Episode 267: The Anticipation Effect
Welcome back to Practically Happy. You’re listening to episode number 267: Anticipation Effect: Thriving Ahead. This is the beginning of the new year, 2024.
How are you feeling so far?
Our family spent a quiet Christmas at home for the first time in a long time. We spent the entire Christmas season, Thanksgiving and Christmas all at home without family visiting.
Family Visit to San Francisco
And without going to visit family until New Year’s Day on January 1st, we packed up and took a great direct flight. Breeze Airlines is a newish budget airline, and they have a direct flight from Richmond, Virginia to San Francisco, California, kind of random connection between Richmond and San Francisco.
But we are so thrilled with that because we have family that lives just south of San Francisco. It had been about five years since we had taken our kids out to visit. We’ve seen them in the meantime when we’re all together in Utah or doing other types of family vacations like in big groups. But this was the first time in five years that we had taken our kids out directly to visit one other family.
It’s my husband’s younger brother, his wife, and their five kids and their kids line up. Somewhat with my kids, which was fun. The cousins got to spend time hanging out. My daughter and my nieces made about 10 different Taylor Swift music videos. They would take our phones and go turn on the music and dance and create choreography.
It was so fun to watch them reconnect in a deep way after so many years. And we had been looking forward to that trip and just really enjoyed kicking off the new year. with family, spending some time exploring that area. We spent a beautiful day at Monterey Bay Aquarium. We spent another great day up on the pier in San Francisco, and now we’re home.
We’re settling back in. The kids are back at school, and I have some space and quiet to think about the new year, the upcoming year with some additional. Intention. And I wanted to share some thoughts about the benefits of planning ahead to create anticipation. I talk a lot about planning on this show. I have for years and years.
I’m naturally a planner. That’s part of the way that My personality was built was with this forward thinking, box checking gene. There are some real benefits to it in the practical way that I like to plan, but there’s also some benefits to simply having things to look forward to. And that’s what I want to talk about today.
Advantages of anticipation. Before I jump into the science of anticipation and share some ways to think about this new year, I want to jump into a segment that’s new for this season called The Book Nook.
Segment: Book Nook
I’ve read two books recently that I have been thinking a lot about and that I think are interesting and they both have scenes from psychiatric hospitals in them, which I think is additionally interesting because for the last semester and again, coming up this semester, I am teaching one day a week as a nursing clinical instructor at a behavioral health hospital here in Virginia.
I’m working with the nursing students as they’re learning about psychiatric health care and to have it. Some different inside scoops from these two different authors about psychiatric institutions has been interesting.
Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult by Maria Bamford
The first book Dave gave me for Christmas, it’s called Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult by Maria Bamford.
She is a stand-up comedian. She was Lady Dynamite on Netflix special. She has some other comedian specials like stand-up comedy specials on Netflix. And I wasn’t all that familiar with her before reading the book. I thought it was interesting and frank. She talks about her struggles with depression, with suicidal ideation, and with being diagnosed with bipolar 2 depression.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, probably, to do a deep dive into a mental health memoir. I found it incredibly interesting, touching, and relatable in some unexpected ways.
With my own struggles with mental health over the years, I’ve talked about on this show having situational and seasonal depression myself and having family members, close and distant family members with different varieties of mental illnesses, being able to read about someone’s candid experience managing mental illness and striving for mental health was refreshing.
I won’t say that it was a super fun read. She is funny, and the book is funny because she’s a comedian, and it also is sad and touching and, in some ways, a little bit, overwhelming and ultimately hopeful.
My nursing students aren’t assigned a book like this, as part of their mental health and psychiatric rotation, and it’s something that I’m excited to take onto the unit and share pieces of in our pre and post clinical meetings to give some inside perspective.
I’m also excited to take a list of well-known people who have spent time in behavioral health hospitals to share with the students. To just frame out the idea that all the patients that we’re, interacting with when we’re on a mental health floor are sons and daughters and sisters and brothers and moms and dads and cousins and employees and bosses.
And sometimes it becomes easy to objectify patients, especially who are managing mental illness. This book was really humanizing. So sure, I’ll join your cult. I recommend if you’re interested in learning about the insider view of managing mental illness and striving for mental health.
The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride
The next book that I am on the tail end of, I haven’t quite finished it yet, but I’m so engrossed in it and really enjoying it. It’s called The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. It was on Barack Obama’s list of favorite books of 2023, and I have in the past really enjoyed Obama’s recommendations, so I pulled it up on Audible.
