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candy heartsWith just over two weeks until V day, it’s crunch time for those of us without a clue of what to do to celebrate this candy-heart-filled day of love (note to self: buy candy hearts).

Thankfully it’s not too late to set up something memorable.  While a stereotypical Valentine’s Day for her might include a delivery of flowers, tasty chocolates, or a shiny piece of jewelry, you are actually better off forgoing the costly gifts (you’re welcome).

But that doesn’t mean you should bypass the festivities entirely.  The positive impact of marking Valentine’s Day can be significant and multi-faceted, benefitting you and your relationship.

Spend your money on an actual date.

Research shows us that we get more from the value of our hard earned dollar when we spend it on experiences rather than things.  “Experiential purchases result in increased well-being because they satisfy higher order needs, specifically the need for social connectedness and vitality – a feeling of being alive.”  These experiences also provide us with greater long-term satisfaction, as they provide quality “memory capital” we can enjoy much longer than a new TV.  And, you reap these benefits regardless of how much you spend, so don’t let a small budget get in the way.

Make a plan.

The act of planning and anticipating an experience, like a night out or a trip, is a great mood booster.  In fact, a 2010 study found that “the largest boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation,” no matter how long (or short) the trip is.  And while one Thursday evening in February may constitute a very short experience, attributing value and anticipating the “specialness” of the night can offer the same boost to your mood.  Even better?  Make your Valentine’s night a trip-planning date and start anticipating some time away with your sweetie together!

Keep it quiet.

The boost in happiness you gain whilst anticipating your Valentine’s Day experience can be “power boosted” by the surprise factor.  Planning a surprise for your partner (and doing other nice things for them in general) has been shown to boost the self-esteem and positive mood of the surpriser as well as their sense of closeness to the surprisee.

Make it novel.

Trying different activities is good for your cognitive and emotional health.  Regularly engaging in learning and experiencing new things helps to support your mental acuity which protects you from cognitive decline as you age.  Additionally, overcoming the fear or anxiety of the unknown provides you with yet another mood booster.  C’mon, get happy!

Pay attention.

Engaging in this sort of mood-boosted quality time is equally boosting for your relationship.  While you may spend a significant amount of time together, it’s not always of the supportive and restorative nature that real quality time provides.  Giving a date night your full attention (see: no cell phones, TV, etc.) helps protect your relationship over the long-term.

Ready to surprise your Valentine and try something new together?  Here are a few ideas for a memorable (and beneficial!) Valentine’s Day experience.

(Note: All links are for DC Metro Area services produced by Yelp and Google searches. I cannot personally vouch for the quality of these particular businesses, so please do your research and find what fits best for you).

Couples Massage Classes: Instead of just a regular ol’ couples massage, these classes teach you how to give quality massages to each other.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

couple cooking romantic dinner

Cooking Classes: Get your dinner in plus a workout for your culinary muscle.

  • Culinaerie – Regularly scheduled Couples Cooking Classes with varying menus for any taste; $185/person
  • Personal Chef DC – Personalized, in-home cooking classes; call for pricing

Dance Lessons: Master some new moves while keeping close to your Valentine.

  • All2Dance – Group classes and private lessons available
  • Forever Dancing – Group classes and private lessons available

Restaurant Crawl: Pick a theme (like Italian or Brazilian food) or a part of town and visit new restaurants for each course of your meal.  While enjoying appetizers at one place and dessert at another, you may discover new favorites or spy something on the menu that you’ll just have to come back for on your next date night.

Stay Home: Can’t get a babysitter or want to spend Valentine’s Day in your pj’s (or something less PG ;))?  Check out some of these fun activities you can do in the comfort of your own home.