Try-it-Tuesday: Advance Gratitude

April 8, 2014

It’s well-known that keeping a gratitude journal is a proven way to increase positivity and well-being. It’s also been shown that anticipation increases pleasure — if you put off buying something, you tend to be happier with it because not only do you get to enjoy having the object of your desire, but you get to savor the anticipation of having it.

What if we could merge these two concepts? Here’s a thought: identify a few events or situations in your upcoming day that you may not otherwise appreciate or enjoy. Maybe it’s the morning commute, or talking to your boss, or sorting the mail. Think, ahead of time, how you might be grateful for these things: “I’ll listen to some amazing stories on NPR,” “I’ll have a chance to show my competence in a difficult conversation,” or “I’ll get to look through some colorful catalogs and magazines that remind me of how much I enjoy my hobbies.”

Why do this? Because gratitude isn’t a checklist. It’s not an intellectual exercise. It’s a feeling. So why save it for last, when you’re tired and just want to go to bed? Why not plan for it, set a place at your table for it? Studies into well-being have shown that positive emotion is vital for happiness, and one of the ways that we can increase our happiness is to up our instances of experiencing it. There are two ways to do this: wait and expect the universe to deliver it, or go looking. Guess which one works better?

Savor the anticipation. Be grateful ahead of time.