Below are six ways for you to cultivate love. You don’t have to hoard them for holiday use. They’re great for everyday wear and share. Some focus more on giving love, some more on receiving love. Regardless, they are simple techniques that you can use to create an atmosphere where love flows freely and abundantly. Love is a gift that blesses both the giver and receiver and it’s always in need. Instead of adding to life’s clutter this holiday season, give the gift of love. I promise it will last longer and be more appreciated than all the neckties, socks, and scented candles you could give instead.

Gaze into someone’s eyes

It’s said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Instead of just looking at your husband or glancing at your child now and then, take time to sit close and truly look for their soul by focusing on their eyes. Eye contact, especially sustained and up close gazing, is a sign of intimacy. It’s how we connect with another person heart to heart. If you don’t have a person with whom you feel particularly intimate, you can even gaze into your own eyes. If you let yourself truly “see” into your eyes, I’m confident you’ll come away from the experience with a new picture of who you are deep down inside.

“Life is an opportunity to contribute love in your own way.”

~ Bernie Siegal, MD

Really hear what’s being said

Sometimes we’re so busy with our own lives or consumed with our own thoughts that we listen only partially to what’s being said. When you’re in a conversation with someone, focus yourself entirely on them. Listen to their words and notice the rhythm and intensity of their speech. Watch their body and sense their energy. Use your intuition to feel unspoken information that they’re communicating. By attending fully to them and the different ways in which they’re communicating, you’re much more apt to actually “get” what they’re trying to tell you. When you “listen” in this way, the person doing the talking truly feels heard.

Soak up compliments

For many people, it can be difficult to truly let a compliment in. Some people deflect them — “Oh, it’s nothing, really.” Others minimize them — “Anyone would have done it.” Still others only let them part way in — “Thanks (quickly said and subject changed). The dessert you made was delicious too.” Regardless of our old habits, it’s time to start letting ourselves be acknowledged for who we are and what we bring to this world. Next time someone gives you a compliment or acknowledges you in some way, take a couple of deep breaths and let their words sink in. Then smile and thank them. They’ve really seen you at a deeper level and they appreciate you. When you feel that same appreciation for yourself, you’ve let that compliment in completely.

Let someone know how you love them

Saying, “I love you” is a wonderful gift. It’s gratifying to know that people appreciate our presence in their lives. What’s even more rewarding is to know what about us is loved. Let your friends and family know what makes them dear to you. Affirm their unique impact on your life. Tell them what you adore about them, how you see them and how you feel when you’re with them (or even thinking of them). Such specific acknowledgements can help someone realize their own worth or even remind them of their inherent gifts. Being this kind of mirror for someone you love is a gift seldom given yet sorely needed, plus it doesn’t require batteries.

Allow others to give to you

Most people think they do this easily and readily. Guess what? They don’t. Allowing others to give to you means you don’t try to persuade them not to give. Even if you don’t need anything in the material sense, you can permit someone to give you their undivided attention or treat you to lunch at a favorite restaurant. It also means that you accept their gift with gratitude. Sure, the gifts they offer might not suit your tastes, yet you can still honor their gesture, intention, and spirit of generosity even if you trade in what they’ve given.

Be 100% present

We are so often multi-tasking or simply scattered in our attentions that a truly unique gift can be spending time with someone in a way that you are fully attentive in your time together. Choose a time and place that will make it easy for you and your recipient to be focused on each other. Arrange your schedule so that during this time you’ll be distraction free (i.e., turn off your cell phone, don’t answer the doorbell, turn off the television or the computer, pick a quiet location at which you’ll meet, etc.). Leave any agenda at the door so you can be spontaneous and go with the conversational flow. Dedicated attentiveness is like a spa treatment for the emotions. The person you’re with is going to feel pampered and delighted to have had you all to themselves.

“Love will enter immediately into any mind that truly wants it, but it must want it truly. Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

~ A Course in Miracles