After an emotionally exhausting year, this Valentine’s Day offers an opportunity to share a new love language with your sweethearts.
Instead of flowers and a greeting card and takeout for two, get a gift that allows them to appreciate themselves more deeply and accept the world around them more fully. Be it a self-care tuneup, an exploration of another culture, or the tools to be a better ally to BIPOC communities, consider this holiday a time to celebrate love by learning to do it even better.
We’ve rounded up some thoughtful ways to nurture the mind, body, and soul that are sure to be more fulfilling than a box of chocolates.
Learning to Listen and Understand
Add to a special friend’s board game collection with a fun (and competitive) card game ($45 at actuallycurious.com) that isn’t just about winning but about becoming closer, with less small talk and more real talk. The deck is full of questions on background, values, and views on important issues that will help you both break the ice and build bonds that will last longer than a bouquet of flowers.
Meanwhile, on the solo tip, Inner Workout ($36 at innerworkout.co) can inspire others to listen and learn about themselves from the inside out. Classes combine breath work, journaling, active meditation, and introspection. Or give loved ones the best version of yourself by signing up for virtual therapy app BetterHelp ($60 to $90 weekly at betterhelp.com) that makes it easier to talk it out 24/7 when depression, anxiety, or grief set in. After a tumultuous year, getting a little mental TLC doesn’t have to be a chore.
Learning to Nourish Oneself and Others
Give a loved one some sugar with a one-hour “Galentine’s” baking course and Q&A from Black- and female-owned bakery Blondery ($25 at blondery.com), which turned out one of Bloomberg Pursuits’ best dishes of 2020. Private, smaller-group sessions with pastry chef Auzerais Bellamy are also available on demand (from $85 per person), giving recipients the secret ingredient to making the perfect blondie. (Spoiler: It’s generosity.)
If your Valentine prefers something savory, the Caspian Chef’s online cooking class will spice up date night up with the aromatic flavors of Iranian cuisine and chef Omid Roustaei’s anecdotes about Persian culture ($75 at thecaspianchef.com).
With more than 150 recipes inspired by Black chefs, activists, and writers—including a gumbo honoring the legendary Leah Chase—renowned chef Marcus Samuelsson’s cookbook The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food ($38 at mahoganybooks.com) is a journey through food and history that will leave hearts (and bellies) full. No reservation required.
Learning to Be Anti-Racist
Treat your special someone to being a better ally with BlackLit, a subscription box (from $55 at iamblacklit.com) started by high school teacher Nia-Tayler Clark that champions representation in literature. The bi-monthly box includes a hardcover book by a Black author, products from a Black-owned business, and thought-provoking prompts to spark discussion and learn about race through the eyes of Black writers.
For allies who could use more of a targeted primer, Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk about Race ($27 at sealpress.com) is an excellent starting point on how to have the difficult conversations about racial oppression, and it offers advice on how to dismantle it. Buy the book from small, Black-owned businesses such as New Jersey’s Little Boho Bookshop ($17) to do double duty. Here are 124 more stores, some near you.
Layla Saad’s 28-day workbook, Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor ($15, at meandwhitesupremacybook.com), to be used in tandem with her New York Times bestseller, is a tough-love workbook that can help recipients understand White privilege, challenge personal biases, and outline the practical ways to stop contributing to systemic racism.
Learning to Respect One’s Body
Nurture the love from within via the gift of mindfulness. Help a sweetheart find inner peace with a personal meditation trainer ($149 at hellocore.com) that uses sensors to measure stress levels and emits vibrations in response to help maintain mental presence during expert-led classes. And to spruce up a sanctuary, this Zafu-style meditation cushion set ($245 at walden.us) adapts to body shapes with an organic buckwheat filling, allowing for comfort and stability and more perfect alignment during practice.
Much less cushy, but with benefits of traditional Chinese medicine that’ll have someone sighing through the initial discomfort, give a memory foam acupressure mat set ($80 at gokanjo.com) to get their inner energy flowing properly. Its multitude of plastic spikes can help a loved one find relief from a sore neck or back brought on by that working-from-home life.
Whether they’re meditating or just vegetating to Netflix, Virtuvi’s new collection of stone diffusers ($119 at vitruvi.com)—in honey, rose, and sea colors—can add an air of indulgence with organic essential oils. A few drops of single scents, such as lavender or ylang ylang, can put love in the air, or find a targeted blend like Velvet (frankincense, bergamot, amber).
If they’re not quite ready to go back to a public spa, turn up the heat with a treatment at home. An infrared sauna blanket ($499 at higherdose.com) from industry leader Higher Dose can reach temperatures as high as 160F for a steamy detox that purports to boost immunity, ease sore muscles, and leave skin glowing.