Why celebrating successes is important to our mental health

Posted: 08/11/2021

We are becoming an increasingly outcome-driven society. For many of us, our lives are dominated by KPIs, meeting targets, ticking boxes and writing endless reports. While accountability is important, the pressures around this often mean that we feel relieved rather than proud or excited when we achieve a goal. An unfortunate side-effect of this approach is that we rarely stop to celebrate when we achieved a desired outcome. Instead, we just move on to the next thing.

Stop, notice, acknowledge

While celebrating is sometimes (consciously or unconsciously) dismissed as indulgent or time-consuming, research tells us that it is important to our mental health, self-care, happiness and motivation to stop, notice, acknowledge and do a bit of high-fiving once in a while!

As the Family and Child Centre says:

A number of studies have found that [celebrating] brings significant benefits, including improved physical health and better coping strategies. People who take time to reflect on — and celebrate — their successes are generally more optimistic, take better care of themselves and tend to be less stressed. Celebrations increase people’s sense of well-being, regardless of socioeconomic factors, education, age or gender.

In positive psychology, the process of savouring—noticing, appreciating and enhancing positive experiences— is often used to increase feelings of self-worth and overall life satisfaction by expanding ‘people’s thoughts and behaviours, promoting creativity, social connection, personal resources, and resilience’.

Celebrating the small wins

Celebrating success doesn’t have to be complicated or involved. It might be as simple as shouting a colleague a coffee and cupcake when something good has happened, sending a congratulations email with a humorous gif or having a celebrations board in the staff room.

You can also make celebration a regular part of your work practice. At team or staff meetings, you might invite everyone to talk about one thing they want to celebrate or you might have a monthly team shout-out, where team members nominate the people or things they would like to acknowledge and celebrate.

And it isn’t just the big successes that can be celebrated. In fact, celebrating often by focussing on small wins along the way is actually more beneficial and motivating than only celebrating the big stuff. You might celebrate finishing a project, or a stage of the project, or a good outcome for a client or student. You may have advocated for a positive change in the workplace. Or you might focus on small personal successes or milestones, like dropping a child at school without tears, walking after work for a week, cleaning out your shed or reconnecting with a friend.

Build connection through celebration

By celebrating our own achievements, we are also modelling this behaviour with the people we work alongside, whether they be clients, students or colleagues. If we regularly celebrate our successes, we are more likely to notice and celebrate their successes, which encourages them to notice and celebrate themselves.

It can be easy to get caught up in the demands and stresses of work but taking time out to celebrate can be an important way to build connection, remind us why we do what we do and generate hope.

How do you celebrate in your team or workplace? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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