In today’s fast-paced world, it seems that as soon as people overcome one obstacle or achieve one goal, they’re onto the next. They lose their first five pounds and immediately shift their attention to the next 15 they want to lose. They clean their cluttered basements and move onto the garage. Or they get a much-coveted work promotion only to fix their eyes on the next one.

In their focus on the future, people too often forget to relish the present. They get bogged down, feel more stress and experience more fatigue. They lose enthusiasm for their goals. Moreover, they forget to enjoy life. That’s why it’s important to celebrate your successes, large and small alike.

Many people get hung up on the term ‘celebration.’ A celebration doesn’t necessarily denote a grand event or gesture. A celebration can be as simple as an acknowledgment you give yourself. Celebrating your success is more about taking time out to reflect on your journey.

By giving yourself an opportunity to review progress, celebrations cause you to linger on the positive, engendering the sort of gratitude that increases happiness and extends your life. A number of studies have found that this approach to life 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.

If you think you don’t have anything to celebrate, think some more. There is much in life to celebrate: firsts, transitions, anniversaries and even the tiniest goals achieved. You can celebrate the first tomato from your summer garden, the first day of autumn or the first snowflake of the season. You can celebrate your kids’ transition back to school, your spouse’s return from a business trip or the times you positively asserted yourself. You can even celebrate moments when you cross tasks off your to-do list.

The ways we celebrate can be just as varied. Of course, you can celebrate over a special dinner. But you can also send yourself flowers, soak in a hot bath, treat yourself to an extra 15 minutes with a good book or call a good friend who can share your joy. Some people find it rewarding to jot these moments in a special notebook. The act of writing it down makes the accomplishment more concrete, and then the book serves as a pick-me-up later when they need encouragement.

The only rule about celebrating is to do it immediately. It just won’t provide the same benefit eight weeks from now as it will at 8 p.m. today. Take time today to contemplate what you have to celebrate, then go and celebrate it.

Over time, you’ll find your new approach to celebrating will also lead to a new way of thinking — a way that recharges your batteries, that boosts your morale and your confidence and that carries you through to your next celebration.

As published in the August 2008 Edition of the Holmen Courier and Onalaska Community Life.