Food is one of the biggest ways we show love and connect with others. There’s nothing wrong with bonding over food–it’s truly one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, if you only see your friends when you meet up for happy hour, if every family gathering involves your dad’s standing rib roast, or if date nights are always at your favorite restaurant, it might start to get in the way of your health and weight-loss goals. Connecting with friends, family, and your partner is about the quality time you spend together: the conversation, experiences, and memories that will last a lifetime. And this connection can be found beyond food.
Here are three ways to connect with your loved ones this Valentine’s day and beyond that don’t have a heavy focus on food. Put your phones away, think outside of the box, and really zero in on experiences that allow you to enjoy quality time with your loved ones.
Bond while breaking a sweat
There are so many ways to get active as a community, and enlisting your partner or friends to join you will make it that much more fun! Check out Active.com to sign up for races near you, whether that’s a mile charity fun run or a longer 10K. It will give you a common goal to work towards together, and you’ll be able to hold each other accountable. Plus, there’s nothing better than a big hug or high-five after you both cross the finish line!
Another way to get those mood-boosting endorphins flowing is to sign up for a workout class together. So many fitness studios offer a variety of classes: yoga, HIIT, cycling, treadmill classes, Pilates, and dance cardio, to name a few. You’ll get to encourage each other throughout the class and bond over a feeling of accomplishment once it’s over. Check out some of your local studios for drop-in rates: some have 2-for-1 specials and others offer your first class free!
Set goals together
Setting some time aside to assess your personal goals together—as well as your goals as a couple (or as friends!)— will lead to some intimate conversations and bonding. This can look like creating vision boards out of magazine clippings and inspirational phrases, journaling, or writing your goals on sticky notes to post around your house. Remember, the most effective goals are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. So if one of your goals is to run in your hometown’s Easter 5K together, it might be helpful to map out a timeline of what your training will look like and steps to achieve it. Put on a soothing playlist and get to planning together—saying your goals out loud also means you’re more likely to hold each other accountable and achieve them.
Tap into your creative side
Get your creative juices flowing by taking a painting, sculpture, or sketching class together. Or if performing arts is more of your thing, sign up for an improv class, join a local choir, or take acting lessons. Putting yourself out there is much easier with a partner or friend who can cheer you on.
After your class, reflect on your experience together: What were you nervous about? What were you hoping to get out of the experience? What did you learn about yourself? What lessons will you take moving forward? Sharing your experiences can help you deepen your understanding of each other and in turn, strengthen your connection.
Bond over a cause you both care about and make a difference in your community by volunteering together at a soup kitchen, animal shelter, boys and girls club, cleaning up litter, or any other way to volunteer your time. Even just a couple hours out of your week can make a big difference to others, and sharing in this experience can help you feel more connected to your loved one.
Enjoy the outdoors
It’s easy to fall in the habit of scheduling all your activities together indoors—bars, restaurants, cafes, etc–especially in the winter months. Get some fresh air with your loved ones by going for a scenic hike, heading to the park for some bird watching, or just grabbing coffees and walking around the neighborhood. Put your phones away and pay attention to your environment—the feel of sunlight on your skin, the ambient sounds of nature, the beautiful views, how it feels to walk alongside your loved one—and reflect on these sensations with them.