Let’s face it: all of those intentions we brightly professed to our dinner guests pre-Christmas, Prosecco in hand, don’t feel quite so appealing after that first ‘Ab Attack’ class of 2016.
Once all of the twinkling lights are taken down and promise of endless Christmas drinks have passed – strategically coordinated to initially ease us into the dark winter months – come January, all we have to show is a three day hangover and an extra spare tire, courtesy of a month of eating mince pies and slabs of stilton with wild abandon.
The promise of a fresh start is the natural way that most of us deal with the aftermath of festive indulgence. Gym bunnies across the country suddenly find themselves grappling with the masses in the smoothie aisle of Whole Food – but, as we well know, many January joiners will not visit more than three times before their membership comes to a floundering flop of weight not lost.
So how do we make the most of that new year feeling? It is well documented in psychological circles that anticipatory joy is just as powerful as experiential joy; it is intrinsically pleasurable in nature. Researchers Van Boven and Ashworth (2007) argue that there is much to be said for anticipating events – to the extent that it can improve wellbeing – saying, “Our research suggests that the enjoyment people glean from anticipation might also be an important component of life satisfaction.” Who couldn’t do with more of that?
What’s more, our brains are actually capable of feeling more than one thing at a time, Lickerman (2013) tells us, meaning when things are feeling a little bleak, and we’re growing more convinced that more interesting things are happening to more attractive people in more fashionable places, having something fun planned for the future can bring us anticipatory joy even if we’re feeling down about something else.
Although perhaps not the single determinant of mood, a plan compounded by a ticket purchase to our favourite event or festival is bound to have a powerful positive influence. Daydreams over the coming months are filled with the pending reality of midsummer evenings and beautiful stalled sunsets. Whether we’re envisioning lolling about drinking tins of cider moments before going to see our favourite band, sitting around a camp fire after an exhilarating day watching the races or enjoying some quality time with our kids in lush green fields in the sun, there’s a mental image we can all keep in mind, no matter what is going on for us.
Further Reading: Van Boven Ashworth 2007 | Leveraging Anticipatory