Anticipation is a powerful feeling. Think of how you felt the last time you were really looking forward to something, or how you felt the night before a holiday or birthday as a kid. How did it feel in your body? The sense of giddy excitement that comes with looking forward to something can help you feel more capable of dealing with what’s on your plate.
Unlike anxiety, which is the fear of what may happen, anticipation is a feeling of excitement about what might be coming. Instead of dreading something or worrying about how things are going to go wrong, anticipation lets you imagine what might happen if everything goes right.
Everyone experiences their emotions differently, but anticipation might feel like you have butterflies in your stomach, or you might feel more energized or jumpier than usual.
Why building anticipation is hard right now
It’s been a long time since we could live our lives in any sort of normal way, and so many people are feeling burned out. We’re in the thick of winter, which can already bring up issues like Seasonal Affective Disorder, and we’re still in a pandemic.
As we go through the waves of covid outbreaks, we keep experiencing the cycle of things opening back up and closing down again, and while it’s important to follow public health guidelines, it’s also really frustrating to keep getting your hopes up that things are going back to normal only to be let down again. If you’re feeling exhausted and defeated, that makes a lot of sense.
While we might not be able to make plans in quite the way we’re used to, there are still things we can do to find things to look forward to.
How to build anticipation
There are lots of big ways to build anticipation, like planning a trip or setting goals, but there are also many smaller ways to let yourself feel a sense of anticipation. Giving yourself something to look forward to can be as simple as having your favorite warm beverage in the morning.
You don’t need to break the bank or go all out to give yourself things to look forward to. You can make plans to see people you love, check out that book you’ve been meaning to read from your library app, take a low cost or free online class to learn something new – the list is endless.
Spend some time thinking about what feels exciting or fun to you. How can you make room for more of that in your life right now, not some time in the future when things are “perfect”?
Why is having things to look forward to important?
Anticipation can increase happiness
It’s probably no surprise that exciting or positive experiences can make you happy. But did you know that the feeling of anticipation leading up to something can increase the sense of happiness you feel overall? In fact, research has shown that planning or looking forward to a trip can make you feel happier than actually going on the trip. Knowing you have something to look forward to can give you an extra little boost of excitement or the willingness to keep going, because you know you have something great to look forward to.
Having something to look forward to feels good
Feeling anticipation can be inspiring and energizing. You may even feel more creative or productive when you’re looking forward to something, because knowing you have something good coming your way can make you feel a lot more capable of dealing with day to day nonsense. It’s fun to feel excited!
Knowing you have something to look forward to can give you hope
Having something to look forward to can also give us a sense of much needed hope or optimism about the future. Life is hard right now, and it can be tempting to feel like there’s nothing to feel hopeful about, especially when you’re feeling distressed or discouraged. We can’t control a lot of what goes on in the world in general, but we can control some things in our own lives. One of the things we can control is giving ourselves things to look forward to, which can inspire hope. Anticipating something can also help you challenge the negative beliefs you have about what’s coming. It gives you a chance to imagine the future with good things in it, not just bad.
Anticipation is distracting
Distractions are a useful coping skill. Sometimes the distractions we choose can cause problems, but that’s not always the case. If you’re overwhelmed with things, giving yourself a distraction can allow you to take a break. Distractions come in many forms, and one helpful one is planning things to look forward to. You don’t even have to make formal plans, just daydreaming can be enough of a distraction to help you get through the dreariness of these winter days.