Posted on 21/11/2022
Is life is so busy that it seems like you’re constantly stuck on “fast forward”? If so, it’s easy to overlook the importance of taking time to celebrate the special moments, minutes or days (big or small) that bring meaning and happiness to our lives.
However, if we fall into the trap of becoming too focused on our “to do” list we run the risk of becoming bored, burnt out, or – much worse – depressed.
Try running this little test on yourself:
Your answers to questions like these can say a lot about your state of mind and stress levels. And remember, chronically high levels of stress are bad for your health!
Taking time out to recognise or celebrate your achievements is not an indulgence to feel guilty about. Quite the contrary, it’s a habit that can help keep the stresses of life in balance, and contribute to a long lasting sense of wellbeing.
Here’s a few suggestions to help you develop the habit:
1. Be present
If you are constantly thinking about the future – that pile of ironing waiting for you at home, the kid’s school camp next week, the car insurance due next month – chances are you’re not really available to the present.
Investing all your mental energy in the future creates anxiety, and robs you of the opportunity to enjoy, reflect or learn from what is happening right now.
Developing a habit of “mindfulness” helps people become more fully aware of what is happening in the present moment, and – in helping you take a step off the mental treadmill for a while – helps to defuse some of the stress that can build up and have a negative impact on our health.
2. Speak nicely to yourself
Sometimes the harshest criticisms we hear are those we make of ourselves. Watch your self-talk – particularly when you are feeling tired or a bit low – because it can have a major effect – positive or negative – on your self belief and self esteem.
Healthy patterns of self talk – coupled with a grounded sense of humility – reinforce the idea that you deserve to take the time to appreciate special moments as they occur, and helps to preserve a sense of gratitude for the positive experiences that take place each day.
This in turn builds an upwardly spiralling energy. Gratitude brings inspiration, inspiration brings enthusiasm, enthusiasm brings renewed application to a task, and this hopefully leads to the creation of something new to celebrate. And on it goes…
3. Involve others
Including your spouse, family, friends or work colleagues in the positive experiences of your life can foster a real sense of connection and support in your life, and this has been found to be a key ingredient in promoting happiness and defusing the stress response.
For example, couples can offer great support to one another when times are hard, but – not surprisingly – they also tend to be much happier together when they share in one another’s positive experiences as well.
Similarly, the shared enthusiasm and energy of work colleagues often creates a positive working environment from which everyone benefits, whilst birthdays and other significant days of your life are often that much more memorable when celebrated with family and friends.
Some things are best celebrated with others, whilst others may be best celebrated alone, and this is where having an “escape” can be helpful.
“Escaping” can offer time for quiet contemplation, rest or rejuvenation. Even thinking about an upcoming “escape” can be just as helpful as the actual “doing” of it if it puts you in a lighter frame of mind, helps clear your head, or helps you look at things with a fresher perspective.
How we escape depends on our personality and circumstances, but irrespective of whether your escape mechanism is an uninterrupted bath, a walk in the country or a trip to The Bahamas, developing the habit of escaping from time to time helps to decrease stress and is good for your health.
5. Magnify positive things
It’s funny, but the more willing you are to celebrate things, the more there is to celebrate!
If you constantly downplay your achievements or special moments in life they become less important to you, and before you know it you’ve become tired and bored with yourself.
Well, it works the other way too. Making a conscious effort to acknowledge the positive things going on in your life helps to anchor them in your mind, and associated feelings of happiness, enthusiasm and inspiration follow.
6. Foster spontaneity
Spontaneity often takes a back seat in our super structured lives, and things can get pretty humdrum as a result.
It may be silly to say “plan to be spontaneous”, but being prepared to let go a little opens up opportunities for happy surprises to occur, and sometimes it’s the memory of these unexpected happy moments that last the longest.
7. Keep a diary
Where were you three Christmases ago? How did you celebrate you birthday 2 years ago? What was the best thing that happened to you in 2008?
Time can pass so quickly, and it’s so easy to forget all the special moments that take place in our lives. Many people find keeping a diary an invaluable way of staying connected with special moments from their past, and in reinforcing the importance of pausing to reflect. Sure, it takes discipline, but it works for many people.
8. Find balance
Finding a happy work/life balance may well be a never ending challenge, but remembering that life should be a balance of activity and reflection – of hard work and reward – can help us maintain a healthy perspective and appreciation for life.
There are times when the Protestant work ethic serves us very well, but the spiritual credentials of the concept of balance run far deeper in our cultural heritage, and we lose sight of this at our peril.
9. Be grateful
Psychologists have found that “gratitude” is one of the top character strengths that help people thrive and be happy.
Grateful people seem to be the happiest people, and developing an “attitude of gratitude” not only plays a key role in helping people appreciate and enjoy the good things in their life, but also helps foster the resilience that is required when dealing with the inevitable difficulties we will encounter in life as well.
All of these strategies can help maintain a better psychological outlook on life, but – in helping to “turn down” the physiology of your stress response – they can have a tangible impact on your physical wellbeing as well. We hope you enjoy giving them a go!