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Celebration Is The Magic Key To Your Wellbeing, Here Is Why And How To Practise It

I recently read a book called “Tiny Habits” where the author BJ Fogg dedicates half a chapter to the topic of celebration. It might not sound like a lot to you, but believe me, the chapters were long. After spending half an hour reading about success stories and different evidence of why celebration works in the process of habit formation, I was ready to give it a try. I decided to apply it to something that has been bothering me for a while. I have been trying to create a habit of cleaning the kitchen counter every evening before going to bed because I want to wake up to a clean kitchen. I have tried different ways to motivate myself and most of them (well, all of them, if I have to be honest) have failed. However, including the celebration component seems to be the golden key as I have been waking up to a clean(er) kitchen for 3 weeks already.

Reading about the power of celebration and then experiencing the challenges and benefits that come from implementing it in my daily life, really made me think more about this topic. Why it works, what we get out of it and most importantly – why it is a difficult task for some of us, are all questions that I asked myself. After finding some of the answers, I want to share them with you and invite you to try the magic of celebration for yourself.

The science of celebration

Before we jump into the benefits and practical tips on how to incorporate celebration in your life, let’s have a quick look at how celebration affects your brain and body on physical levels. We all know that celebrating makes us feel good but what might not be so well-known is the actual science of it.

Depending on the type and intensity of the celebration, there are a few hormones that are released in your brain and body. For example, acknowledging a job well done in a social environment releases the “feel good” hormone oxytocin, which helps us feel a better sense of wellbeing, as well as become more courageous and take more risks which might lead to rewards. Another hormone that comes to play is serotonin which helps us focus and increases motivation. Finally, the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is needed for the feeling of bliss, gets activated further helping us with concentration, motivation and overcoming physically and mentally stressful situations. In fact, dopamine can be addictive, which also explains why once you make a habit of celebrating you will not want to stop.

Benefits from celebrating

Now that we know a bit about how celebration works, let’s talk about the fun things – the benefits of celebration, especially for your wellbeing.

Increased energy and motivation

It is not a secret that many people look for ways to enhance their wellbeing in order to feel a better flow of energy. I am happy to tell you that incorporating small celebrations into your routines can help you with this exact thing. Celebrating helps us boost our mood resulting in higher spirits and less sluggishness throughout the day. Additionally, it can help with motivation. Imagine how much nicer it would feel to advance in your goals if you found ways to feel good about your work every single day!

A boost for your confidence

Celebrating your small (and big) wins has a strong positive effect on your confidence. Taking the time, even if only a moment, to acknowledge when you have done well or when you’ve overcome a challenging situation makes it easier for your brain to register this event. In return, next time when you are faced with similar tasks or circumstances you will have better chances of recalling that you’ve already dealt with a similar thing and you will feel more confident about your abilities. Regular confident boosts can also do miracles for you if you struggle with low self-esteem, and therefore, enhance your emotional wellbeing.

Strengthening good habits

My whole research into celebrations started with building habits, so of course, we have to mention how beneficial celebration is for making better habits stick. In turn, better habits can significantly strengthen any area of your wellbeing and celebrating can help you with creating new ones or enhancing habits that you would like to strengthen. The idea is that when you celebrate after a certain action your brain links the action with the release of the hormone dopamine, which makes you feel good. Therefore, your brain remembers the path of actions that led to you feeling good in order to make it easier for you to repeat it later. If you want to drink more water or to switch your afternoon cupcake for a piece of dark chocolate, high-five and congratulate yourself after each time you drink a glass of water or remember to reach for the dark chocolate.

A deeper sense of teamwork and community

Celebrating the small wins with others can also benefit your social wellbeing. If you are working in a team towards a common goal, coming up with a way to acknowledge progress is key for making better progress and for cultivating a sense of togetherness. This applies in all kinds of situations. For example, at home, you can get your partner or kids to help with doing the laundry or dishes and come up with a three-step dance to do together after the chore is done. In the office, perhaps a fistbump is a good way to celebrate each step towards building a very complicated online tool. In both examples, celebrating together will create a closer bond and more good memories together, and both of these things are stepping stones towards better relationships.