I’ve been listening to it for the last week. I’m almost finished, and I’m just deeply invested in the characters, in the story. I’m finding it complex and heartwarming and entertaining all at once. Part of the novel is set at Penhurst, which was a state school and asylum that ran from the early 1900s until 1987.
Although The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store is a fictional novel, this is a piece of historical fiction. The characters talked about in the book are fictional, but the institution was real, a terrible asylum state run institution with widespread crowding and abuse that ran over years and years until it was finally deemed to violate constitutional rights and closed officially in 1987.
The final sentence on the Amazon description say, “McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community, heaven, and earth, that sustain us.” Huge fan, the heaven and earth grocery store. And Sure, I’ll join your cult. Those are the books for today’s Book Nook.
The Anticipation Effect
Let’s talk about the anticipation effect. First, let’s just start off with a basic definition of anticipation. I think you probably all listening has a general idea when I say anticipation. You think, I’m thinking about something in the future. But what is the actual definition?
In scientific terms, anticipation refers to the ability or process of predicting, preparing for, or expecting a future event or outcome based on available information and prior experience.
Anticipation involves cognitive, emotional, and sometimes physiological preparation for an event that’s expected to occur. So, it’s not only the thinking about, but also the preparing for. In neuroscience and psychology, anticipation involves the activation of brain networks that allow individuals to forecast future events.
This process engages various functions, including memory, attention, perception, and decision making, to form these expectations around what might happen. Anticipation isn’t only about prediction, deciding what’s going to happen and predicting it. It’s also about the emotional response or excitement associated with looking forward to something positive or preparing for something challenging.
The emotional aspect of anticipation often influences our behavior and motivation, shaping how individuals’ approach and respond to anticipated events. Scientifically, anticipation encompasses basic prediction of a future event, or the complex interplay of cognitive, emotional, and physiological mechanisms involved in preparing for and responding to that event.
In my experience, anticipation is less about prediction. about answering the question, what will happen, and more about planning. What do I want to happen? What is possible in the future? Although it does encompass both, there are some things that are more given to us, things that we know that are coming up, positive or negative, depending on how we frame them, that we can anticipate.
And there are wide open spaces, so many decisions that are left up to us. That we get to choose how we want to proceed. What do we want to experience in our lives? How do we want to plan or move through the next day or week or month or year? And at this transition from one year to the next, I love the turn of the page.
New Year Transition
I just ordered all our new 2024 calendars. I love a calendar. My favorite, most recent calendars for our family are the Essential Calendar, and I’ll put a link in the show notes. The calendar is quarterly. I have a winter calendar that has January, February, March all on one big page, big enough to write notes in.
It hangs on the door of my pantry so we can all see what’s going on with everyone’s life for the entire quarter. And that’s been effective for us to be able to look ahead, not only at this month, but also what’s coming in the next month. And then, I plan my meal plan seasonally. So, we just updated our minimal meal plan for our winter meals.
And knowing that I have my minimal meal plan for January, February, March, and that calendar hung up for January, February, March gives me this kind of overview, which is nice.
Not only are we predicting things that are going to happen or we have on the calendar because of school holidays or because of work projects and deadlines, also, what are we filling in the details with?
What are the Benefits of Anticipation?
What are we doing with that blank space? One thing I love in this scientific definition is the idea that anticipation encompasses the emotional response and excitement associated with looking forward to something positive. In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor talks about a study where people who just think about watching their favorite movies raised their endorphin levels by 27%.
They’re not watching the movie yet. They’re just thinking about watching their favorite movie and their happy hormones go up. He says anticipating future rewards can light up the pleasure centers in your brain as much as possible or more as the actual reward will. This is one of the huge benefits of anticipation.
It creates positive effects, physiological and emotional effects in the present. Even before the thing that we want to do or are looking forward to happens. So, we have a future pin on our calendar, and every time we think about it, we get a little boost of positive emotion and positive hormones as we savor in advance the future thing that we’re excited about.
- Improved mental and physiological wellbeing
Another way to think about anticipation is savoring. I’ve talked about savoring before. It’s one of my very favorite ideas within the field of positive psychology. The savoring process involves noticing and attending to a positive experience and then responding to that stimulus savoring always happens in the present.
It’s a present experience that you’re thinking about and building and enlarging and attending to a positive experience, but the experience you’re attending to. Doesn’t have to be in the present. Savoring something in the present would be mindfulness about what you’re doing in that very moment. You can also savor the past, that would be reflection, and savoring the future is called anticipation.
When you think about that movie that Shawn refers to in his study, you think about how this Friday, you’re going to watch one of your favorite movies and you not only think about it in a passing moment, but you think about it by remembering how much you like it. Maybe thinking about the first time you watched it and how much you enjoyed it.
