One thing we were all naturally good at as children, but tend to lose the ability to do to various degrees, is finding pleasure in small things, or celebrating.
Whether it is jumping up and down and clapping one’s hands, shouting “Yay”, or just quietly feeling gladness, pleasure, gratitude, or even relief, celebration is a habit that can be fostered and practiced, to the benefit of the celebrator and those around.
What to Celebrate
Where thought goes, energy follows.
There is so much that we can celebrate, including things that we can so easily take for granted, such as our freedom, fresh air, the sunshine, good food, life, health, relationships, etc. There is so much beauty, power, and wonder in nature that are very worthy of appreciation.
Very often in life there are situations that can be likened to the glass being half empty and half full. Obviously what you focus on is going to greatly affect how you feel. So while it is important to acknowledge and grieve losses, if one looks for the “silver lining(s)” that is in every cloud, one will surely find it (them) and benefit. Having physical limitations that limit enjoyable activities that one used to be able to do, I and others who have chosen to focus on what we CAN do rather than what we cannot do, have found this attitude very helpful to our mental state.
I have met many people who on their journeys have difficulty acknowledging and celebrating their progress. This can be because they feel that they have a long way to go, because they have not “arrived”, or because of fear of going backwards. Thankfully, the truth is that there is absolutely no risk and it is perfectly appropriate and safe to celebrate any movement in the preferred direction. This allows one to feel any combination of self-appreciation, pride, gladness, gratitude and relief. Any improvement in another’s behavior can likewise be celebrated. When you give them positive feedback about the improvement that you have noticed, this positive reinforcement will speed up their improvement. When undesirable behavior in another is diminishing, the successful acceleration of improvement through giving positive feedback is called shaping.
Basically, fostering a habit of focusing on the positive and celebrating it, you find that there are so many positives to celebrate, and that it is an enjoyable habit that improves your life.
There are many good reasons to foster the habit of celebrating:
First of all, it engenders positive feelings, such as happiness, gladness, joy, gratitude, relief, self-appreciation, or appreciation of others/nature/God. It can also make us feel awe, wonder, amazement, and humility as we celebrate the ocean, a star-studded sky,the beauty of a flower, the amazing human body, or even what we can with technology these days, etc. Positive feelings are enjoyable, and shift us away from negative ones, thus helping us if we are struggling with a stressful situation or with symptoms of depression or anxiety. Therefore, positive feelings are good for our mental health, and because we feel our emotions in our body, feeling tense muscles and other unpleasnt bodily sensations with anxiety, and pleasant body sensations with positive emotions, it is thought by many that good mental health is beneficial to physical health.
Secondly, “success breeds success”. So celebrating leaves us with positive feelings that improve our performance. For example, celebrating losing two pounds is likely to leave us feeling encouraged, optomistic, and feeling capable, increasing the chances of us persisting in our efforts, whereas judging that as not enough or not worthy of celebrating is more likely to lead to feeling discouraged/hopeless and giving up.
A habit of focusing on the positive and celebrating often co-exists with a habit of being optomistic and expecting the positive. This leads to more calmness as opposed to worrying, and pleasurable anticipation. Obviously, these habits do not interfere with appropriate planning.
When one is feeling positive, that positive energy is picked up and enjoyed by those around. You are more pleasant to be around, you are more likely to be treated in a pleasant way in response to your pleasantness, leading to more positive interactions with others and better relationships. You may inadvertantly brighten someone’s day. You may inspire another to also be more positive. Because of the ripple effect, your big smile or friendliness can have far reaching positive effects, essentiallly helping to make the world a better place. Like Ghandi said, peace in the world begins with peace within.
The more you truly believe that you are loveable and deserving, and that you live in a benevolent universe, the easier it is for you to focus on the positive and celebrate. And the more you focus on the positive and celebrate, the more that will strenghthen the belief that you are loveable and deserving, and that the universe is benevolent. It is very good to foster the true beliefs, and to foster the habit of celebrating. The two can be done simultaneously, and will feed each other.
When something negative happens, as it undoubtedly does in everyone’s life, rather feeling like a victim or feeling like you might be being punished for being bad, you will know that this is part of your journey, which has to include challenges if you are going to grow. You will know that you are good, and not being punished. You will know that everyone suffers, and can feel connected to the rest of humanity through that common experiencing, feeling compassion for yourself, and for your fellow humans.
What forming a habit of celebrating is NOT
It is NOT ignoring the pain, stress, and difficulty that everyone experiences in life. It is not judging yourself or others for being negative. It is not denial of situations or problems that are appropriate to grieve or be aware of and take appropriate action to try to resolve, if possible. In these situations, you will find that the positive attitude and its accompanying belief in the truth, will help you feel more empowered and thus effective in dealing with challenging situations, more compassionate towards yourself and others, and have an easier time accepting things that are difficult to accept.
Forming the habit of celebrating
Like any habit, it takes more effort initially, then later comes more and more naturally. All day long, make a conscious effort to look for positive things, and positive aspects of situations. The more you look for the positive, the more you will find it. Look everywhere: in constant things you take for granted, in nature, in any movement in the preferred direction, in you, another, or a situation. Then give yourself a little time to feel whatever positive feelings come up with celebrating it.
This will result in a re-wiring of your brain, so that over time, the noticing of things to celebrate and celebrating them becomes more and more of an ingrained habit that occurs naturally.
Because it is a pleasant and beneficial habit, it will have a self-reinforcing element. The more negative you are when you begin, the more re-wiring it will take, and will feel foreign at first. It’s perfectly OK for healthy patterns to feel foreign at first. There is nothing dangerous about positive change; it can feel uncomfortable initially though, because it is unfamiliar. I have had motivated clients who rarely celebrated and had a very strong habit of self-judgement develop the habit of celebrating quite quickly.
Good luck with practicing your habit of celebrating, and enjoy feeling happier!