. Next week I’ll share how I’m learning to celebrate my Lenten failure!