As I plan my calendar for the year, my goal is maximum joy. That means I want to spread out the fun. Sometimes it happens that events are clumped together a bit too closely, but so be it. If, for example, there are three glorious shindigs that I want to attend that all occur in April, I make the decision if I want to go to them all. It is up to me to determine how full my calendar gets and how I treat each occasion.
These days I put effort into being able to “ABC” each experience.
A = Anticipate
Sometimes spontaneity is pure joy, (our NYC trip in December was not planned too far in advance), and it’s also a proven scientific fact that ANTICPATION of something can bring just as much happiness as the experience itself.
Looking forward to an event, a trip, a vacation, an experience, a get-together, anything that delights you, gets the internal happiness chemicals brewing in your systems just by thinking about it. It’s the same principle as dread, but in reverse. If you think about something you don’t want to do, you can make yourself physically sick. If you think about something you do want to do, you can make yourself physically happy.
We all know what it feels like to anticipate, so use the power of anticipation to your advantage. When we expect fun, we feel the tingling excitement long before the “thing” even happens. We can visualize our blanket on the beach or our hike in the mountains for weeks before we get there. That feel-good stimulus is good for mind, body, and soul.
I look forward to our London trip with glee. I am mapping out walking routes of “literary London,” plus feeling giddy to show my hubby Bath and Stonehenge, and I google photos of Windsor Castle and other “Crown” locations we will be touring. Anticipation is a magnificent natural high. The days leading up to a trip or any kind of event can be just as fun as the thing itself.
B = BE IN IT
Crazy as it sounds, this is the hardest part for many people. We happily anticipate something and then when we are in it, we often don’t allow ourselves to just relax and enjoy. I know folks who on the first day of vacation already lament having to leave. They utter statements like, “It’s too bad we only have a week here.” Instead, they can proclaim, “How wonderful! We have a whole week here! WOW!”
When you’ve been looking forward to something and then it arrives, BE IN IT. Don’t fret, complain, or compare. Just enjoy all the nuances of the experience. That means taking each moment as it comes and not trying to capture it for posterity. Soak it all up. It becomes part of you.
Take as many photos and selfies as you want, but don’t get caught up in posting. Take in the beauty, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the textures, the tastes. Experience is also a verb meaning to observe, TO FEEL. Feel all the feelings the place or event evokes in you. Feel the delight while you are there. You can post your photos later, at the end of each day or even when you get home.
Be in the joy. Have fun taking photos because it’s fun, not because you need to capture the moment. The best way to “capture” the experience is to BE IN IT and fully enjoy it. It’s not about how many great photos you get or even making memories. It’s about the present moment.
C = Cherish
When the trip or big hoopdedoo event is over, exhale and smile. Review pictures and feel the fun all over again. If you choose, make a scrapbook. Digital or an old-fashioned photo album.
Let the memories and joy linger. Put a pic or memento on the fridge or your desk. Feel the feelings again. Appreciate the fun you had, the places, people, food, view. Revel in the whole experience. That is what cherish means, to cling fondly.
You can implement the ABC for anything. Do you have a family reunion with far-flung relatives that you don’t see often? Have fun in Anticipation. Reach out to cousins and get conversations started. Plan on family tree t-shirts. Discuss games. Looking forward to the fun is half the fun.
While you are at the thing, BE IN IT. Talk. Smile. Laugh. Connect. Feast. Be silly. Hug. Be totally present. Yes, you will take pictures but see the event through your eyes and heart, not your phone.
When the fun is done, stay in touch with the good feelings. Cherish the photos, the stories, the joy.
The ABC method goes for staying local too. We could fill our days nonstop, but do we want to? If I pack too much into my schedule, even fun amazing stuff, it feels like too much. My brain and my heart want to enjoy the before, during, and after (the ABC).
Imagine going to two Broadway shows a day for a week. Would you delight in each experience before moving on to the next or would it feel too crunched together? If I don’t give myself the time to anticipate, to be in it, to cherish, it all just blurs.
How one spends their days is an individual choice, of course. But try the ABC and see if you experience more joy. Let me know! Cheers to a joyful 2018!