So, I have a question: how long are we allowed to say “Happy New Year?”
2022 still feels fresh, but I’ve been wondering lately whether it actually feels happy. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been talking to my family and friends, and everyone seems to be feeling a little down these days. Most of my friends have already given up on resolutions… if they even bothered to set any in the first place! Maybe the last two years have trained us to expect the worst, but our lives are made up of so much more than the latest news cycle.
As a former therapist turned interior designer, I know firsthand that mental health begins at home. So let’s create environments where love can thrive! Connection doesn’t just happen—it’s cultivated, nurtured in our very own living rooms, one moment at a time. While that can feel like a challenge, f you’re ready to reconnect with those closest to you, (or even yourself!) I have just the remedy. 😉
I’ve created a five week HomeTherapy Challenge that is all about spreading the love, starting (appropriately) on February 1st. Each week, we’ll focus on one of the five Love Languages, so there’s an opportunity to care for everyone in your inner circle and experiment with the display of affection that works best for each individual, from the cuddliest kid to your space-craving spouse. And don’t forget to save a good word for yourself!
Most of all, I wanted to make sure this Challenge is super-accessible. There aren’t any major hoops to jump through, or any crazy DIYs to do. You can join in from anywhere, no matter how big your home is, and even if you live alone. Follow along with me week by week on Instagram for more surprises, and don’t be afraid to share your progress! Weekly details are below—let’s dive in!
Week 1: Words of Affirmation
Communication is the foundation for giving and receiving love, and a great place to start our Challenge together! After all, love is just another form of sharing. And when words are too tough to say, or getting vulnerable feels extra scary, we can always find a way to share what’s in our hearts.
For the Fam: Love Note Box
We’ll be using a beautiful decorative box, but it’s just as effective to decorate an old shoe box, Valentines-style. Leave a pen and notepad nearby, and encourage your family to write down something sweet that they noticed about a family member, or something they’re grateful for each day. At the end of the week, go through the box together! You may choose to read the notes aloud, or keep them on the private side. Chances are, you’ll unearth some gold.
For that Special Someone: Letter Board or White Erase Board
Set up a visible note board in a public space, like the kitchen or family room. I love a cute Letter Board, because the notes can feel exciting and anonymous. Use your board to write public love notes back and forth. You’ll have fun finding new shout outs waiting for you in plain sight.. And if it’s just the two of you, don’t be afraid to spice it up! 😉
For You: Positive Affirmations
Make some time, and write a letter to yourself. Maybe you sit down with a good, old fashioned pen and paper and a glass of wine, or perhaps you use an online service like Lettertoyourself.com. Whatever you choose, be honest: what do you love about yourself? What are you proud of? What do you wish for the coming year? Try writing as if you’re sharing with an old friend, and remember: our best relationships are built, brick by brick.
Week 2: Acts of Service
Some people feel the most love when they’re being taken care of. For this love language, it’s all about the little things, even if you’re simply brewing a second cup of coffee to bring to your partner in bed. (What a nice wake up call!) So take good care of the people around you during this week of our HomeTherapy Challenge—and make sure to share the ways you’d like to be taken care of too!
For the Fam: Love Coupons
Okay, seriously… I love cashing in cute coupons! You can make these yourself with construction paper and markers, write directly on a deck of cards, or print an online version. (The options are endless!) Think of fun, highly coveted options, like picking the movie you watch together or a 20 minute bed-time delay. Give everyone three personalized coupons to cash in during the week, and watch the joy unfold.
For that Special Someone: Make a Meal
Nothing says “I love you” like a home cooked meal. Spend some time together in the kitchen: pour your partner a glass of wine while you whip up a fabulous meal. Talk to each other during the process! Let them enjoy being taken care of, experiencing the smells and offer advance bites to create suspense. Afterwards, clean up without even mentioning it. Believe me, it’s a night they won’t soon forget.
For You: Create Independent Space
Take yourself on a solo-date. Seriously! Go to a movie you’ve been dying to see, or swing by the museum for a nice afternoon among art. Maybe you’ve always wanted to take a pottery class? Whatever it is, do it—and do it alone. Few things are more powerful than an experience you’ve cultivated by yourself, for yourself. Buy yourself flowers on the way home, and think of your special solo-date every time you look at them.
Week 3: Quality Time
While some of our loved ones can be more independent, others feel extra-close by being extra close! But make sure not to confuse Quality Time with just being around one another. The key word here is quality. So, put your phone down, and convince the rest of the family to follow suit—the real Challenge is to make sure you’re present and paying attention this week!
For the Fam: Phone-Free Board Game Night
What’s your family’s favorite board game? Ours is Clue! But I know families who love Scrabble, Monopoly, Code Names, and even one spooky family who has a thing for this Haunted House game that I would definitely hate. When in doubt, go for Jenga, which can feel high-stakes without the in-depth rules review. Whatever you choose, deposit all cell phones in a basket before you start. There may be grumbling at first, but once you’re in The Zone, you’ll be glad you did!
