Do you paint the town red on your birthday or anniversary? Do you take time out for yourself no matter how busy you are?
The latest research shows you should do both because these strategies will bolster your well-being, decrease anxiety, and even help you live longer. Here’s why certain kinds of celebrations are so good for you…
Celebrations are good for you. Not just for the emotional boost that comes as they take place, but also for their long-term effects. The reason, so the theory goes, is because they make an individual feel other people are there for them and will support them if troubled times lie ahead.
But this will only be the case, it’s further theorized, if they’re carried out with three conditions in place. If any one of them is missing, the health rewards won’t be forthcoming.
Congratulations are key
Researchers from Indiana University used behavioral experiments to survey thousands of participants over several years. They found celebrations do increase social support, but only if three conditions are in place. The celebrations must include:
- A social gathering
- Eating or drinking
- Intentionally marking a positive life event or achievement, such as a birthday, anniversary, etc.
The perceived social support this provides is linked with health and well-being outcomes, including decreased anxiety and depression, and increased lifespan. One member of the research team, Dr. Kelley Gullo Wight, had this to say about the findings which were published last December.
“Many celebrations this time of year include two of the three conditions – eating and drinking while gathering together. Adding the third condition, making an intentional effort to recognize others’ positive achievements, is key.
“For example, take the time to congratulate someone for getting accepted to their first-choice university, or a work project that went well, or a new job offer. This will maximize the benefits to your well-being and the well-being of all the attendees at that holiday party.”
Interestingly the research revealed that even if gatherings are virtual, so long as all three elements are in place, they also increase a person’s perceived social support and the same well-being benefits are received.
Take time for yourself
The Indiana team also published another study prior to Christmas to find out why people were reluctant to give themselves a treat during the busy holiday season.
Using behavioral experiments, they discovered people who felt pressed for time were the least likely to engage in self-gifting. But if they did find time to escape all the rush, they enjoyed the most significant boost in how happy and relaxed they felt afterwards.
Commenting on their work, Dr. Wight said that people are less inclined to take time for themselves when they need it most.
“There’s this moment of self-sabotage. People who feel the most constrained or stressed aren’t taking advantage of these self-gifts. You might think, ‘I’ll be too distracted,’ or ‘I won’t be able to have a mindful moment to benefit,’ but our research shows this belief is wrong.
“People are able to benefit and focus even if they’re stressed. In fact, that’s exactly when you need it the most. Taking the time to ‘self-gift’ will lead you to feel less stressed in the long run.”
Self-gifting just means dedicating a little time for yourself to boost your emotional well-being. Whether it’s to have a cup of tea, listen to music, or watch a relaxing video — anything you can do with a focus on yourself, regardless of all the jobs that need completing.
This research is interesting and, in my opinion, important for everyone—especially older folks who may be less inclined to take advantage of social opportunities. These studies go to show that staying engaged with others and taking the time to celebrate with them is a vital part of health and well-being.