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It's here again: the time of year when colors of pink and red hearts and balloons loom over you as you enter a grocery store, tempting you with chocolate and nice spirits.

Ah, it's a nice thought, to show how much you love someone. But what if it isn't the right gift? Or the right card? What if your partner gets you something more and you show up shorthanded?

Does this day of "love" have to be so stressful?

Valentine's Day can often be like getting a new puppy. Your days are excitable, more work that you ever imagined and expensive. There is always something to be vigilant about so the puppy and the family survive the first few days.

We take lots of time to make sure the puppy is safe and getting the attention and nutrition that he needs. We seem to do it 24/7, and if we do it right, we simply get a nice puppy lick on the hand. For that, we do it again the next day, and the next. That spontaneous, simple act of gratitude makes us feel appreciated and loved.

Puppies have it down right.

Think back to the valentines you have gotten in the past. Was it the gift or the time your partner took to set the table, pick up the flowers, make the card or choose something that he or she knew you would like? Did the macaroni card with too much glitter become a keepsake because it was colorful, or meaningful? It all adds up, when done right, to gratitude. Someone feels grateful for us.

What if, instead of worrying about the right gift, you realize that you get to proclaim something fabulous, like you are grateful to be involved with another human or even a pet in the most amazing way? Research actually reveals that when we are in love and loving someone else back we are at our absolute best. It's the icing on the heart-shaped cake.

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has. How will you show it this year? Perhaps a better question is, "How would your loved one know that you were grateful for him or her?" You know this person best.

Imagine this: 20 years in the future, your partner or child or best friend looks back on Valentine's Day 2017 and says, "Wow, that was one Valentine's Day I will never forget."

Somehow, you showed him or her gratitude for being in your life. Somehow, you made sure he or she got the attention he or she needed and stayed vigilant about how to show you are grateful. What would you have done on that day to cause such fond memories?

Then, watch out: Your best is yet to come.

— Linda Metcalf, Ph.D., is the director of graduate counseling programs at Texas Wesleyan University. 

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