How to Trick Yourself Into Being Happier

“Well”, said Pooh, “what I like best”, and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
— A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Here’s a little tip for tricking your mind into happiness. It's something you might have already realized and have no doubt been experiencing since you were a kid counting down the days to summer vacay, but there’s scientific proof it’s a real thing.  

Studies show an-ti-ci-pa-tion can actually be more enjoyable than getting the thing you’re anticipating.

In her 2014 book The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does, Sonja Lyubomirsky highlights the importance of anticipation, citing various examples such as this one:

Researchers who studied a thousand Dutch vacationers concluded that by far the greatest amount of happiness extracted from the vacation is derived from the anticipation period.

Her research suggests that anticipation is a powerful way to savour and boost your mood, and in her earlier book The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want (2008) she says this:

People prone to joyful anticipation, skilled at obtaining pleasure from looking forward and imagining future happy events, are especially likely to be optimistic and experience intense emotions.

I've often thought that although surprises are wonderful, it’s the anticipation of something, no matter how long I have to wait, that lights me up and gets me excited. Now studies are showing us that people who devote time to anticipating fun experiences are happier.

From Shawn Anchor’s The Happiness Advantage (2010):

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favourite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent. Often, the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

I also love the way Eric Barker thinks about anticipation – it’s a 2 for the price of 1 – you end up getting the amazing thing you’re waiting for AND you get happy anticipating that thing. If you want to powerfully boost your happiness levels start anticipating ~ now!

This means putting something on your calendar today that will make you feel excited. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a big thing. How about a little Rosé in the late afternoon sun with a friend or a date with yourself to the farmers market?

While I don’t 100% agree with Mr. Green (there’s definitely pleasure to be had in the doing!)  I do love this quote and his books:

The pleasure isn’t in doing the thing, the pleasure is in planning it. 
— John Green, Paper Towns (2010)

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