Increasing Happiness with Anticipation

Damon GonzalezLifestyle, Travel

I’m right in the middle of my busy season where I am working on Saturdays and Sundays just to stay above water. Some days the to-do list is longer when I stop working than it was 10 hours earlier. To make matters worse, the weather this time of year is often too cold to enjoy some reprieve by working outdoors.

Despite my current obstacles, I feel happy because I have learned how to get more out of life by mastering the art of anticipation.

What is it that I am anticipating? I’m glad you asked.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to travel. I have found that having at least one plane trip booked at all times adds joy to my life. In the midst of the hard work that I am putting in now, I am happier knowing that when I open my airline apps on my phone, I already have a ticket to Reno for my brother’s bachelor party, two tickets to Madrid to spend time with my wife, and a ticket to Iceland to spend time with my parents.

(The latter two tickets were $460 and $425. Make sure you are subscribed to to find deals like these).

Not a week goes by where I don’t dream of how great these trips are going to be. Going to Spain gives me more motivation to get better at Spanish before the trip and I am currently taking two classes at the local community college.  The trip provides me extra motivation that I wouldn’t otherwise have.

I currently don’t know much about Iceland except the band, Of Monsters and Men, are from there, they actually let their banks fail in 2008-09, and they have a dating app that allows you to bump phones to make sure you aren’t about to go on a date with one of your relatives.  It wasn’t on the top of my global destinations list, but I am having fun sending beautiful pictures of Iceland that I find on Reddit to my parents and talking to people who have been there.

The anticipation of these trips brings me hope on my worst days.  It makes life better to picture myself fishing somewhere remote in Iceland or ordering Paella in perfect Spanish.  It turns out there are studies that show I’m not alone.

A 2010 study found that vacationers were happier pre-vacation than non-vacationers, but generally there is no difference in happiness after the vacation compared to the non-vacationers.  A 2007 study found that people get more joy from anticipating good events than they do from retrospection of the events.

That, of course, is not to say that every day of a vacation is a good day.

Take the one time my wife and I didn’t sleep on an overnight flight to Italy and almost killed each other in the rental car trying to navigate the difficult roads near Lake Como later that day.

In 2017, we went to Isla Holbox. We had an awesome time swimming with Whale Sharks, the only problem was that it was too hot to be outside during the day and thousands of mosquitoes ruined every beautiful open air dinner we had.

In both instances, the dreaming, anticipating, and hoping of what could be, was arguably more enjoyable than the event itself.

Since the anticipation can be better than the event, I suggest planning more frequent, shorter trips per year so you have more to look forward to. If travel isn’t your thing, book more plays, concerts, parties, and sporting events to look forward to.

I don’t go to many concerts, but I have already purchased tickets to see Shakira six months from now.  The concert may not be what I hope it will be, but I have already enhanced my life by listening to her music more, imagining what the experience will be like, and reminding my wife how good of a husband I am by buying her a ticket.

Studies show if you want to spend your money to maximize happiness, you buy yourself time and you spend on experiences and not on stuff.  I am making it a point to always have at least one trip booked that I can look forward to.  The anticipation of these trips makes life better and while I hope the trip is as good as I imagine, at the very least; the anticipation lasts for months.

As you endure the rest of winter, give it a try for yourself and see what the anticipation does to your mood.