TIP SEVENTEEN – SCHEDULING IN THINGS WE ENJOY ☀️
Did you know that looking forward to something we enjoy can boost our mood?
Sometimes we get so focused on just making it through the day and getting through all the things we need to do, that we forget that it’s just as important to do nice things for ourselves too. In fact, it is often when we have the least free time or energy to devote to joy, that we need to unwind and enjoy ourselves the most.
Making sure we schedule in and prioritise doing things we enjoy can give us a boost and can help us cope better with stresses and strains, particularly in times of uncertainty. This is because research shows that it’s impossible for our brain to truly comprehend everything going on in the present moment. As a result, it makes tons of assumptions and predictions for us which then impacts how we currently feel. It does all this without us thinking or knowing it’s happening and means that a significant portion of how we feel in the present is based on our future.
This phenomenon is called Affective Forecasting. It tells us that our brains derive a HUGE amount of pleasure based on what is going to happen in the future. Therefore, just anticipating joy can boost the feel-good chemicals in our brain.
Scheduling in the things we enjoy then becomes another simple yet effective way we can actively look after our long-term mental wellbeing.
Planning things to look forward to will look different for everyone. It will depend largely on what is interesting to you right now, what you feel comfortable with and what is safe. These moments of pleasure also don’t have to be elaborate. In fact, cultivating a happy heart can take less than five minutes.
Try writing a list of every single thing you enjoy (and have enjoyed in the past). Include guilty pleasures, things you haven’t tried but want to, places you want to visit, the things that give you energy + fill up your cup — whatever you can think of that you’d look forward to doing. Tune into what you are *actually* interested in. Not what you think you *should* be interested in. It can look like a hot bath, a nice dinner, looking at the stars, watching your favourite show or reading a good book, even planning to do nothing BUT if you do only what you think should bring you joy, it may not be particularly satisfying. It is only when you allow yourself the freedom to do whatever brings you pleasure, that even just five minutes can brighten your life immeasurably.
After you have your list, plan to do at least one of these “happiness activities” each day and/or week and stick to it like you would any other important appointment.
When we get into a rhythm of doing things that bring us joy or make us feel better afterwards, it’s easier to look forward to them. Scheduling in things we enjoy and committing to them also shows us that we are more important than productivity, that we deserve the same kindness and gentle care we give to others, and that our joy matters, regardless of how our day went and how we feel about ourselves.
If this isn’t living our healing out loud, I don’t know what is!
Ultimately, life can’t be all work and no play. Healing was never about arriving, it’s not a destination. It’s about continually freeing yourself to be in your life while you’re living it — what a gift!
You can start using Affective Forecasting to your advantage today just by scheduling time each day for you! Our life is happening now, we can’t forget to live it.