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Show some love on Global Love Day!

Image of balloon blowing kiss for Global Love Day
Polina Tankilevitch / Pexels

Case study / by Ravinder Johal

How much do you know about love? In honour of Global Love Day, Ravinder Johal explores the many types of love, how to express them, and how they can aid in better mental health.

Everyone knows about Valentine’s Day: the commercialised, Western day of romance and passion for those we love (usually our partner). But Global Love Day, though much less celebrated, is arguably more important and inclusive than its celebrated counterpart.

Global Love Day is celebrated annually on May 1st, and was founded in 2004 by Harold Becker. Instead of focusing on romantic relationships, this day celebrates all types of love – self-love, unconditional love, familial love, the whole lot! This makes Global Love Day more versatile: you can celebrate your family, friends, co-workers and even strangers (e.g. showing solidarity and compassion for those less fortunate than us).

Why it's important to celebrate Global Love Day

Some of you might be asking, "yes but why should I care about Global Love Day?" Which is a valid question, so here’s my answer:

In my opinion, everything can be traced back to love. Most songs on the radio are about love; people on social media tell you to ‘love yourself’; millions of people around the world celebrate Pride in their love; charities rely on donations so that they can help those who are in need (performing acts of service is a form of love!); we cheer up our friends when they’re feeling down because we love them; I could go on forever.

Love exists in the macro and the micro. Love is everywhere – as Theodore Dreiser remarked:

“I believe in the compelling power of love. I do not understand it. I believe it to be the most fragrant blossom of all this thorny existence.”

Types of love

'Love' as a concept is quite hard to think of as anything more than a singular emotion. But in actual fact, love has long been discussed as something that comes in many forms. Take the Ancient Greeks for example – they believed in 7 types of love:

  • Eros – romantic, passionate love (lust)

  • Philia – affectionate, friendly love

  • Storge – unconditional, familial love

  • Agape – selfless, universal love

  • Ludus – playful, flirtatious love

  • Pragma – committed, long-lasting love

  • Philautia – self-love

Each relationship you form with a person will feature different types of love, but remember that these are all just as important as each other. Some people might neglect philautia, for example, and chase after eros, which can cause problems such as low self-esteem and self-worth, and lead to toxic relationships which are not based on any emotional connection.


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Love languages

As well as different types of love, there are also different ways in which people express love, and these are known as ‘love languages’:

1. Physical touch
People holding hands for Global Love Day
For some, simply holding hands can be enough! Image credit: Tanny Do / Unsplash

While physical touch is important in every relationship, this does not just refer to high sex drive and sexual intimacy – it can be innocent gestures such as brushing your hand against your partner’s arm as a sign of comfort, or a pat on the back to express gratitude.

2. Quality time

Spending quality time means consciously spending time with your partner – not just when you’re both in the same room on your phones! It could be a date, or some downtime at home, or going to a family function, as long as you’re together and immersed in an activity.

3. Words of affirmation
Post it note showing gratitude for Global Love Day
Words of affirmation don't have to be spoken – a note or a text are just as good! Image credit: Castorly Stock / Pexels

Some people need words of affirmation in their relationship, e.g. often hearing the words ‘I love you’ so that they know where they stand in the relationship and don’t feel worried about a sudden change in feelings from their partner. It also includes random texts or cards which express genuine love and gratitude. People with anxiety or trust issues often need words of affirmation more than usual.

4. Acts of service

Acts don’t have to be grand gestures – in fact, often they’re just little things your partner does to help you, that mean a lot to you. It could include washing the dishes while you’re busy with an assignment, or helping you cook dinner for when your friends are coming over. Acts of service are little things your partner does that are actually pretty important to you.

5. Receiving gifts

People who enjoy receiving gifts are not necessarily ‘materialistic’. They might just enjoy having a physical token of someone’s love, especially if the gift is well thought-out, relating to an inside joke or handmade.

Most people have a ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ love language, which means that they use these methods to show love, and like receiving love in the same ways. For example, my primary love language is physical touch and my secondary love language is words of affirmation: I like to hold hands and stay close with my partner, and like to hear them express how they feel about me.

It’s important to be aware of your love styles when entering a relationship, so that you know what both you and your partner need. And ‘love languages’ can also be important in friendships and relations with family members; for example, your child might value physical touch, so even if as a parent you prefer acts of service, you would be able to give your child physical affection in the knowledge that they’d feel comfortable and loved.

If you want to find out your ‘love languages’, there are plenty of resources online - try this quiz.

Benefits of love for mental health

So with all of this information in mind, what benefits does love actually have for our mental health? Here are just a few:

1. Happy hormones

Love won’t cure mental illness, but having a happy, stable, supportive relationship can trigger the release of hormones that we associate with positive feelings, like oxytocin and dopamine. This happens when we share hugs, kisses and giggles with our partner.

Also, research shows that people who are happily married often have lower levels of stress and depression.

2. Boosts self-worth

While we should all value ourselves and maintain self-worth as individuals, the addition of a partner’s love can make you feel more ‘worthy’, as you know that you are worthy of being loved and that they would care if something happened to you.

3. Improves physical health

Love (not just romantic love), as well as increasing resilience and self-esteem, also improves your overall lifestyle choices. With a strong social support system, you are more likely to have healthy habits and make healthy choices, e.g. sleeping at a consistent time, eating healthier, exercising more. Additionally, when in a happy, stable relationship, you’re more likely to stick to these habits.

One interesting study, by Kiecolt-Glaser et al explored the effects of psychological stress on wound healing. They found that the bodies of those who weren’t isolated – i.e. those who had a support network and were loved – healed quicker and more effectively than those who were lonely. This suggests that love has effects that we may not be immediately aware of, but that are still crucial to our physical and mental wellbeing.

Show some love!

Even when it’s not Global Love Day, try and perform at least one act of love each day, as it will not only let someone else know they’re appreciated, but make you feel good too! So go on – text your partner, give your pet a hug, donate to a charity or offer to mow your neighbour’s lawn. It all counts.


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