Find Something to Look Forward To

What’s the best part of Christmas for kids? Is it the presents? The time with family? The time off from school? That all dietary restrictions are forgotten for a few days? Psychologically speaking, it’s none of the above. And we can learn a lot from kids at Christmas.

Looking forward to something is healthy

What was the best part of Christmas for kids? It’s simpler than you think. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

The best part about Christmas for kids

The answer to the question above is:


At least scientifically it is.

Numerous studies, the most famous of which was done by Lee S. Berk of Loma Linda University, have shown that the anticipation of pleasure often has more positive effects on the brain than the event itself. In Berk’s experiment, participants who just thought about watching their favorite movie experienced endorphin level increases of 27% and an 87% increase in human growth hormone.

Those are some pretty substantial increases. Over time, increases like that have incredibly positive impacts on our health, productivity, intelligence, and overall mood.

So what does this mean for you? Perhaps an example from my own life recently will help.

Vacation, here I come

As you read this, I am in the midst of my first-ever two week vacation. Sixteen days to be exact, with minimal computer use. The longest I’ve ever taken off prior to this was the week of our honeymoon. Since that week more than five years ago, I’ve never taken more than four days off in a row.

Four weeks ago, however, I pledged that I would do this if I hit certain client goals. At first, it was something I did apprehensively, wondering if my business would be OK in my absence. But as the day grew closer, I began to look forward to it more and more. I counted down the days until I could experience this disconnect, catch up on some reading, spend unrestricted time with my family, go on a trip, sleep in, exercise longer, and, yes, knock out some items on our personal to-do list. My anticipation grew and grew.

And a funny thing happened. I became:

  • Happier
  • Less stressed
  • More productive
  • Healthier (I lost quite a bit of weight during the weeks leading up to it)
  • More pleasant to be around
  • In short, a better person

I know that seems extreme, but it’s true. I became a better person as a result of anticipating something pleasurable.

There’s an old saying (and Tom Petty song) that says, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

But I have to wonder if the reality is that it’s the best part for us.

The lesson from kids this Christmas is:

Find something to look forward to.

  • A night out with friends
  • A big game on TV
  • A vacation
  • A round of golf
  • An upcoming movie
  • Seeing family

It doesn’t have to be a huge event. The experiment used something simple…a movie. But there are three keys to making this work.

Three keys to making this work

You have to:

  • Put it on your calendar. In other words, commit to it happening. I blocked off this time four weeks prior so my assistant wouldn’t schedule any meetings. Every time I looked at my December calendar, I saw a huge block of red, reminding me that I committed to this.
  • Think about it often. Remind yourself at least a few times daily and use it as a pick-me-up.
  • Make the countdown fun. Don’t talk about how miserable you are waiting. Celebrate the countdown as I did with my family…”Three more days until daddy is home for two weeks!”

Use anticipation to your advantage. Make waiting the best part.

Question: Have you found this to be true in your own life? What is something you are looking forward to? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • I totally agree – the nonprofit where I work is actually closed between Christmas Eve and Jan. 6, so yes, I have been anticipating this time off and am reveling in the relaxed pace, the time to catch up on blogs, and things at home and family. And I hadn’t thought about it but I think I have to agree – it has made me more focused and “better” in leading up to it. Definitely need to plan more “delightful” things to look forward to this year.

    • Enjoy your time off too, Carol! I really liked your post today!

  • Very nice! Enjoy your time off… It’s kind of sad that I am typing this in an office of empty cubicles… I’m the only one in at work so far. I do enjoy the quiet and the thinking time and I’m looking forward to drafting new ideas to increase our team’s success next year. The reason I am working when others are not is to roll over some vacation hours for next year so I can enjoy a trip with my family and maybe go to visit my relatives in Mexico. It is very true, anticipation makes everything run smoother. Have a wonderful vacation, Matt!

    • Enjoy the productive time! Then enjoy the awesome time in Mexico next year.

  • Have a great time on your vacation Matt. Enjoy it and relax!

  • I want to comment but if I comment you will read it and then feel compelled to respond and you don’t need to because you are on vacation and supposed to have the computer off! So, happy vacation and THANK YOU for continuing to post relevant and insightful information for your friends who are also trying to be off. Phew. DON’T RESPOND! BE ON VACATION! 😎

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