Your brain wants to anticipate good times
We bought a travel trailer in April and patio heaters in August. When a friend commented on ‘being ahead of the crowd’, my daughter said, “Mom and I are precrastinators.” Turns out our brains have evolved to prioritize future events, originally to increase our odds of survival like storing food for a long winter. Can’t say that’s why I tend to look further down the road than others might but I knew I wanted to expand my ability to be with family and friends safely. The good news is that while anticipating challenges helps ensure survival, looking forward to a future fun event is also a powerful mood booster. Thinking about a future positive hacks the brain’s natural reward system which releases a hit of dopamine, the feel good hormone. If you’re an Enneagram 7, you are a master at this! Here are some strategies:
Bookend stressful events
When you see a stressful activity heading your way, see if you can precede and follow it with something positive. Planning in this way increases the likelihood of creating a positive memory. Looking forward to and experiencing a positive event or activity after a negative one actually dilutes stress. And stress can be further reduced by reflecting back on the positive.
Build your positive event bank account
There is actually a positive anticipation circuit in the brain. It is fed by time spent thinking and talking about possible future activities. Be clear, we’re not talking about a trip to Hawaii. These days a deposit in the ‘bank account’ might be as simple as a TV show you’d like to watch. (I recommend Ted Lasso – one of the best recent deposits in my Anticipation Account). We know the more positive events that you anticipate the brighter your mood.
Nothing big to look forward to? Try micro-dosing anticipation
Cancelled vacations, delayed weddings, difficulty seeing family and friends . . . instead consider small, short-term sources of happy anticipation. Brainstorm with others to share creative ideas. Rather than big and in the future, think of small and soon. A Zoom call with a friend, reading a short story, or even a glass of wine on your patio under one of those precrastination heaters.
“Well”, said Pooh, “what I like best is . . .,”
and then he had to stop and think because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.