With all of the variables and unexpected twists and turns that life can throw at us, it’s especially important to have positive, happy things to look forward to. Waiting is not everyone’s favorite pastime — and sometimes it can even bring on feelings of anxiety. However, although anticipation can, at times, go hand-in-hand with anxious feelings, that’s not always a bad thing. It makes sense that anticipating an uncertain or never-before-experienced event can bring up some anticipatory anxiety. However, these feelings can actually cause you to turn a potentially negative feeling (anxiousness) into a positive one of looking forward to what is ahead. Building positive anticipation carries with it many benefits to those who choose to not just “live in the now” but also look forward to the future, as well.
By having something fun or exciting to look forward to, large or small, you’re imagining a new potential future with good times ahead.
Whether it’s planning a family summer vacation, seeing an upcoming show, spending the day outdoors or looking forward to a date night over the weekend, planning for and contemplating upcoming events can help you through trying times. This has become especially important over the last several years, when we’ve dealt with the disappointment of our plans and upcoming events being canceled and rescheduled. And while living in the present is important to truly enjoying where you are in your life, that doesn’t mean we can’t experience the pure pleasure of looking forward to something. It can involve a lot of planning and looking ahead at calendars and events, but the payoff is worth it.
Here are 7 reasons why you need to experience the power of positive anticipation:
1. It helps you focus on the good, rather than the bad. When you’re thinking positively, you have less room for negative thinking. The cues you give your brain about an upcoming positive experience can boost endorphins and help you to maintain a positive emotional state.
2. You find new ways to stay motivated and energized. When you have something to look forward to, the challenges you may be facing currently can feel less overwhelming. This helps you to feel less “stuck” in the now.
3. Looking forward can help with stress management. Studies have shown that goal-setting and positive anticipation prevents our stress level from skyrocketing out of control.
4. It can give you a sense of purpose. Looking forward to something helps you create and follow a plan towards a better life. Life feels more rewarding.
5. It adds an increased sensitivity to rewards. Studies have found that anticipating positive experiences makes that positive experience feel even better when it actually happens.
6. It helps you feel more in charge of your life. Whether you’re looking forward to a new hobby, meeting with a friend, taking a fun trip or even just enjoying your favorite dessert, having things to look forward to helps you start to feel more like you are living your life rather than just existing.
7. Having something to look forward to helps you tap into your “happy” hormones. The act of anticipating a future positive experience triggers the release of hormones including dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphin and anandamide.
By looking forward to positive experiences in the future, you can really learn to also enjoy the present. What are you looking forward to? Give yourself some positive anticipation and enjoy the ride.