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How to create more anticipatory joy in an instant world

Do you remember rushing home with excitement because your favorite show was about to come on that week? Eagerly waiting for Friday when abc’s show series would drop and you could finally find out what was going on with Corey and Topanga!

Have we created an instant gratification paradise that has eliminated anticipatory joy? The anticipation of basically anything positive, whether big or small, can create that joy. The result of this is the same release of dopamine and serotonin that is activated when we feel happy.

The thing is, there is so much available at our fingertips that we don’t have to anticipate anything unless we plan it. Does that mean our brains are experiencing less of that happy hormone?

Yes. But here’s the good news. We can create as much or as little anticipatory joy in our lives that feels right for us. Activities where we can create this joy are things like watching your favorite movie, hosting a party, having a weekly club meeting, reading, playing a game, traveling, seeing a friend. These are just a few examples of events that cause us to feel anticipatory joy and yes most of these events can be almost instantly accessed. With a few tips, we can be challenged to experience more anticipatory joy in our daily lives. Scheduling, consistency, discipline. While these present like obvious simple habits to develop as they are constantly thrown at us as the keys to a full life, they aren’t, because we have the option to have most things without needing to exercise them.

Let’s be specific. Scheduling. In the past I have had friends tell me “there’s no way I could stop watching, I had to find out what happens.” Before they knew it, they watched six hours of Netflix and finished the series....done. Nothing to look forward to. No rushing home Thursday evening to watch it at a certain time because Thursdays are your night to do that. No coordinating with friends who are also watching the show and alternating nights to host watch parties. No spread out anticipation over a few months of enjoying the show because you watched it all in one night. I’m focusing on this show example, but you get the point. Create a schedule around whatever it is and follow the schedule, don’t over consume, and schedule times for smaller doses of consumption. Also remember that “I was too anxious to wait and find out” feeling is a good thing. Some levels of anxiety are a good thing! Anxiety and excitement are often referred to as sister emotions and in instances like this, they are. Reframe the anxiousness as anticipation and ride that feeling out instead of eliminating it with immediate satisfaction.

Consistency. This one pretty much speaks for itself but never hurts to “consistently” mention. Do more of what makes you happy. Don’t get discouraged by this false narrative that happiness is some kind of state and if you aren’t in it all the time you aren’t happy, it’s simply not true, and it’s discouraging. Focus on the small moments of happiness. Hang on to those and do more of those. Don’t wait for others to do them with you. Be conscious of the experiences that activate those feelings of joy and consistently seek out more of them.

Discipline. Another one that really speaks for itself but lets use a specific example. You recently read about a new dish that you are excited to take your best shot at. It’s Monday and you decide that Sunday is when you will have the given amount of time to try it out and it will also give you time to buy the items and prepare. A few hours pass and you decide that dish sounds really good, you just can’t wait until the weekend, you order and have it delivered that night. Instantly, six days of anticipatory joy are eliminated. While this might not be big event or deal in the long term, this is a small example of how much we can control this feeling with our habits. Exercise is one of the most obvious examples. We know it makes us feel good after but often lack the discipline to push through. If we focused more on the feeling that comes after, more people would exercise. Instead of instantly downloading a book you want to read on your kindle, become a member of your local library, utilize their e-services app and wait in the cue until the book is available for you to rent. Little effort to integrate more of these habits into your daily life will have a big impact.

Anticipatory joy can activate feelings that can be better then the actual condition we are anticipating. Don’t let our world of immediate satisfaction eliminate the benefits that anticipatory joy has on your overall well being. Tweak some small habits in your daily life to maximize the benefits that it can bring us.


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