Can planning make you happy?
So you’ve booked a holiday. You’re sure you’ll have a fantastic time when you’re there, but what about in the lead up to it? Do you think you would be happier if you had two months to wait for your holiday or two days?
Research has show that anticipating an event, like a holiday or a concert, increases your happiness levels. Deciding on the spur of the moment to jet off on a city break won’t diminish your enjoyment of the city, but if you give yourself more time to look forward to it you could make yourself even happier. And, while surprising a loved one with tickets to an event makes for a great reaction, if you give them a wee bit more notice their excitement and anticipation will build as they near the big day.
The hubbie and I just booked a little break away for our tenth wedding anniversary. We’re going to stay in a woodsman’s wagon (a bit like a shepherd’s hut I think) in a field in Dorset for a few days. We’re taking the dog, of course, and I’m super excited! We’re not going for another few months which means I’ve got time to plan what to take, research what to do in the area and imagine how lovely it will be to stay somewhere out of the ordinary. Since we made the booking I’ve been thinking about what books to take, perhaps the blanket I’m crocheting (and have ignored for the last year), wondering what to cook over the camp fire, hoping for clear nights for star gazing and imagining the sounds we’ll hear as we drift off to sleep in the wagon.
There’s heaps going on in our lives before we motor off to Dorset but every time I think about our break I feel a little fizz of happiness. I’m sure if we booked this holiday only a week in advance we’d have just as good a time there as we will do with several months’ notice. But there would be so little time to look forward and plan and imagine and get excited! Plus trying to get organised with work and planning everything we need to take could actually raise our stress levels in the lead up.
Not everything in life should be planned, we can all recall times when we set out for a day or night without a plan and end up having a brilliant time. But for the bigger stuff in life giving yourself time to anticipate an event will enhance your enjoyment all round.
And, interestingly, studies by Thomas Gilovich at Cornell University have found that we get greater enjoyment looking forward to an experience rather than a tangible possession. It’s well known that experiences make people happier than material goods, and now we know that anticipating going to see a favourite band perform makes us happier than looking forward to buying their album.
So if you look in your diary and see there’s nothing planned in for the next few months, get something booked! Whether it’s dinner with friends, a day out with family, a trip to the theatre or a holiday, having an experience or event on the calendar gives you something to look forward to and will raise your happiness level.
Do you like to plan ahead of time or are you all for spontaneity? I’d love to know what you think so do leave a comment below.