Maybe you remember some of your favorite lines and you attend to the experience that you’re going to have in the future. You’re building up positive emotions right now about something that is yet to come. That’s called savoring the future or anticipation.
Savoring is widely researched, and it’s been shown to be associated with greater life satisfaction, positive affect or like good mood, and more frequent happiness. As well as decreased depression and decreased negative affect or negative mood.
A couple months ago on the show, I shared about a two-step process of how to feel better in the future. If you recall in that episode, I talked about dreaming big and getting real. Dreaming big refers to the idea of putting some things down on paper that you want to experience.
And then getting real is when you flip into some pragmatism or the actual logistics of how you are going to do those things, how you’re going to accomplish them, or how they’re going to happen in your life. When we are trying to build anticipation, positive anticipation for future events, we can rely on the two-step process to ensure that we are actively building positive anticipation in a meaningful way.
- Reduced Stress
When done well, anticipating positive events through planning can reduce our stress and anxiety levels because it helps us cope by having a sense of control over something. Especially when there are many things going on in our lives that we don’t have a sense of control over.
Writing that thing on your calendar and then looking at it, reminding yourself of it, giving yourself that moment of savoring the event that is happening in the future by, fleshing out the details. Maybe you need to buy a ticket. Maybe you want to invite a friend.
All those things can give you something that you feel like you’re in control of a positive event upcoming in your life. It can also increase your motivation. And goal attainment in general, planning allows you to create some clear objectives and work towards them.
- Building Motivation
Sometimes you do the dream big step, and you have a big idea that requires a little bit more planning and thoughtfulness and maybe strategy, maybe some budgeting to make it happen, and all of that. Motivation moving towards that big dream or big idea can be positive anticipation. Doing things in the present that help you move toward something you look forward to in the future can be some of the benefits of anticipation.
- Improved Decision Making
Another fun advantage of anticipation is improved decision making. When you anticipate a positive outcome in the future, it can influence your present decision making by encouraging you to be more proactive and positive in your choices.
You may be more open to problem solving techniques and coping skills because of the excitement and positive emotions generated by the anticipation of the future event, those can open your positive emotions overall to be able to have better resources right now in the present for whatever difficult thing you’re managing on your way to that fun thing that you’re looking forward to.
I have identified that there are several benefits or advantages to anticipation.
What are the Steps for Building Anticipation
Now, I want to go through some basic steps for building anticipation in your life. I’m sure a lot of you do some of these things automatically, and it’s nice to have things broken down into step-by-step actions. Maybe there’s some steps in here that you haven’t heard of before or that you want to include as you are trying to create and build some anticipation in your life, to feel, all those good feelings that can come from it.
1. Identify the Experience to Anticipate
So, the first step to building anticipation is identifying the event or experience that you’re going to anticipate. It could be a vacation. That’s one of my favorite things to anticipate. It could be a special occasion. It could be a personal goal. Or simply an upcoming activity like watching your favorite movie.
2. Set an Expectation
The second step is to set an expectation or a goal for that event define it a little bit deeper. What is it that you hope to gain from it? Why do you enjoy it? Having just a clear intention around the experience will help you as you’re thinking about the experience itself in advance to create some of those specific positive emotions around what’s going to happen.
3. Research and Plan
The next step might be to research and plan. Engage in some planning related to the event. This is a make it happen step where the big dream. gets real, as the two-step process teaches us. We need to not only think about an idea, but also plan it, be pragmatic in how it’s going to happen, when, what resources are necessary, who might be there, what are some of the things that we need to do in advance to make it happen.
Creating an itinerary, gathering resources, deciding, all those things add to the excitement by building out that vision and making it more possible for it to happen. We must be good at both steps, not only thinking of something that we’d like to do, also putting it into action with those specific steps.
And I think this is where a lot of people break down. They say, oh, I’ve been wanting to go on a trip to Hawaii for five years and I just can’t make it happen. If you just think, I want to go on a trip to Hawaii, and you don’t ever write it on the calendar, buy a plane ticket, plan a hotel stay, or visiting friends, figure out a date that works, ask for time off of work, set up your budget to accommodate the trip, whatever, there’s all these little steps that, have to happen in order for the trip to happen.
That’s a big one. it’s a lot easier to pop in your favorite movie or we don’t pop movies in anymore. I guess you look it up on Netflix or stream it than it is to go on a big vacation. In both cases, the how is it going to happen becomes necessary. And this step, the research and planning are part of the fun.
