― Andy Warhol
Last week's prompt was about activating memories by remembering.
This week my encouragement is to turn our minds not to the past but to the future.
This week's word is 'anticipate'.
Vanessa and I are big believers in the power of positive anticipation. We always like to have something planned that we're looking forward to - big or small.
Vanessa especially is the kind of person who always has things planned for her (and our family) to look forward to.
For example, we almost always plan our next holiday (or two). In fact, we often joke to each other that looking forward to an upcoming trip is sometimes as good - if not better - than the trip itself.
Funnily enough, there's a study that found this to be true.
It studied the happiness of vacation goers and non-vacation goers. It found that before going on a trip, happiness levels in the vacation goers were higher than those who didn't go but that after a trip, there was not a noticeable difference in the two groups.
They concluded that the anticipation of the holiday seemed to be the real benefit - not the holiday itself!
Vanessa is great at planning holidays but her anticipatory superpowers extend much further than that.
She always plans get-togethers with friends, has stacks of books next to her bed that she's planning to read, and researched restaurants, exhibitions, movies, and shows that she wants to experience!
While I'm nowhere near as good at forward planning as she is I know for a fact that this forward-thinking and planning has been good for our family.
And it's not just anecdotal evidence or a hunch I have - science seems to back it up.
The Benefits of Positive Anticipation
A few weeks ago, I came across a study that showed that anticipation of future positive events can lead to an increase in well-being and mental health!
Science also shows that dopamine (the pleasure molecule) is released when we anticipate positive future things.
Sadly this is something that leaves us open to manipulation by marketers - but it is also something that perhaps we can use to our advantage too by being aware of.
This may be easier for some than others.
If you're a planner
Some, like Vanessa, may be avid planners and probably already have a list of positive plans in place.
If that's you, perhaps the task this week is to let your mind wander in the direction of what you have planned and to savour that.
If you're not a planner
For others, finding something to anticipate may be a bit tougher.
Maybe this week's prompt is to think about upcoming stages of life and the positives that those stages might bring - or to reframe future events in a more positive light.
I, for example, have been pondering what my work life might look like going forward. While it's a bit daunting to think about, I can see that perhaps some changes are coming - and with them, some opportunities.
Another example comes from a friend dreading their last child leaving home. The impending 'empty nest' has been playing on their mind, and so they've been reframing it lately to think about the opportunities that this next period of life might bring for travel.
Put some plans in place
Perhaps for others of us, this week's prompt is one to put some plans in place.
It need not be anything big like a holiday (although maybe it is).
Any plan with a positive outcome would do.
- a catch-up for coffee with a friend
- a sweet treat at the end of your workweek
- a bubble bath before bed
- a favourite dish from your favourite takeout for dinner
- planning an outing to see a movie
- a date with that special someone
- a quiet night in with a book
- a massage
Any of these simple pleasures could do the trick.
And don't just stop at one!
― John Green
Develop a Rhythm of Positive Anticipation
If you want to take the power of positive anticipation to the next level, maybe some of these things could become a regular thing (Tuesday nights become Bubble Bath night, and Fridays are Fajita Fridays!). So anticipation becomes something of a rhythm.
Or perhaps this week, it's worth getting out of the diary to plug a few things to look forward to over the coming months.
Maybe a combination of smaller, more immediate things and one or two bigger long-term things might be a good idea too!
Don't forget to include others in your plans too. Anticipation can be a lot of fun when it's shared.
I have one friend who has a ritual with his wife that the first Friday of every month is one in which they take turns planning a fun date. They've been ice skating, taken mystery flights to other cities, been to hot springs and had all manner of other dates over the years.
I can't wait to hear what this week's prompt will lead to! Stop by the group to share.
― Nicholas Sparks
PS: Thanks to Vanessa's amazing abilities in this arena, I'll be away in the coming weeks on... a holiday! I'll try to post while I'm gone, as I'd like to keep my year of prompts rolling on, but if I'm a little late in posting - you know why!