Written by Paoula Saoud, Clinical Psychologist at the Valens Clinic.
Celebrations are deeply rooted in human culture; they represent a significant part in our lives. Whether it is giving birth, a birthday party, a religious festival, a graduation, a wedding ceremony, or a national holiday. Celebrations symbolize important milestones and serve as moments of joy and socialization. However, these celebrations can also have a negative impact on people depending on their psychological wellbeing and circumstances.
Celebrations have a psychological dimension affecting our emotions, wellbeing, and sense of belonging. As John Erskine said, “celebrations are the punctuation marks that give meaning to the passage of time.”
Positive effects of celebrations on psychological wellbeing:
1- Socialization: celebrations provide an opportunity for people to come together, it could be helpful in developing and strengthening relationships and friendships. These occasions can enhance our sense of belonging and decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation.
2- Positive emotions: festivities can evoke positive emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, and gratitude. They are a break from everyday routine and responsibilities allowing us to relax and unwind. They also represent positive events and achievements which can enhance our perspective on the present and the future promoting our wellbeing.
3- Meaning and purpose: celebrations are rooted in cultural traditions or represent big milestones in life, therefore they play a role in building and developing a sense of identity as they serve as a bridge between stages and represents important transition in life. Celebrations such as religious and cultural holidays can provide us with a deeper connection to traditions and values contributing to our psychological wellbeing.
However, not all experiences are positive, celebrations can also have a negative impact.
1- Negative emotions: while celebrations can represent big milestones in life, some can actually induce negative feelings such as anxiety and feelings of loss, stemming from thoughts and retrospection on what did the past bring and how uncomfortable the future is looking.
2- Pressure and stress: certain celebrations such as big gatherings and weddings can involve a lot of planning and organization and expectations. This can be overwhelming for certain people who feel pressured to meet societal expectations.
3- Comparison: celebrations often involve comparison to other people, specially in the age of social media where everyone is sharing their most positive moments. This comparison can lead to negative feelings affecting self-esteem and self-image.
4- Loneliness and exclusion: people who do not have close relationships and/or are geographically far from their loved ones, can be negatively affected by these occasions as they don’t effectively participate in celebrations. this can exacerbate feelings of loneliness or exclusion.
Remember that everyone’s experience of celebrations can vary. Here are some tips that can help with managing negative feelings: identifying triggers and being mentally and physically prepared for the upcoming event, taking a break from extremely stressful situations or being less exposed to social media around this time, setting boundaries and reassessing priorities, managing expectations to avoid disappointment and stress, engaging in meaningful activities that add to our sense of self-worth, and practicing self-care and gratitude.