love holding handsI’ve been thinking about something my wise aunt once said to me that was very mind-boggling to my then-16-year-old-brain: “Love is not a feeling, it is a choice.” Twenty-five years later, it now makes perfect sense. All of those Hallmark Christmas movies we recently binged on (or was that just me???) might make us question that statement, but real-life relationships validate its truth. With February being the month of love (again- thank you Hallmark…), I wanted to really break it down and see what love, as a choice, really looks like.

When I think about choosing love, whether it be for my family, my friends, or myself, these are four components that are present: conscious awareness, empthay and compassion, non-judgement effectiveness, and willingness. Now, there’s a good chance I lost you right there, since those are some mysterious therapist words, but I’m confident it will all make sense once I explain. But, for the sake of keeping things brief, and to give you time to practice, I will only go into one each week. By the end of February, you will have a clearer idea of what it looks like to see love as a choice.

Let’s take a quick look at the first one: conscious awareness. Loving someone, yourself included, requires you to really see that person for who they are, instead of who you wish they were. Think about someone you deeply love and identify something you wish were different about them. Maybe you wish they shared more of your interests. Maybe you wish they didn’t have that habit that really gets to you. Maybe you wish they took better care of their appearance, or maybe you wish they would help you out more. Now that you’ve thought about it, notice your feelings toward that person. I’m guessing there is a little bit of negativity present? Now, keep that same person in mind and think about something you genuinely love about them. Is it the way they encourage you when you are struggling? The way they are incredibly loyal? Or maybe the way they can make you laugh and see the bright side in anything. How do you feel toward that person now?

In regards to love, conscious awareness means choosing to see the ones you love for their strengths. Their faults will still be there (as will yours!), but when you choose to notice their strengths and express appreciation for them, you are choosing to love that person for who they are.

So, this week, I challenge you to practice conscious awareness in love by telling one person each day, something that you appreciate or enjoy about them. When you do, really notice how they respond. How does it feel to choose love?

Next week, we’ll take a deeper look at choosing to love ourselves by using empathy and compassion. Until then, have a self-aware week!