My first step almost always. My first concrete step when I’m planning a vacation myself is to buy plane tickets. Sometimes that’s not my first step, but often my very first step is I’m going to, I’m going to buy the flights. And then I know that we’re going, and I can anticipate and be really excited about it.
And all those other things, I now have the motivation to plan all the details because I know that we’re going. For a lot of people, maybe that needs to come later. For example, I’m going to New York City over my birthday weekend in February and I have flights and I have a hotel room, but I don’t have any other plans yet.
I’ve still been really excited about that trip, and I think about it, oh, I’m spending my birthday in New York City with some friends, and I don’t know the details of what I’m doing yet, but I know that I’m going to be there. Because I have a flight and a hotel and a babysitter and those are the three basics that I need to just get there.
And even if that’s all I have and I don’t plan any more specifics, I can think about and anticipate that trip in advance. Now how much more fun is the anticipation when I start to plan some details to look forward to? A specific meal. A specific hike. A show that I want to go to a dinner with friends, maybe even an outfit that I want to wear that I love wearing in New York City, whatever the more specific I can get about the details.
This is where the savoring piece comes in that I can savor in advance all these little things. And I feel right now the joy and excitement and love and hope that I have for that trip that’s still. A month away. The research and plan are an important part of any anticipation experience. And the more specific you get, the more fun the anticipation itself will be.
I’m also going to say here, just like a little, and asterisk. Flexibility is always helpful, so I can plan and anticipate these details with a little star that even if some of these things don’t happen, I’m going to be flexible and enjoy them.
I can enjoy the experience of looking forward to something now that may not actually happen on the trip, and that doesn’t take away from how exciting it was to think about it.
4. Create a Countdown
The fourth step that can be fun is to create a countdown or a milestone. This may seem more practical for something that’s further away, and my best example of this from my own life is from years ago in 2017. We gave our kids a trip to Italy for Christmas. We weren’t going on the trip until spring break, which was April that year.
On Christmas morning, they opened a big box that had a giant paper chain in it, and we had created this paper chain for every day between Christmas Day and the day we left for Italy. It added kind of fun bonus every Saturday we had created a different color loop in the paper chain with an activity on it that was written on the chain.
We had weekly Italian themed activities to do as a family, simple things like watch opera on YouTube, which was not everyone’s favorite, go get gelato, which was everyone’s favorite weekly activities that kind of paved the pathway of the months of waiting between Christmas morning and spring break where we left for the trip.
My kids still talk about that, not only about the trip, but about the chain, about the paper chain and the anticipation, the milestone and countdown of leading up to the trip, which was as fun and as exciting as the trip itself.
Another simple example from our gym, this last, two weeks ago now, I put up a big progress poster at the CrossFit gym that Dave and I go to as an invitation for people to write down their goals, things that they’re excited to work on this year at the gym. I wrote, one of my goals, which is to be able to do five strict pull ups. I can currently do three.
My goal two years ago was to be able to do four. And even though I’m not yet at four, I decided to increase my goal because I’m feeling motivated this year.
By the end of the year, I’d like to be able to do five pull ups. We shall see. Just writing it down and telling people about it increases the likelihood that it’s going to happen. So, there you have it. I’ll keep you updated on that.
My husband wrote down three goals that are the same goal, just an increasing number. So, he would like to do some ring muscle ups. This is a particular type of gymnastic exercise that’s done in CrossFit. That’s cool. You could YouTube it if you’re curious about it. He can already do two in a row. He would like to be able to do four in a row.
He put a little box next to that goal on the progress poster. Then he put 6 with a little box, and then he put 8 with a little box. So, his goal, his big goal for this year is to be able to do 8 ring muscle ups in a row. He set himself up for success by putting little micro goals in between. Maybe by the end of the year he’ll have 4 or 6 or 8. But giving himself steppingstones on the pathway to his greater goal can increase anticipation and motivation all along the way.
I thought it was a great idea.
5. Visualize and Imagine
Step 5 of building anticipation is to visualize and imagine. This is that savoring piece where you engage your senses. Imagine the sights and the sounds and the smells, the feelings associated with your upcoming event.
As I’ve talked about on the show, I’m hosting a women’s trip to Turkey this July, and the trip is almost halfway full. There’s eight people signed up as of recording. There are 20 spots available total. I’ve been anticipating this trip for a month since I decided to host it.
Some of the things that I’m doing are looking up videos of the food, the street food in Istanbul, I’ve watched some cool videos of the hot air balloons over Cappadocia and remembering some fun trips that I’ve been on with women in the past. I had an incredible trip with my sisters and my mom in Morocco last year in March, and Turkey gives me some of those same energy.
