The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

Get More Bang for Your Happiness Buck: Revel in Anticipation.

Anticipation Is A Big Part Of The Fun!

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My younger daughter got me thinking about the importance of anticipation to happiness. She is so very excited about her birthday tomorrow — she was literally jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect of her school celebration today. (I never knew that some people actually do jump up and down with excitement, but she does.)

At first, I worried that reality couldn't possibly live up to her excitement, and I was tempted to say something to try to control her expectations. But then I realized — no, the anticipation is a big part of the fun for her. She lay awake last night, thrilled at the thought that her birthday would be announced during Calendar Time. That moment passed in a flash, but she had all the fun of thinking about it before it happened.

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My First Splendid Truth is: to tackle happiness, you must think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth. To feel happy, it's not enough to have an absence of bad feelings; you have to have a source of good feelings, as well. Pleasant anticipation is an important source of happiness; having something to look forward to makes you “feel good” and may also give an “atmosphere of growth” to your life, because the future seems bright.

There are four stages for enjoying a happy event:
-- anticipation (looking forward to it)
-- savoring (enjoying it in the moment — remember to turn off your cell phone!)
-- expression (sharing your pleasure with others, to heighten your experience)
-- reflection (looking back on happy times — which is why it may be a good idea to take pictures, keep a one-sentence journal, collect mementos, etc.)

Anticipation is a key stage in happiness; by having something to look forward to, no matter what your circumstances, you bring happiness into your life well before the event actually takes place. In fact, sometimes the happiness in anticipation is greater than the happiness actually experienced in the moment — that’s known as “rosy prospection.” (Fortunately, today's Calendar Time did seem to meet my daughter's expectations.)

Of course, anticipation requires two things: something happy to anticipate, and the mindfulness to do the anticipating. A friend of mine made big changes in her life when, one day, she looked at her schedule for the month to come and realized that there was nothing on it to which she could look forward with pleasure.

Have you found that anticipation can boost your appreciation and enjoyment of a happy time?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in -- no need to catch up, just jump in right now.

* The paperback of The Happiness Project comes out March 1 in the U.S., and it's already out in Canada -- and is currently #1 on the Globe and Mail bestsellers list. Yay! Special request: if you're thinking of buying the paperback, I would really appreciate it if you'd consider pre-ordering; pre-orders give a big boost to a book.

* Sign up for the Moment of Happiness, and each weekday morning, you'll get a happiness quotation in your email in-box. Sign up here or email me at gretchenrubin1 at gmail dot com (don't forget the "1").

Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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