A couple years ago I shared my story about growing up as the child of an alcoholic. After years spent screaming into journals, wrestling with how to move beyond the mess and the pain, it was cathartic. But something incredibly unexpected happened after the story was published.
My inbox exploded with messages from readers all over the world who shared their stories, in shock that mine sounded so similar. My tribe. These people knew exactly what I had been through and had felt it all in their own way.
Recognizing I wasn’t alone was empowering, and my newfound community inspired me to keep moving forward.
I took baby steps at first and focused on small victories. The process was slow, and I still got stuck sometimes in heartbreak or waiting for the next glass to shatter. Yet I was still celebrating life every day — even when it was hard.
Life will keep chugging along in its messy, complicated style, but what if we found ways to celebrate — to feel good — in the midst of it all?
Here are 27 ideas to keep you motivated, happy, joyful, positive, and having fun no matter what life throws at you. Whether you’re grieving a huge loss or trying to survive a rainy day, these activities are simple, doable, and will remind you to celebrate your greatness.
1. Treat yourself to dinner after your boss gives you a pat on the back or you accomplish something big at work.
I love this place.
2. Keep a thankfulness journal.
I keep mine close by so I can grab it when I’m in a slump to look back on little memories to stay motivated and focused on the good.
3. Throw a potluck! Make the cookies and invite your friends.
4. Act like a tourist in your own city.
5. Load up on popcorn and candy at the movies.
I kicked back and blubbered through the movie “Wonder.” The story is a beautiful reminder of learning to celebrate our brokenness.
6. Don’t just wing it. Plan your week ahead so you have time to relax.
7. Take a bath bomb bath.
8. Blast your favorite song in your car.
Current favorite: “Sing to You” by John Splithoff
9. Use a dry erase marker to write positive notes to yourself on your bathroom mirror.
Mine reads “I am worth fighting for.”
10. Read a book that will expand your perspective beyond your own circumstances.
I love books like “Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible,” which are by a collaborative group of authors with varying viewpoints. They challenge my thinking.
11. Take a break from screens. Read a magazine or a newspaper or head outside for a walk to people-watch.
12. Pick yourself flowers — just because.
13. Take a picture with your family or friends and put it on your work desk. It will remind you that you’re loved.
14. Send snail-mail birthday cards. Trust me, you’ll feel just as celebratory as the birthday star.
15. Decorate for ridiculous holidays.
16. Remember your personal milestones. Treat yourself when you’ve owned your house for five years or paid off student loan debt.
17. Get enough sleep. Feeling rested can completely change your outlook.
18. Change the conversation in your head. Instead of yelling at the driver who cuts you off on the way to work, keep singing your favorite song.
19. Make a mood board to keep you inspired.
Pinterest works great for digital mood boards, or work with your hands and collage your own paper version.
20. Let it go.
I put hard memories and pending dreams on little notes in a box on my nightstand as a way to turn my focus, calm my anxiety, and move forward.
21. Follow people on social media who will motivate and encourage you.
It says in Galatians that we are to “live by the Spirit.” The Greek word for that is “peripateite.” It’s a verb that literally means “keep on walking.” It’s like a micro pep-talk packed into a single word, God saying to us, “I know it’s not easy but keep walking forward. I’m right here beside you. You don’t have to fear.”
22. Be OK with shifting your plans.
Maybe a friend needs to skip the gym because of a hard day. Get a manicure or go for wings instead and find a reason to celebrate.
23. Throw a surprise party for someone you love.
I threw my mom a surprise 49th birthday party that she never saw coming. She showed up in sweats to a room full of people. Oops…
24. Take your passions and gifts seriously. Go to a conference that will help you develop your skills in something that really excites you, and meet people who are passionate about the same things you are.
25. Take the pottery or the woodworking class or learn something new now — you don’t have to wait for life to slow down to find time.
26. Try out a new workout class, in person or at home on your own with an online video.
These days, I’m loving barre class. I sweat like crazy and my body aches for days after, but it helps me celebrate that I showed up and pushed my limit.
Let yourself laugh so hard your abs hurt. Hang out around that special person in your life you can count on for good laughs.
Sure, this list may seem trivial. But these small choices add up, shaping us into people who celebrate instead of dwelling on the pain and negativity.
Life will still throw us curveballs. Maybe we’ll catch them or maybe we won’t. But you deserve a life of celebrating you. Go find your joy.