I’m a huge fan of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books. If you read these brilliant stories as a child, you should re-read them now; so much of the humor is pitched at grown-ups –marriage, friendship, theories of child-rearing.
After I’d re-read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for the fiftieth time, I decided to try Betty MacDonald’s adult work. In her memoir, Onions in the Stew, she remarked, “Going down to the beach after a storm is the only time in my adult life when I experience that wonderful, joyous, childhood feeling of expectancy.”
This observation struck me, because I’ve noticed that I too rarely experience a “sense of expectancy.” The fact is, I don’t have a very joyful spirit. I rarely look forward even to fun events or activities. Also, I dislike errands, logistical details, or any kind of hassle, and even when those hurdles are fairly minor, they can overshadow my sense of anticipation.
But to go through the days and weeks and months of life, looking forward to nothing, struck me as a sour way to live.
One of my aims for my happiness project, therefore, has been to boost my feelings of pleasant expectancy. First, I’ve made a real effort to add items to my schedule that I actually anticipate, to make time for activities that I really enjoy – to go to a bookstore (one of my favorite things to do) or on a smell adventure with a friend (which I’m doing today).
Thinking along the same lines, a friend told me, “I looked at my seven-year-old nephew’s weekly schedule, and he had all sorts of fun activities, with art, music, baseball, library. I thought, I like to do those things, too! I wish my schedule had art, music, baseball, and library. Now I make a big effort to do more fun things.”
At the same time, I’ve also pushed myself to revel in anticipation, to devote mental energy and time to looking forward to activities I enjoy. In what’s known as “rosy prospection,” anticipation of an event is sometimes greater than the happiness actually experienced. All the more reason to revel in anticipation.
I’ve found that I can often re-frame activities to help myself anticipate them more. Do I view decorating the apartment for Halloween as a chore or as a pleasure? Do I think it’s tiresome or fun to shop for school supplies? I’ve been surprised by how readily I can steer my attitude.
One of my rules of happiness is that to eke out the most happiness from an experience, I must anticipate it, savor it as it unfolds, express happiness, and recall a happy memory. By making an effort mindfully to look forward to pleasant experiences, I deepen my experience of happiness.
How about you? Are you a person who often feels happy anticipation? Or, like me, do you find that you have to work to have a “childhood feeling of expectancy”? How do you help yourself to do that?
From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.