While I’m not one to tell people what to do, I will say this anyway: You need to celebrate stuff every day. Intentionally seeking things to celebrate on a daily basis increases your sense of wellbeing and your life satisfaction. Finding or creating things to celebrate, even if they are minuscule, is a way of making a good life lived in moments (as opposed to chaotic chunks). Identify the good and taking a moment (or multiple moments) to celebrate it shifts your perspective in a positive direction and infuses your life with a sense of meaning.
Celebrating means doing even quick, little things to acknowledge something positive. It helps you internalize the good rather than taking it for granted and just rushing onto the next thing. We actually have to learn to do this and practice it regularly.
The human brain has a negativity bias. Human beings naturally focus on the negative and discount the positive, which leads to anxiety, depression, stress, reduced mental health and wellbeing, and an overall sense of unhappiness in life. This began as a survival mechanism, but it wore out its welcome thousands of years ago. Yet it hangs on. This is why it’s important to shake the negativity bias lose by celebrating the positive.
Why Celebrate? Neurological Reasons
The human brain is made to celebrate. Reactions to your celebrations are built into the neurochemistry of your brain. When you do something positive on purpose to celebrate something within you or around you, the brain responds by activating its own reward center. It releases a feel-good hormone called dopamine. You are flooded with positive emotions and feel energized. Basically, the brain is doing its very own happy dance in response to yours. (Of course “you” and “your brain” aren’t separate. You’re an intricate system that dances as one.)
Your celebrations of the positive things in life and brain’s dopamine response can play a seemingly infinite tennis volley. You seek the good and celebrate it, serving it to your brain’s reward center which then returns the shot with positive emotions. The positivity you experience impacts your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and you do more of what works, which in this case is doing small celebrations. The volley can continue indefinitely.
Why Celebrate? Existential Reasons
Seek out the good in life and pause to celebrate it. When you do this consistently over time, it improves your subjective experience of your very existence (hence the existential reasons). At it’s essence, celebrating is a powerful way of creating a quality.
Seeking and celebrating the good isn’t about putting an end to the bad things in your life. As existentialists will tell you, the negative is part of life. But those existentialists will also tell you that the positive is part of life, too, and that you have the power to create meaning in your life and the ability to choose and shape your perspective. How do you interpret and act on the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful? The answer lies in the meaning you place on the people, situations, and experiences in your life. Finding the good on purpose and acknowledging it with even a very simple celebration is one important way you make meaning for your mental health and wellbeing.
A Celebration Meditation
Celebrations can take many forms. They can even be mental. The key is to acknowledge and to do something–take an action, bold or subtle, or happily recognize the good internally. Whatever you do will work, remember, because it’s built into our neurology. Activating the reward center is like throwing a stone and creating ripples in a pond that gently move outward, encompassing your whole being. Try this meditation as a celebration:
Ripples In a Pond Celebration Meditation
This meditation can be as long or as brief as you wish.
- Get comfortable where you are. Stand, sit, or lie down.
- Take several slow, deep breaths.
- With a smile, acknowledge what you’re celebrating.
- Visualize yourself selecting stones from a pathway, river bank, or beach. Select one stone for each thing you’re celebrating. It’s okay if you’re celebrating just one thing. Simply choose one stone.
- Visualize yourself coloring your stone(s) and decorating them. This decoration is a celebration. Pick colors you love, paint images that make you feel joyous or at peace. Depict the person or thing you’re celebrating in a way that is meaningful to you.
- Visualize yourself walking to a beautiful pond. You’ve been here before, and it contains other rocks you’ve tossed in to celebrate positive things.
- When you’re ready, do a dance, make a happy noise, jump into the air, or something that feels right to you, and toss your stone into the pond.
- Enjoy watching the ripples. Step out into the pond a bit to meet them.
- Allow yourself to feel happy about what you’re celebrating, how you just celebrated, and that the ripples reached back to you.
In the words of Deepak Chopra in his book The Healing Self:
The best way to build a happy life is to build happy days.”
It is through noticing the good and celebrating it that we build happy days. We choose our perspective and make meaning for a quality life.
What do you celebrate and how do you celebrate it? This image shows just a few ideas. (A commentary on the woman doing dishes. Pink gloves don’t make her chore disappear, but they make it more lighthearted. Both the gloves and that perspective are reasons to celebrate. So is the satisfied feeling of a clean kitchen.) When you celebrate, include the little things that really aren’t all that little.