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The Power of Looking Forward in Everyday Life

I have a friend who starts planning their next vacation the moment they come home from the last one. It might seem odd, but when I asked, she said she wanted something to look forward to. I never thought about it that way, but it does make sense. For the past few years, I’ve set personal goals, aside from my usual annual objectives. One year, it was to play at least nine holes of golf each week. Another year, it was to get out of town at least once a month for a weekend. I found myself eagerly looking forward to those rounds of golf and the little getaways. Whether visiting friends or extending a work trip to explore somewhere new, these breaks let me build deeper connections and broaden my horizons. And although I’m not ready for the PGA Tour, my golf game improved! 😊


In a world dictated by routine and stress, finding joy in the simple act of anticipation isn’t just nice—it’s essential for maintaining our mental and physical health. Those daily joys—like the first sip of your morning coffee or the calming ritual of a favorite evening show—do more than just brighten our day. They inject small bursts of pleasure into our routines, increasing dopamine levels and providing a shield against the daily grind. This helps manage stress and reduces our overall risk of falling into depression or anxiety. It also simply just feels nice to have something to look forward to!


But it’s not all about the day-to-day. The things we look forward to on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis—like those weekend outings, a special concert, or the big annual vacation—are equally crucial. They strengthen our connections with others and reinforce our personal interests, all of which are vital for emotional resilience. Regularly engaging in planned activities is linked not only to improved mood but also to better physical health, boosting our immune system and lowering stress levels.


Research underscores the value of this kind of anticipation. A 2018 study from Frontiers in Psychology used brain imaging to show how anticipating positive events lights up our brains, enhancing well-being. It seems our ancestors were onto something when they made preparations for the future as a survival strategy. But here’s a twist: while they were planning to avoid dangers, we can plan for pleasure. But if we always look too far ahead, we find ourselves perpetually waiting for small bursts of joy rather than enjoying all the time in between. Science suggests finding a balance, perhaps anticipating something enjoyable within the next five business days, to keep our spirits up without feeling like we’re just killing time until the next big thing that may be months or longer away.


Another piece of research, from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2015, found that anticipating a simple pleasure, like enjoying a favorite cartoon, can be as effective in alleviating stress as actually experiencing it. It turns out that the joy of anticipation can, in some ways, be as fulfilling as the event itself.


So, as we plan for the next thing on our calendars, perhaps we should remember that the act of looking forward is more than just a countdown to something good. It’s a strategy for better health and more happiness. The real trick is to not just focus on the big events but to find pleasure in the little things along the way. So why not try to have something to look forward to every day?  It could be a favorite coffee shop, lunch with a friend, a good book at the end of the day, or playing with your pup.  Whatever it is, building these small joys into your day and anticipating them is a good thing!


“Today is a good day to have a good day.” – Hoda Kotb


So, what are you looking forward to? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media pages. Whether it’s something small that brightens your day or a big event in the future, let us know how anticipation plays a role in your life. Your stories inspire us and others, so let’s start a conversation about the joy of looking forward!


Have a great weekend!