Life has its ups and downs. Certainly some of us experience them more than others. They can be small (getting over a cold, receiving a note of appreciation) or large (being laid off or recovering from cancer) and everything in between.
Neuro-scientists have discovered unless we are able to feel ‘negative’ emotions our ability to genuinely experience the ‘positive’ ones is strongly diminished. Perhaps this is one reason why the sun seems so much more welcomed after a long stretch of cloudy weather, or why we are filled with so much joy after we have been through a very challenging time.
Of course we can celebrate the triumphs, gifts, ‘ah-ha’ moments, discoveries, etc., on our own. I make it a practice to celebrate and appreciate myself for having completed a task well (a great antidote for my tendency to primarily note when I ‘fail’ at something). What about sharing with others?
Sadly, we North Americans are more likely to share our judgements, disappointments and complaints with others. We, the very ones who enjoy the riches of the planet more than anyone else! Is this a kind of collective depression?
What about celebrating the positive changes in our lives—with others? How much better to mark our mile-stones, triumphs, discoveries (and more) with those with whom we are connected!
How do we celebrate with others? When religious practises fell out of favour, so, too, did many rituals they carried. Our rather secular society has begun to create its own rituals. We see road-side memorials popping up here and there. We have flash mobs, surprise birthday parties, graduation ceremonies, retirement parties, a ladies’ night out, dinner parties, moving (one home to another) parties, celebration of life events, and more.
In the last few years I have had dinner parties to celebrate having a new room-mate and having successfully moved through a trying time. I also had a ‘coming out’ party to celebrate how my life was emerging—a being “gay” in the old-fashioned use of this term!
For my 50th birthday I invited my friends to a wonderful dinner-dance fundraiser that also financially benefitted a local non-profit organization.
It turns out that when we truly share our griefs, fears, shames, joys, triumphs etc. with others, we increase the positive functions in our brains. Being with others (in a meaningful way) during such highs and lows (and in-between!) helps drive away loneliness, improves our moods, increases our tolerance of pain and disappointment, improves sleep, makes us better adjusted and better social beings, and reduces our self-destructive activities and thoughts.
So in these dark and dreary months, why not invite people to some parties or create other ways of connecting? Do take advantage of B.C.’s first experience with ‘Family Day’ on February 11th (now a long weekend) by doing something with your family or with a group of friends who are your ‘adopted’ family! Do celebrate Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart or a group of friends (love is for everyone).
Ian Gartshore is a local writer and lover of humans.