How You Can Use Anticipation to Enjoy Life

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Elle Pierce knows how to plan a vacation. A few months out, she “goes on a crazy Google spree,” building a spreadsheet of all the things she wants to do and see. She scrutinizes the menus of the restaurants she plans to visit. She uses a photo of the destination as her phone’s lock screen image and downloads a countdown app.

“What’s so exciting about a trip is the anticipation before it,” said Ms. Pierce, founder of Gals Abroad Getaways, a luxury travel company that plans group travel for women. Experts say he is probably right. Several studies show that there is something to be expected to boost your mood and reduces your stress,

“Imagining good things ahead of us makes us feel better in the present moment,” said Simon A. Rego, chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who has written extensively on the effect of anticipation on mood. “It can increase motivation, optimism, and patience, and reduce irritability.”

Of course, we can’t just book a flight every time we need to get a little excited. But there are ways to harness and incorporate the power of anticipation into your daily life.

Carrie L., a social psychologist at Tulane University in New Orleans. Getting caught up in small, delightful experiences can be just as enjoyable as waiting for a big event, Wayland said.

“At the end of every day, write down one thing that you’re excited about tomorrow,” she said. “Maybe it’s a new book or donuts or a package you’ve been hoping for.”

The accumulation of these mini-adventures means you’ll still reap the benefits of waiting for something, even if it’s not a big-ticket reward, says Christian E., a professor of psychology at Wake Forest University. Waugh, who studies anticipation.

“Plus, with the close stuff, it’s definitely going to have a meaning,” he said. “You have more control over a small gathering this evening than a holiday in six months.”

Ever walk through a house for sale and immediately find yourself serving an impressive cheese plate on deck, perhaps dressed in some sort of luxurious kaftan?

When Tori Lloyd-Masters, co-founder of the staging business home at last, preparing a house for sale, “we’re showing people what their lives would be like if they lived here,” she said. “We’re essentially saying, ‘This could be your future.

It works because it forces you to imagine yourself as the kind of person who always has a bouquet of tulips on the kitchen table. Research has shown that realizing that you are on your way to your “future self” can have a positive effect on your well-being by taking you out of short-term thinking. Thinking about the future can help you prioritize your health and perhaps act more ethically,

While it’s fun to daydream about your future, the concrete steps you need to take to get there can be intimidating. Maybe future you want to be fluent in French, but present you can barely order a croissant.

Start with clarifying the things in life that you value most, then set goals around them, Dr. Rego said; If your priority is to stay fit and healthy as you age, maybe your goal is to run a 5K. But don’t wait to feel inspired before taking that first step. Instead, when you do something toward your goal, “focus on how motivated you feel later, not earlier,” he said. As you start to see progress, it will get easier: you will be more inclined to do the things that move you closer to your future.

Anyone who’s had a kid for a flu shot and then ice cream knows what you don’t want to do, combining the power to create anticipation for something you don’t want to do. In a 2013 study On “tempt bundling,” participants who were given an iPod full of audiobooks that they could only listen to at the gym did 51 percent more work than those who weren’t. It was so encouraging that, when the study ended, 61 percent of subjects said they would only pay for access to audiobooks at the gym.

To create anticipation for the group holiday, Ms. Pierce sends customers a detailed packing list a month in advance. “I’m just as excited about the clothes I wear on travel as I am about traveling,” she said.

But the promise of a new shirt works just the way you are No excited about. In the spirit of dressing for what you want to feel, Ms. Pierce recommends using fashion subscription services like Rent the Runway to try out a new look in an affordable way.

“Let’s say you have a work presentation that you’re nervous about,” she said. “If you even have a new outfit that you can’t wait to wear, you’re going to see more of it.”

Several studies have also suggested That we get more pleasure from the anticipation of experiential purchases than from material goods. An important trick of business for Lydia Fennett is to increase anticipation, a charity auctioneer Who has raised more than half a billion dollars in his career.

For example, if it’s dinner with a celebrity, she’ll paint a picture of all the ways dinner can turn into something. Maybe you and the celebrity become friends. Maybe they become the godparents for your child. Maybe you spend the next few decades together doing fancy celebrity things, like taking selfies in flattering lights on a private jet.

“And just as I’m about to turn down the gavel and sell the lot, I’ll turn to the audience and say, ‘So they’ll dine with their new best friend, George Clooney, at Gramercy Tavern, and you’ll sit at home and eat pizza. Must have been there,’ said Ms. Fennett.

Dinner with Mr. Clooney aside, you can still maximize anticipation before an experience, such as a date. Choose an activity that’s meaningful to you or a space you want to show the other person, said Erica Kaplan, vice president of membership for matchmaking service Three Day Rule. “Then you’re waiting for two things,” she explained. “Date itself but introduce the other person to your world and see how they react.”

The flip side of positive anticipation is anticipatory anxiety — and the fascinating thing, Dr. Waugh said, is that they often occur together. “Anxiety and excitement are sister feelings,” he said. “Think about when you’re getting married or having your first child. It’s a mess of both.”

But it’s only harmful “when you focus only on the worry part and ignore the arousal part,” he said. The main thing is acknowledging the pleasant, positive side of what you are doing as well as the feelings of panic. research suggests that Dr. Waugh said, “When you re-evaluate anxious things as exciting, it actually makes you feel better about them.”

If parties are something you crave, said Megan White, an event planner in Savannah, Ga., don’t wait for a holiday to celebrate—just invent one. Throw a birthday party for the dog, or host a pancake breakfast for all the kids in your street. “Think of ways to make the occasion special even when there’s no special occasion,” she said. (Need some inspiration? Bow Tie Day, Lasagna Day and Hug Your Cat Day all coming this summerAnd International Talk Like a Pirate Day is in September.)

Whether it’s a party or a bribe or list night, anticipation can be a powerful tool for manipulating our emotions. When TV writer Anna Beth Chao writes an episode for “You” on Netflix, “We always try to end up with something where you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I have Received To see what happens next,'” she said.

When she gets stuck, she tells herself a story about the characters and sees where it leads. It’s a tactic she repeats in her personal life to try to avoid something she dreads, like the four-day drive from Los Angeles to her home in New Orleans.

“I basically tell myself a little story about what could have happened,” she said. “If you call it ‘Okay, what if it’s an adventure?’, it’s easy to get excited about it.”

Holly Burns is a writer in the San Francisco Bay Area and a frequent contributor to The New York Times.

produced by audio Kate Winslet,

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