“I love you” translates intimacy between ourselves and others, but the expression is so common that it can lack the meaning it’s intended. When saying and hearing it becomes automatic and expected, its power becomes dulled in our brain’s limbic system, where we process love.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow created a “hierarchy of needs” that ranks what humans are motivated to achieve, with love cited as a basic need after safety, food and shelter. A human’s need for love carries a weight within us that isn’t always an emotion. It can be an overall warmth, a deep sense of belonging, an underlying connectedness or confirmation of adoration between people.
Here are easy and effective ways to communicate “I love you.”
Give a small, personalized gift
Gifts are common enough that they can become as generic an exchange as “I love you” — but not if you consider the receiver and tailor it to them. A sense of humor helps, too.
Author Sue Shapiro suggests, “Instead of flowers or candy (which don’t do anything for me), my husband will bring me a ream of paper and a little bottle of Wite-Out when he knows I have a deadline. True love! And I feel like someone actually knows me.”
Making food as way to express love, explained dating expert and author James Michael Sama, “brings people together in gatherings and celebrations, and can be used as a bonding experience with cooking and sharing.” This combination of doing an altruistic, creative act while fulfilling someone’s need to eat is mutually good for well being and feeling loved.
Call or write a note out of the blue
We often reach out to wish someone a happy birthday, arrange plans or ask for help. Try contacting someone to ask how they are or simply to chat. Doing so has the potential to produce tenderness. More than 90% of that questionnaire’s participants agreed that “someone calling to check in out of the blue” made them feel loved.
Take a task off their ‘to do’ list
Put away the dishes from the dishwasher. Fold the laundry without being asked. Pick up milk from the store. Relieving someone’s burden, even a minor one, demonstrates care.
“Try to pinpoint the small things someone does for you that warms your heart,” said Saeideh Heshmati, a co-author of the Penn State study and a postdoctoral research scholar there. “Once you find those little things, try to savor them and preserve that feeling. As you’re aware, you’re more prone to perceive them as love.”
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