Reasons why you don’t let yourself celebrate

In the “Tiny Habits” book the author recommended activities for people who find it difficult to celebrate. I admit that I did not even read these few paragraphs. I skipped right past them. I thought I won’t have a problem with this – I love celebrating things! When I started incorporating this aspect in my days, I was surprised to find out I was not so good at it. Celebrating simple, mundane things just did not come naturally to me. You might feel the same way and here are a few reasons why that might be happening:

You find it difficult to celebrate yourself

I turned out I am good at celebrating other people. Noticing the good parts of others as well as their accomplishments and wins is much easier to me than to acknowledge the same things about myself. For people who are self-critical celebrating small things can be challenging because we believe that we don’t deserve it unless we have accomplished something really big and worthwhile. Here is the catch thought, every day we achieve and do things that are worthy of a tap on the shoulder, if not a full blown party.

You don’t stop to acknowledge your wins

In the fast-paced world that we live in we often speed towards accomplishing something and when we get there, we dive straight into the next thing. Life should be less like a high-speed car chase and more like a hike. When we are out in the mountains climbing a peak, we usually mark our progress by reaching different milestones or huts along the way. When we do, we usually take off our backpacks, sit on a bench and take a moment to enjoy the wonderful view, don’t we? We might even high-five our friends for climbing that far up. We should apply the same mentality towards everything we do. There should always be a moment to pause, see how far we’ve come and celebrate the progress.

You think celebration is a waste of time

If you are like me, the world “celebration” probably triggers a mental picture of a big party and a lot of people involved. Planning such an event is indeed time-consuming, can be expensive and just seems a bit silly to do every day. I completely agree! Indeed, a party is one example of a celebration but not all ways to celebrate have to be so time-consuming. Sometimes a moment can be marked with a glass of wine, a quick solo dance party, or with a self high-five (think Barney Stinson from the TV show How I Met Your Mother.) All of these are quick ways to get that dopamine flowing in your brain.

The path to celebrating every day

The benefits of celebrating are undeniable, but how do we do that every day and even for the small wins and occasions? Take a look at the three tips below and feel free to modify them so they fit your personality and lifestyle.

Step 1: Brainstorm simple ways to celebrate

Let’s start by redefining what “celebration” means to you, especially if you are one of those people (like me) who first think of the big party scenario. Grab a piece of paper and a pen and brainstorm 10 ways you can celebrate a win today that does not involve a grand gesture, a lot of time or extra effort. Here are 5 suggestions from me:

  1. High-five the person next to you, or just yourself;
  2. Grab a cup of delicious coffee or tea to mark a job well done;
  3. Play a favourite song and have a 1-song dance party;
  4. Tell yourself out loud that you’ve done a good job;
  5. Jump or do whatever else your body feels like doing to celebrate;

Step 2: Find (small) opportunities for celebration

Now that you have a list of ways to celebrate, we have to find things for you to celebrate and thank god, we are in luck! For our celebration habit to grow roots we can celebrate anything we like. There is no limit on how big or small the occasion should be. You flossed today – yey! You washed all the dishes in the sink – you’re amazing! You survived a challenging day at work – cue the confetti! The only limits on celebration are those you put on yourself, and the more comfortable you get with celebrating everything that you approve of in your life, the better your quality of life will get. Just in case, here are 4 categories of things you can celebrate today that maybe you are not thinking of right now:

  1. Any success with a mundane chore (laundry, dishes, unloading the dishwasher, watering the plants);
  2. Completing any task at work (cleaning your inbox, taking care of your calendar, preparing notes for a meeting);
  3. Any act of personal self-care (choosing a healthy snack, drinking water, finding time for mindfulness, applying face mask);
  4. The first, second and third steps towards a change you want to make, and every step afterwards (singing up for yoga, researching an online course, talking to someone about how you feel);

Step 3: Practise often and involve others

We have ways and occasions to celebrate, now there is only one thing to do – celebrate! Do so without shame and constraint. And to make the experience more inclusive, connecting and shared, invite others to celebrate with you. You can do this by physically involving others like in the examples above with the office and family tasks. You could also do it virtually. One idea you can try is to create a chat with your friends where everyone shares their wins daily and you all cheer for each other. Just imagine how fun it would be! You can add photos, GIFs and all sorts of funky emojis. Another thing you can do is simply call your close ones and share some good news – simple and effective. We live in a very connected and at the same time disconnected environment, and sometimes it is good to tell others what is happening, not only to expect them to read it in an Instagram post.

Celebration might not come naturally to many of us but the benefits of practising it are undeniable. Short terms gains such as boosting our mood, energy and overall morale are enough for many to consider the occasional self-high-five or a fist bump with a colleague. However, knowing that celebration has a long-term positive effect on our overall wellbeing such as healthier self-esteem, improved social connections and increased sense of prosperity should motivate you even more to incorporate it in your daily life. I can surely tell you that it works for me and I hope it will for you, too!

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