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.

[rebelmouse-image 19473071 dam="1" original_size="860x470" caption="GIF from "Parks and Recreation"/NBC." expand=1]GIF from "Parks and Recreation"/NBC.

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."

Photo by the author.

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.

Photo by the author.

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.

I love following Brighton Keller and Hannah Brencher for real-life stories about how to find beauty in everyday ordinary moments.

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.

27. Laugh!

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.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

True

The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

Keep Reading Show less
via Pexels

If you know how to fix this tape, you grew up in the 1990s.

There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

But, you gotta admit, that TV is still pretty damn good.

A lot of folks feel Americans have become a lot harsher to one another due to political divides, which seem to be widening by the day due to the power of the internet and partisan media.

Keep Reading Show less
Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

Screenshot taken from a live video of the trial.

A recent (and fairly insensitive) sketch from “Saturday Night Live” said it best regarding the widespread fixation many have on the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial:

“It’s not the most pertinent story of the moment, but with all the problems in the world, isn’t it nice to have a news story we can all collectively watch and say ‘glad it ain't me?’”

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard Trial Cold Open - SNL www.youtube.com

Schadenfreude, celebrity fascination and previously inaccessible information now being at our fingertips is a potent combination in this trial, making amateur lawyers and psychologists of all who feel compelled to unleash their hot takes. And though the right to converse and speculate exists, is it always in our best interests to do so? Especially when it means potentially spreading misinformation, or at the cost of empathy and compassion?

Keep Reading Show less
Photo from Upworthy Library

A proud sloth dad was caught on camera.

Teddy the two-toed sloth has become a proud papa and thanks to a video posted by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, we all get to witness the adorable reunion with his newborn son.

Mama sloth, aka Grizzly, gave birth to their healthy little one in Feb 2022, which delighted more than 3,000 people on Facebook.



The video, posted to the Florida zoo’s YouTube page, shows Grizzly slowly climbing toward her mate, who is at first blissfully unaware as he continues munching on leaves. Typical dad.

Keep Reading Show less