Our series “Cultivating Compassion” explores how you can be more empathetic and compassionate toward yourself and others.
We all want our loved ones to know that we care for them. Something deep within us — an innate need in our human experience — drives us to demonstrate connection, caring, and love.
While we strive to show the people we care about how we feel about them each and every day, sometimes doing something just a little bit special or slightly out of the norm can help us truly communicate what’s in our hearts.
According to Kristina Lujan, marriage and family therapist at Wolfe Counseling, this connection is part of who we are. And, often, this means connecting and caring in small yet deeply impactful ways.
“We are hardwired to attach,” she says. “This means being seen. Noticing when someone goes out of their way or, conversely, is particularly impacted by something painful — it is important to come beside them and just show them we notice, that we care.”
We are hardwired to attach.
Marriage and Family Therapist
In other words, simply being there is one of the best gifts we can give our loved ones. A grand gesture is not always required.
Kristina says there are lots of opportunities for contact, comfort, and connection when showing our feelings, even if that means expressing sadness and fear. “Going through these emotions together helps us to weather storms and connect on a deep level — when times are good and when life gets hard.”
When you want to show your feelings for a loved one, a simple gesture can speak volumes. Here are eight ways you can demonstrate to those special people in your life how much you care.
Make something by hand
If you show how much you care through gift-giving, consider going a step further and making a gift by hand. Handmade gifts can be as elaborate or simple as you see fit. From handwritten notes to a complex item that shows off your skillful crafting ability, handmade gifts are a personal and meaningful way to express your feelings.
Give from the heart
Not all gifts have to be handmade to be special. You can show your loved ones how much you care by listening to your heart and selecting a thoughtful gift to give them. And remember: While such gifts can be tangible, they don’t have to be. In other words, don’t put pressure on yourself to buy something; instead, choose a gift that says what you want it to say, regardless of price.
Participate in their passions
What drives your loved ones? What consumes their free time and brings smiles to their faces?
One of the kindest, most caring things you can do to show your loved ones how you feel is to participate in their passions. This does not necessarily mean you should attempt a marathon with them or force yourself to do things you don’t like. Rather, it means to show interest in their interests.
Whether it’s listening to their passionate rants, doing a bit of research so you can talk about a topic they care deeply about, or even trying something new so you can actively enjoy their passion with them, the effort you put forth to connect with them will say a lot.
Be there through thick and thin
Truly caring about your loved ones means celebrating their high moments and successes with them, but it also means being there for them through their failures and struggles.
Supporting and uplifting your loved ones through the good times and bad is key to demonstrating that you truly care about them, no matter the circumstances.
Always show respect
Showing respect is showing that you care. And respect isn’t just a one-time gesture. In fact, you can show your loved ones that you respect them all the time and in every context.
Whether it’s respecting their time, priorities, goals, boundaries, or something else entirely, a surefire way to demonstrate that you love and care for someone is by consistently showing them respect.
Put them first
Being self-aware and selfless enough to put your loved ones first is more challenging than it sounds, and that’s saying something. Whether it’s considering what they’re going through or helping them reach their potential, your efforts will not go unnoticed, and they will know without a doubt that you truly care for them.
Cook something homemade
Nothing speaks to the heart quite like food. It’s why we gather around the table with loved ones, refer to certain dishes as comfort foods, and center some of our dearest memories around meals.
Cooking up something homemade for your loved ones — regardless of whether it’s a special occasion — demonstrates that you care for them. From making one of their favorite dinners to baking a delicious dessert, few things express love like a thoughtfully crafted dish.
If you’re not confident in your chef skills, you can still use food to express yourself. Bringing home takeout or ordering delivery is an especially thoughtful gesture, especially if your loved one has had a busy or stressful day.
Let love guide you
While following your heart is always a good idea, speaking in the love “languages” — acts of service, physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, and gifts — can communicate your feelings just as well.
You and your loved ones can complete a questionnaire that enlightens you about your love languages. If you know your loved ones’ languages, you can then use that knowledge to show them you care in personalized ways.
Whether your loved ones enjoy receiving gifts or simply want to spend some one-on-one time with you, catering to what they want rather than what you think they may want will help you express your love and caring more effectively.
Even the smallest act of kindness and generosity can speak volumes, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to select the perfect gift or make the grandest gesture. Instead, give from the heart. Your loved ones will recognize your efforts and truly appreciate that you care for them.