Anticipation and Happiness

One of the questions that a few of my friends asked when I first told them about my depression was what fun things I’m planning. What things to I have to look forward to?

View from the stage of the Pantages TheatreThere is evidence that looking forward to something, the anticipation of fun, can bring as much happiness as the fun itself. While a surprise party might bring some people joy at the party and when they remember it later, knowing that somebody is throwing a party for you, say a month before hand, actually increases the happiness that you may receive from the event.

Anticipation can make you happier. Gretchen Rubin wrote about this in her book The Happiness Project, as well as in this blog post. Brendon Burchard talks about it in the video at the end of this post.

When my friends asked me about it, the only thing I really had on my list was a vacation we have planned with family and friends for next summer, but then I received my first invitation to give the opening keynote at a conference next spring (related to my work at the university). While I’m looking forward to both of these and know that I’ll have a great time both on the trip and at the conference, they are several months away, making them feel a little too abstract to give me any real boost of ongoing happiness yet. I needed some fun things to anticipate that are much closer on the horizon.

For the first time in many many years, we’re staying home for the holidays and my wife and I have been talking about what fun things we can do together and with our daughter. We also have theatre tickets for a show in early December and we’ve started making plans for a date night to celebrate my birthday.

We have tickets for The Four Nations Hockey Tournament this week and will be taking in several games. In this case I’m honestly trying to think only about the fun we’ll have and doing my best to push right out of my head thoughts about the traffic getting out of the parking lot.

This Friday our daughter has the day off school so she and I are going to have lunch and see The Grinch. We’ve had a few days like this in the past couple of months so I know how much fun we’ll have.

I have a place in my planner where I note every morning something that I’m looking forward to that day, even if it’s just my morning workout or some time to sit and write.

Anticipation of fun helps with happiness and can be important for someone dealing with depression. Even if the event may not seem like as much fun as I anticipate (things that are normally fun for someone don’t always seem as fun when they are dealing with depression), the anticipation can be a mood booster and help motivate me to get myself moving on the day of those events.

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