A day before my family arrived for Thanksgiving, my husband and I toasted to the carpet. It was still damp from the cleaning hours before, but it looked pristine.
The next night, we celebrated the kickoff of the holiday season by watching our first-of-the-year holiday movie on cable. We’ve even been known to high-five the discovery of whole-wheat couscous.
In ways both little and big, stupid and endearing, we celebrate just about everything.
After 13 years of marriage, it isn’t always smooth sailing around here. We bicker over parenting differences. I’m constantly annoyed when he comes home from the market with rotten or bruised produce. He doesn’t like when I interrupt or wander down the hall while talking.
We have real-world challenges, but we give extra attention to the good things in life, too. We celebrate the little successes and that helps keep us connected.
I’ve also punctuated some great little life moments—when a client gave me a “job well done,” when I secured a new assignment, when I found the thing I’d been looking for all week—quietly, alone, in my office, over a cup of coffee. And that works too, because any celebration, big or small, is really about taking a beat to notice the good stuff in your life. It can also be a reminder of our talents and abilities, skills and persistence. Drawing on those things can motivate us to keep working toward our goals.
These moments of celebration make us pause and be mindful, and that boosts our well-being. According to social psychology researcher Fred Bryant and others, when we stop to savor the good stuff, we buffer ourselves against the bad and build resilience—and even mini-celebrations can plump up the positive emotions which make it easier to manage the daily challenges that cause major stress.
When we have something to look forward to, or look ahead to something worth celebrating, we feel more optimistic, according to research led by Hadassah Littman-Ovadia. It could be a new job, retirement, finishing a marathon—or something simpler but meaningful like a lunch with friends, a snow day, or a visit from the kids.
How to Celebrate the Little Moments
You don't need decorations or presents to savor a great moment. Just follow these steps and soak up the good feelings:
1. Notice the moment.
What is it that you are proud of? What have you achieved today? What do you like about your life? Where is your good energy flowing? Notice what is working in your life and you’ll find something to celebrate. Perhaps a check came, or you finished a tough project, or handled a difficult moment with your child in a healthy, positive way. Maybe you helped someone else or found the courage to enroll in a continuing education program.
2. Move out of the routine and set the scene.
Now, stop. Go to a special place in your home, or to a beautiful location outside and give your attention to the moment of goodness or achievement. Whatever you celebrate, set the moment apart by stepping out of your routine for just a few minutes.
3. Commemorate the moment.
Now take some action: Make a toast, say a prayer, take a bite of a special food, sing a song, high five, light a candle. Animate the moment with a powerful, celebratory action that fires up positive energy, and enjoy the goodness that you have in your life.
There will always be birthdays and big celebrations like Thanksgiving, graduations, and the fireworks of 4th of July to command our attention. And these are fun, for sure, but it’s the mini-celebrations of the little moments that I come back to in the corners of my memory, because they have carried the most meaning. One example is the e-mail I got announcing the sale of my first book, which I printed and fist-pumped over before saying a little prayer of gratitude. Another is the weekly revelry on Friday at 4:15 when my husband throws open the front door and shouts, “It’s the WEEKEND!” He acts like we aren’t middle-aged parents who go to bed by 9 p.m. on Friday nights. We sit in the kitchen and toast each other, Friday, and the week’s accomplishments. We enjoy the moment and act like there is something big worth celebrating.
If you go looking hard enough, there always is.