It starts when we are young; sitting in classrooms dreaming about how much fun we will have on the weekend. The sheer anticipation of no class and no homework makes us happy. Then recess starts or we go to lunch and talk to our friends and find additional reasons to be happy. But as we get older and our lives and the week become more stressful, anticipation turns into expectation. We look at our crummy day at work and expect that we will be happier when the weekend comes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work.
The difference is subtle but important for our happiness. Anticipation makes us happier today as we think about positive outcomes in the future while expectation puts off happiness in the hope that something will change and we will find happiness in the future. Anticipation leaves us open to happiness today while expectation gives up today’s happiness because it will come later. The challenge is that happiness really doesn’t come later.
New research is showing that for many of us, we actually become less happy on the weekends. We build up our expectations of happiness to such a high level that we end Saturday disappointed. Then on Sunday, we start worrying about what challenges we will face next week. It creates an unhappy cycle of not enjoying today because the weekend will be happier but then the weekend can’t make up for all the happiness we missed during the week.
The solution is to be happy today. Anticipate happiness so you can enjoy today more. But don’t give up your happiness today by expecting happiness in the future. Certain aspects of today will be stressful and crummy; so what can you find to enjoy today? Can you take a moment to be grateful for something or focus on a great memory? There is something good about today. Find it and focus on it. Do the same thing for weekends. Enjoy and be present in your weekends. Don’t think about the coming week and what you will miss or how bad it will be. Think about today and what is great about today.
Don’t wait for the weekends to be happy. Find reasons to be a little happy today and every day. Happy moments create happy days. Happy days lead to happy weeks. Happy weeks build happy years and lots of happy years create a happy life full of wonderful memories. Create a happy day!
Here are a few quick ways to create a happy day:
- Go to lunch with a friend
- Connect with someone who is important to you
- Take moment to think of three things you like about today
- Pause to remember a past vacation or happier time
- Think about “Why” you are working. What is your underlying motivation?