Dream and Be Happy!

It’s true that happiness is in the now, but thinking about positive events you’ve experienced in the past (and anticipating those you might have in the future) can actually increase your happiness levels in the present moment.

I was reminded of this following a conversation with a friend planning for a forthcoming wedding. He was concerned that all the anticipatory talk would lead to a sense of anti climax when it actually happened. On the contrary, I replied, often all the anticipatory talk adds to the overall enjoyment of the event.

“Savoring past pleasurable experiences boosts your positive emotions in the present, and positive emotions are the key to happiness,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness (Penguin, 2008).

The Happiness Bank

However, this doesn’t work if thinking of good times fills you with melancholia because those times are in the past. The key is to tap into the pleasure and good feelings the event provided, not bemoan the fact that the experience is now behind you. I treasure happy moments as they are happening and also metaphorically deposit them in my ‘happiness bank’. If you can use all your senses the experience can be even more vivid; conjure up the smells, sounds, sights etc..

And the act of anticipating happy events — even one as seemingly banal as watching a comedy show — can be equally as uplifting. Recent research has even shown that you don’t need to actually laugh to reap the effects. People who were planning to watch their favourite comedies had a significant increase in mood-enhancing hormones even before the programme started.

So, if you don’t have time today to spend a little time in pleasurable day dreaming, record an episode of your favourite funny show and look forward to watching in the evening!

What’s the best memory in your happiness bank?

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Posted on January 19th, 2010 by

3 Responses to “Dream and Be Happy!”

  1. Excellent post – I am picking up my new car next week (hopefully .. I need to get the plates changed over!) and I am really looking forward to that .. it has given me a bit of a lift and even though we are busy there does not seem to be any stress involved simply because I have something to look forward to. To be honest it is difficult to be down in this office. The other 3 staff and the 3 office dogs make coming to work really pleasurable .. I really don’t have much to moan about!

  2. Very interesting post. I never knew one’s comfort level could go up just anticipating something good happening, like one’s favorite TV comedy, though it sure makes sense. I especially like the idea of a “happiness bank.” Banking happiness for when it is needed, very good.

    • Jane says:

      Many thanks! Yes, it’s always possible to dip into one’s happiness bank even when the ‘normal’ bank account is empty!

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