Taking a vacation won't necessarily make you happier - but anticipating it will

Posted on May 16, 2014

As anyone who has taken a vacation knows, they can be rife with complications: flight delays, illness, family squabbles. And when you get home you have to catch up on all the work you missed. That's not to suggest that vacations don't bring us joy, but social scientists have been saying for years that we get an extra happiness boost if we consciously delay any type of pleasure. - be it booking a trip to Bali months in advance or eating that sliver of chocolate cake tomorrow instead of today. Doing this allows us to build up positive expectations, to relish how enjoyable the experience might be.

Turns out, there is an art to anticipation. Savoring, said Elizabeth Dunn, an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and a leading happiness researcher, is an active, not passive, process. "It's better to immerse yourself," she said. Reading novels and poetry, watching films and television programs, browsing fashion and design blogs that are either from or about the place you plan to visit encourages you to not only learn about your destination, but to dream, providing some concrete details for your mind to latch on to. It may sound counterintuitive, but this building up of positive expectations and excitement actually helps our minds smooth over any minor discrepancies if reality doesn’t quite measure up to the fantasy. "We're less likely to be bothered by these little holes if we build up our expectations ahead of time," Professor Dunn said. "So go ahead and assume it's going to be wonderful."

This advice is problematic only if there is a chasm between expectations and reality.


Category(s):Happiness

Source material from New York Times


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