It’s sort of shocking how several terrible things can happen at once. You can feel grief from the actual pandemic and have car trouble, too. You might hear the latest coronavirus figures on TV, only to discover that your neighbor passed away from an illness unrelated to COVID-19. On any given day, civil unrest, economic insecurity, and the coronavirus pandemic exist near things like lousy weather, menstrual cramps, and Sunday Scaries.
So, given all that life throws at us on any particular day, my recommendation might seem trite (but it’s not). You’re allowed to celebrate the good things—even when they happen during this challenging time.
Maybe you’re getting married, or you’re having a baby. Perhaps you bought a house, switched jobs, or got a promotion. All of these can be mixed bags, especially during the pandemic. But they’re also all things you might feel genuinely thrilled about. I know it can feel like you need to tuck good news away out of respect for others, but celebrating yourself is appropriate, too.
Why? Well, for starters normalizing all of your emotions doesn’t only include the bad ones. In a SELF essay about finding joy during the pandemic, Ryan Howes, Ph.D., says that our complicated feelings are valid. “It’s okay to feel some moments of happiness right now. It doesn’t make you a monster,” Dr. Howes explained. “Actually, it can be really helpful. We all have to figure out how to get through this in a way that’s emotionally sustainable over the long run.”
That extends to savoring even the small good things that happen during this time, if you can. (And it’s completely valid if you can’t.) In fact, it’s instrumental in helping cultivate resilience—the ability to adapt and work through negative experiences. As SELF previously reported, we can develop resilience by leaning into our support systems, practicing gratitude, accepting our emotions, and even laughing—all things that tend to happen when we celebrate with others or even just ourselves.
So, in the interest of radical emotional honesty, I encourage you to lean into celebrating when good things happen. Call up a friend, host a small Zoom party, share with your group chat—experience your joy authentically, and let others share it, too.
It’s well-documented that capitalization—or sharing and celebrating good news with others— has positive benefits for you. But if you’re concerned that celebrating yourself out loud might make others feel bad, there’s a small 2015 study published in The Counseling Psychologist that examined the benefits of celebration on the listener. Researchers asked 39 college students to celebrate at least one bit of good news a day (and then they were asked not to the following week). Though the sample size was small, researchers used about 794 instances of celebration in their analysis. What did they find? When the listener celebrated with the person sharing good news, they reaped positive emotional outcomes, too. While this study is way too small to make sweeping conclusions, I hope it provides a little hint that being openly happy about your good fortune won’t automatically hurt others. You don’t have to keep good things locked inside.
Of course, you’ll want to make sure you’re sensitive in your celebration (i.e., maybe don’t immediately share your promotion with a friend who has just lost their job). And, if a friend is having a tough time celebrating with you, give them some grace if they need to disengage.
Overall, though, my advice is to celebrate your good news as it happens. Celebrate in a way that feels most appropriate to you, And while no one would begrudge you if you decided to keep good news limited to your gratitude journal, sharing your joy might give other people a reason to smile.