“The more you celebrate and praise your life, the more there is in life to celebrate,” Oprah Winfrey once said. It seems Oprah had it right.
According to a new study, a celebration that matches these three conditions: 1) a social gathering 2) eating or drinking 3) and intentionally recognizing a positive life event benefits our overall health and wellbeing. The reason? Parties boost our sense of social support.
Researchers from Duke University and the University of Connecticut used behavioral experiments to survey thousands of participants over several years around the benefits of celebration. The researchers found that parties and the social support they offer not only leads to less anxiety and depression, but knowing folks have our back and want to celebrate us, can add to our life span.
When people feel supported socially after a celebration, they’re more willing to volunteer their time or donate to a cause.
“Many celebrations this time of year include two of the three conditions — eating and drinking while gathering together,” co-author Kelley Gullo Wright, an assistant professor at the Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, said in a university press release. “Adding the third condition, making an intentional effort to recognize others’ positive achievement, 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 attendees at that holiday party.”
What about celebrating during lockdowns? Cullo and the study’s co-authors conclude that it’s vital for policymakers to acknowledge the benefits of celebrations. They recommend, when in-person gatherings are not possible, that organizers create virtual celebrations that include food and drink, as well as marking the positive life event. So, even in isolation, people can feel socially supported by virtual celebration.
There’s another perk that celebrations offer. “We found that when people feel supported socially after a celebration, they’re more ‘pro-social,’ and more willing to volunteer their time or donate to a cause,” adds Danielle Brick, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Connecticut. “This would be a good time for non-profits to market donation campaigns, around the time people are celebrating positive life events, like holidays or graduations.”
For those who can’t attend an in-person party, there are even some tips for throwing a virtual celebration:
Even in isolation, people can feel socially supported by virtual celebration.
- Appoint someone to the role of host. An actual master of ceremonies can help make the person you’re celebrating feel extra special.
- Send out cookie or cocktail recipes ahead of time so everyone attending will be eating and drinking – and can toast the person you’re celebrating.
- Hold a test run. If you have a guest who isn’t familiar with on-line events, appoint someone to be tech support and walk through the instructions with anyone who needs guidance. You can also create a cheat-sheet with step-by-step instructions and send it around to guests ahead of time.
- Keep it small. If there are too many guests, it’s hard to keep track and time tends to get chaotic. Experts say if it’s on-line, limit your guest list to fifteen people.
- Stay aware of time. You don’t want guests rambling on. Celebratory speeches should be no longer than between 10 to 15 minutes each — tops.
- Keep it light by organizing some fun and games such as charades or trivia.
- Dress for the occasion. It helps to make celebrations festive.
The study is published in Journal of Public Policy & Marketing.