For that Special Someone: Set up a Cozy Corner
You know what really feels like a love nest? An actual nest! Pile the pillows on the floor and add a bunch of blankets. Willing to go the extra mile? Make it a sheet fort. Turn on some mood lighting, or light some candles (away from the sheet fort, please) and cuddle up for a night in. Forgo a movie, and just be together. Feeling stumped? What do you want to know? Favorite things? Childhood experiences? Maybe spend the night gazing into one another’s eyes, talking about the best moments from your years shared together. You never know what you’ll find when you make space to talk about it.
For You: Go For A Walk
When we explore new places, we’re also exploring new parts of ourselves. By getting out of the house and into fresh air, we stimulate our brain in new ways that’s beneficial for our bodies and even our self-esteem! Maybe you’re in a part of the world where you have easy-access to nature, or maybe you’re just taking a nice leisurely walk around the block. Try to end up at a park, and consider bringing coffee or tea to-go to sit on a bench for a while and watch the squirrels dance. Whatever you do, leave your phone at home. I promise, you’ll thank me.
Week 4: Physical Touch
This week of our Challenge reminds us that we don’t need a massage gun to unwind, (although it sure helps!) sometimes all it takes is an extra-long, 20-second hug. Don’t think 20 seconds is a long time? Count to 20 right now, seriously. Go slow. Add “Mississippi” between numbers. When you hold someone for that long, your heart beats and breathing will synchronize. Your blood pressure drops. Oxytocin boosts. Everything can feel better in just 20 wonderful seconds with the right person.
For the Fam: Co-Regulating Cuddles
Okay, remember that sheet fort I mentioned? It’s making a comeback, and your kids are gonna love it. Pile on to the pillows in one big heap, and spend some time lounging together. Extended hugs can help co-regulate, which helps calm the nervous system, finding yourselves on the same page. Don’t force it—but if you sit still long enough, your teenager might even come hang out and let you play with her hair, like when she was little. It’s a little like a deer sighting in the city. Try not to spook it.
For that Special Someone: Give Your Partner a Massage
Break out the body lotion and set the mood lighting! Touch is a great language to use when you’re ready to get a little sexy, but it can also create a space to relax and fall even deeper into safety with your significant other. Remember to warm the lotion in your hands first, and notice your partner’s body language as you’re touching them. If they’re relaxing into it, you’re doing great work. If they seem tense, try moving slower and softer. When in doubt? Ask.
For You: Dance it out!
Dance is a fantastic way to release the emotions that can get trapped in our bodies, which are constantly processing what we go through via sensation. Emotion can be moved, and with actual movement, we can free ourselves from some of that stale pressure. So throw on your favorite tunes, clear a space in the living room, and really shake it! Close the blinds and go wild—there’s something to that saying: “Dance like nobody’s watching.”
Week 5: Gift Giving
Look, this is a fun Challenge to remind ourselves and others how much they are loved, not to spend a ton of money! When people say they’re into gift-giving, it often means they want a personal reminder that you were thinking of them—even if it’s a heart-shaped rock you found on the beach.❤️ So remind your loved ones that they’re loved with a small tribute to say, “I remembered you.”
For the Fam: Pillow Talk
Refresh a public space with a small token that will feel like a nod to all the work you’ve been doing these last five weeks! A sweet pillow with a loving affirmation ticks all the boxes, reminding us we are loved while being there to squeeze and cuddle. The presence of this special gift in the Family Room or other public areas will serve as a nice reminder to make a little time for the whole family to connect, even after the Challenge is complete!
For that Special Someone: Bring Home Flowers or DIY a Cute Prezzy
Look, we’re not going for a Christmas redux, here. A gift is really just a physical manifestation of affection. It doesn’t need to be flashy or expensive—it simply needs to be thoughtful. I especially love a candle, which is a sensory experience that lasts a while, and evokes the thought of someone each time it’s lit. But you can never go wrong with flowers—especially if you know your partner’s favorite kind!
For You: Treat Yo’self
No one knows you like you know you. And only you know what you really, really want! If you have the means, why not pull the trigger on something special you’ve had your eye on? Especially if you’ve been consistent and loving in all 5 weeks of this Challenge, you may think of this as a token of your self-love, to carry with you through the rest of the year, reminding yourself of the special relationship you’ve cultivated within.
HomeTherapy Challenge Takeaways
Whether you’re embarking on this Challenge alone or with your extended family and neighbors, consider this an extra-special five weeks that will bring you closer to the loved ones in your life—and give you a deeper understanding of the Love Languages that resonate with your family members. Once you know how someone most wants to be loved, there’s no limit to the love you can show them!
What I want most is to create an opportunity to connect more deeply with one another—setting a foundation early in the year that we can carry with us all the way through 2022 and beyond! At the very least, my HomeTherapy Challenge will have you saying “Happy New Year!” all February long. 😉 So let’s make some space for love to thrive these next five weeks—however it most resonates for you and your inner sanctum.
And from the bottom of my heart, a Happy New Year to you and yours.