A friend of mine looked at me recently, and with tears in her eyes, said, "I ate 1,600 calories today. Do you think I am still going to lose weight?" She was aiming for 1,500 calories a day and was crushed she went over her self-mandated limit.

I was so surprised by her sadness because I could see that her eating habits had already changed. She took the first, and most difficult, step in any weight loss plan and I was proud of her for eating healthier. But all she could focus on was the big picture.

While I was surprised at my friend's behavior, I know that I, too, am prone to focusing on the finish line and not celebrating the small successes along the way. Whether it be a deadline or a desired dress size, it is easy to forget how hard we are working towards our goals when all we can focus on is how much work is left to be done.

By not giving time to celebrate small successes, stress levels increase and the ultimate goal can seem unreachable. It is important to give ourselves praise for a job well done even if we have not yet completed our task. This will improve morale and help keep us focused for the future.

There are many ways to celebrate a small success. We can simply say a positive affirmation to ourselves such as, "I am proud of myself for my accomplishments" or "I did a great job." We can take a five minute break to get out of our office chairs and go outside to get some fresh air. We can share our accomplishments, however small they seem to us, with loved ones and friends. Instead of saying how hard our day was at the dinner table, we can say one positive thing we accomplished today.

Another way to celebrate and track our successes is by creating a "gratitude journal." This can be a great activity to share with children and family. By writing what we are thankful for each day we can get a better sense of what is important to us. This can help us forget the stress and anxiety of daily activities by focusing us on the positive.

Taking the time to celebrate small accomplishments can improve mood, boost morale, and decrease stress. In today's social and economical climate, it is easy to focus on the negative. By focusing on the positive, we can improve our overall attitude, health and mood.

Amy Ford is a clinical social worker with Family Centers Family Strengthening Program. Serving Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, New Canaan and Westchester County, N.Y., Family Centers is a United Way, New Canaan Community Foundation and Community Fund of Darien partner agency that offers counseling and support programs for children, adults and families. For information, call 203-869-4848 or visit www.familycenters.org.