Some of the same as design and rugs and artisan energies. I’ve been reflecting on how beautiful my trip to Morocco was and engaging all those same sensual feelings as the senses and the smells and that and the heat as anticipate positively my upcoming trip to Turkey. Visualizing and imagining is a big part of anticipation, a way that you can engage physiologically and build hormonally your positive emotions.
6. Share and Discuss
The sixth step is to share and discuss. Share your excitement with others. Talk about the thing you’re excited about. Discussing your anticipation with friends or family can increase the excitement and build a sense of community or camaraderie around the event. This is especially fun to do with community events, things that you want to experience with other people. Sharing that and building that in conversation can help you look forward to it.
Number seven is to prepare, engage in preparation, which could involve packing, gathering supplies, organizing logistics, completing last minute tasks. Maybe it’s as simple as making sure that you have microwave popcorn available in the pantry for your movie night so that you can add some of those little touches that make the experience even more wonderful.
8. Embrace the Buildup
Step eight is embracing the buildup. Enjoy the anticipation itself. I mentioned in that research done by Shawn Achor that the anticipation can be as or more positive than the event itself. Another bit of research I find fascinating, a vacation anticipation study done in the Netherlands. Reports that the biggest boost of a person’s happiness level occurs in the eight weeks leading up to vacation.
Of course, this must be a vacation that has been planned at least eight weeks in advance. So as people are getting ready, logistically preparing, thinking about, planning for a vacation, their overall happiness level increases for an entire If that doesn’t give you a reason to plan a vacation and plan for it and anticipate it, I don’t know what will.
9. Manage Expectations
The final two steps are to manage expectations, which is that asterisk that I talked about with flexibility, build anticipation while keeping your expectations realistic, and understand that things might not go exactly as you planned, and it’s still worthwhile to plan them and to think about them and enjoy them in advance.
10. Reflect on the Experience
Finally, when the anticipated event occurs, fully immerse yourself in the experience, stay mindful, and then take time to reflect or savor the past, to reflect on the anticipation process as well as the experience itself, and appreciate how the anticipation added to the overall enjoyment of the experience.
What are you Looking Forward To?
So, here’s the final question of this show about the advantages of anticipation. What are you looking forward to? What do you have that you’re excited about this week, or next week, or this month? When you think about the year, what are you excited about? What do you have to anticipate, to look forward to, to be able to enjoy in advance?
In Winnie the Pooh, the author A.A. Milne wrote about Pooh, “What I like best, and then he had to stop and think, because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
Friends, it’s called anticipation, and I hope that in learning a little bit about it, it will help you prioritize. Prioritize building and planning experiences in your life, small and big, that will help you look forward to things, increasing both your hope and your happiness.
Thanks so much for being here, for lending me some of your attention today as you listen to Anticipation Effect, episode 267.
Anticipate a Trip to Turkey with me!
Hey, if you’re looking for something big to anticipate in 2024, why not join me? In Istanbul and Cappadocia with a group of women this July.
Let me just say from a research perspective that minimizing stress, planning, making a local connection and going far away are four components that research shows makes vacation exceptionally happy? This trip is going to have all of them.
Your stress can be minimized because the trip is all planned for you. I’ve created a beautiful itinerary together with TrovaTrip. We’re going to have a local guide. Once you get on the ground in Istanbul, your transportation is managed for the entire trip. It’s all the benefits of a locally created specialized itinerary without having to do any of that yourself.
Just sign up. and show up. Registration for the trip is open now and we don’t leave for six months so you have six whole months to anticipate and build excitement around this trip if you sign up right now. You can make a local connection because we have a local guide who will be on the ground with us the entire time.
I’m so looking forward to that. And although staycations are amazing, research shows that 85 percent of travelers best trips over the last five years were far away from home. Turkey is far away. Why don’t you join me? There are 12 spots remaining and I will link the sign up. In the show notes so that it’s easy for you to find.
Also, if you have any questions about the trip, I’m happy to share. There’s a whole bunch of highlights on my Instagram @LiveFreeMiranda. Also, you can send me an email at any time, email@example.com.
Also, before you head out, I want to let you know that I have some individual spots available for Clarity and Creative Coaching in 2024.
If you’ve been curious about it or are interested and want to get a feel for it, you can sign up for a free introductory coaching call through the link in my show notes. I am excited to meet you.
Again, I appreciate you tuning in. I hope you have a wonderful week and join me again next week for another episode of Practically Happy.