David Amerland
Celebrations are a way to create societal bonds and develop mental resilience.


As the day when a particular, jolly man in red will break into your house to drink your sherry and eat your cookies (or is it cookies and milk?) and leave a little something for you under the Christmas tree draws near it becomes obvious that we, as people, simply love celebrations.

When so many office parties are being thrown there is some focus on just how much people actually want to celebrate at work. Yet, a celebration, manifests strong societal effects by allowing people to decompress and bond. The way the brain works in different social settings is coming under close scrutiny because of a new range of tools at our disposal.

Celebrating is something we are, arguably, predisposed to do. Through it we mark the passage of time, share the joy of our accomplishments and create a shared backdrop that drives our societal instincts as we share interests, values and worldview.

But celebrations play a role that even more important than that: they help us become real and they help reality become a shared truth by forcing us to stop and be mindful. Mindfulness helps us understand what we experience, its importance and relativity to everything else a little better and, as a result, it promotes happiness, mental health and mental resilience.

Psychologists believe that celebrations mark transitions. They help bring people together who might otherwise not have come together at all and one of the most touching and poignant examples of this lies in that moment in time, forever frozen in our minds, of Christmas Eve 1914 – muddied, psychologically brutalized men coming out of their trenches and experiencing, for a brief moment what it was like to be human again.

Those who stand to gain the most by keeping us divided and focused on our differences frequently forget that celebrations, despite what they may think, are about bringing people together. Celebrating is, of course, a choice. We choose to participate in a communal expression of something that is commonly understood and in the activity we reinforce our willingness to be part of the world at large.

This is important as a decision because it also underscore the fact that we cannot be part of the world without developing trust or choosing to take risks which, in turn, requires we manage our sense of fear.

As we reach this Christmas celebration we may appear to live in a world that is more uncertain than ever before, with more risks, greater challenges and a lot more division and problems than in the past. That is the classic “glass half-empty approach”. The glass is half full. There will always be challenges, problems and divisions in our world. They can only be solved by the pooling of knowledge, experience and resources. No one country or person can solve them alone and those who think they can are deluding themselves for reasons of personal gain or, even worse, are actively working to delude others for the exact same reasons of personal gain.

Historically the world got smaller and better only when divisions and isolation were overcome. None of this happens naturally or is a default state. Just like the brain finds it easier to entertain negative thoughts than positive ones so do our societal structures and even our communication channels which means that the responsibility to understand why lies squarely with us.

We are the architects of who we are. Building the better version of ourselves requires sustained effort and focus. We only undertake such an effort if we truly believe the result is worth it.

Now, I know that for Christmas you have extra-strong coffee and some super-special Christmas treats. Our time in G+ is slowly heading towards its end game now barely four months away. The tradition of the Sunday Read which started some five years ago will be continued on my blog. For now, as you indulge in cookies and donuts, croissants and chocolate cake I can only say have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.

© 2019 David Amerland. All rights reserved