Health & Medicine

The Implementation of Love Language and Psychology Approach: A Journey to Overcoming Loneliness and Finding the Way Back to Love and Belonging

Associate Professor Dr. Saifon Aekwarangkoon (left) and Associate Professor Dr. Naiyana Noonil (right)

From conducting research to its application in teaching and learning, academic services, and the promotion of mental health and well-being, a research team from the School of Nursing at Walailak University (WU) has covered it all. Led by Associate Professor Dr. Saifon Aekwarangkoon, along with Associate Professor Dr. Naiyana Noonil and nursing students, the team has integrated Gary Chapman’s five love languages with a psychological approach to address masked depression in the elderly within communities near Walailak University, allowing them to transcend loneliness and find their way back into love and belonging.

This project originated from concerns and requests made by the village leaders, representatives, and community members of Moo 6 and Moo 15, Thasala sub-district, Thasala district. It was discovered that a significant number of elders in the communities showed signs of mild to moderate depression. An analysis from the WU research team revealed that the elders in the communities were experiencing masked depression, where symptoms were present without their awareness. Even those conscious of their mental well-being hesitated to discuss it due to fear of stigmatization. This phenomenon has its roots in a lack of connection within family and, in the context, is linked to the changing modern lifestyle, with people becoming busier with work and having different interests, leading to a generation gap.

“Our team worked with community networks to identify existing resources that can help solve the problem. We found that the most precious resource was the children, who were abundant in the communities,” said Dr. Saifon. “Our team decided to bring together the children and the elders because we know that children have this pure energy, therapeutic and powerful for the treatment of depression. On the other hand, the elders have profound wisdom and intellects that can guide the children, preventing them from developing unnecessary scars or wounds in their minds.”

By combining Gary Chapman's five love languages with the psychological approach, the team found that the outcome was satisfying, creating connections that allowed people to experience love and belonging.

The five love languages consist of words of affirmation, representing love, support, encouragement, or forgiveness; physical touch that allows one to feel love, such as warm hugging, holding hands, touching on the shoulder; acts of service that demonstrate care, such as helping with tasks and accompanying to the hospital; receiving gifts, where effort and thoughtfulness are emphasized over price; and quality time committed to spending in a meaningful way.

To enhance the effectiveness of the love languages, a psychological approach was applied by incorporating positive connections through eye contact; listening with the heart and hearing between the lines; and asking questions to deepen understanding.

After the children in Moo 6 and Moo 15 were trained on the love languages and the psychological approach and applied it to their elders, the WU team conducted assessments to observe improvements in the elders’ symptoms. They found that after three months of intervention, the elders' symptoms improved. After one year, the elders showed no signs of depression. The team conducted a follow-up one year later and found that the children still practiced the training, and the elders' depression had disappeared.

“It was very successful. And we presented this achievement to our school. And we had a conclusion that we would add this to our curriculum. So, we trained a group of nursing students on the love languages with the psychological approach. And they gave us feedback saying that they feel happier, and we noticed that they grow beautifully and stronger.”

The approach was later applied to the Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing Practicum, and the nursing students agreed to transfer this knowledge to students in an opportunity expansion school. The research team and the nursing students together went to Ban Thung Kro School, located in Moklan sub-district, Tha Sala District, and provided a workshop on the love languages and psychological approach to elementary school students. The nursing students also delivered a talk on inspiration in studying for them. The elementary school students were encouraged to practice this technique in the community, and five students applied it to a terminally ill patient.

One of the students told the WU team during the interview of the experience, saying that it is one of the moments he cannot forget: “The last time we saw her before she passed away; they were the eyes of gratefulness. It is like the eyes that tell that even we are not acquainted and are just people on this planet. We can still connect and offer each other presence and friendship. I’ll never forget those pair of eyes.”

Dr. Saifon also expressed her gratitude, saying that the most important thing in conducting this academic service is that we can promote happiness in people’s lives. “The importance of this activity extends to include how we can promote people’s mental well-being. And for me, it starts with all of us. We all can help create beauty within our community and let that beauty bloom in our hearts.”