(n.) the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures.
Do you wish you were heading off to some exotic location right now? Well research is showing that planning a trip well in advance could increase your happiness for much longer, giving you a lot more bang for your buck!
In 2010 a psychological study about the connection between anticipation and happiness was published online in a journal called Applied Research in Quality of Life. The authors of the study, researchers from the Netherlands, interviewed more than 1,500 people, including 974 vacationers, and found that people felt most happy before their trips.
I’m not talking about the week leading up to the trip when you are packing, organising kids and finishing up your work, that’s hectic. I’m talking about the year leading up to your holiday or retreat.
Now you need to know there is an art to anticipation, you don’t just book your airline ticket and go yipeee and be in a state of perpetual bliss until you depart, (in fact I think booking flights gives you the opposite experience). But if you actively look forward to your trip then you can get that holiday feeling way before your feet hit the tarmac.
One of the keys to anticipation is savouring, says Elizabeth Dunn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and a leading happiness researcher, savouring is an active, not passive, process. “It’s better to immerse yourself,” she said. Reading novels and poetry, watching films and television programs, browsing fashion and design blogs that are either from or about the place you plan to visit encourages you to not only learn about your destination, but to dream, providing some concrete details for your mind to latch on to. It may sound counterintuitive, but this building up of positive expectations and excitement actually helps our minds smooth over any minor discrepancies if reality doesn’t quite measure up to the fantasy. “We’re less likely to be bothered by these little holes if we build up our expectations ahead of time,” Professor Dunn said. “So go ahead and assume it’s going to be wonderful.” And if it is one of our retreats we can testify it will be!
One of things I do is to change my screensaver and Facebook homepage banner to photos of where I’m going. This gives me a little buzz of excitement every time I log on. Borrowing books from library is a must to learn some of the local traditions and places to see. I usually also try to learn a few helpful phrases and understand the currency conversion (if you have been on a retreat with me you will know I haven’t always mastered that, responding to questions about payment in the market with “um try two green ones and a red one”).
I also try to think in advance about what I want to get out the experience, is this an opportunity to relax and rejuvenate, learn a new skill or for spiritual practice. I want to get clear about my expectations because like everyone I don’t want to be disappointed. Therefore I may need to adjust my outlook if it seems I am seeking more than can be provided in a week long holiday. Sometimes my ideas go like this, right, I’m going to lose 5 kilos, master the art of Tai Chi, visit every local attraction, learn to cook the local cuisine, resolve my father issues, make a new best friend, have a massage everyday and rethink my direction in life! And sometimes I just think, really I have no idea what to expect, I’ll just go with the flow. Which trip do you think turns out best?
Preparing before your vacation or retreat also helps to stimulate your mind by learning something new. We get so caught up in our routines we don’t take the time to engage with new material. When we do this creates excitement in our minds, yes little bursts of energy and emotion. Talking to other people who have also travelled to the same destination not only gives you useful tips, but can create further anticipation for what you are about to experience. Also some people just love planning, they revel in getting all details just right, however if this is not you a retreat is definitely the way to go because we do it all for you.
In our, “gimme now” culture I also love the long sweet savour of delayed gratification. But once you get there please just enjoy and don’t spend your holiday planning your next getaway, this is a trap!
If you don’t have the means or right circumstances to plan a trip away, you can still engage with this notion of creating happiness through anticipation by planning your dream holiday, this is the one that comes when you win the lotto, pay off your car, the kids go to high school etc. so it won’t happen in the immediate future, but this one day holiday can help you through some pretty crappy days.
So it seems that understanding the psychology of travel and anticipation can value add to your much deserved and needed down time, you may as well make the most of it.
To take advantage of Vibrant Womens payment plans so you can anticipate your next dream escape, visit our Events Calendar.