Being Joyful: The Dutch Secret to Boosting Joy Everyday
By Martha Tesema
For Shine reprinted by Fast Company on 8-13-21
Whenever there’s something exciting happening in my life—be it a birthday celebration, a holiday, or a Zoom chat with those I love—I write it on my calendar way in advance.
I’m not just talking on my iPhone calendar. I’m talking on the calendar in my room, in my planner—and if the occasion is that exciting, I may or may not be that friend who sends out a link to a countdown website that screams “6 weeks, 56 hours, 13 minutes until the Big Day.”
I wasn’t always like this, though.
I used to never look forward to things, fearing that the actual event wouldn’t meet the expectations that I built up. Those disappointments were few and far between, though, so as I’ve grown older I’ve embraced my giddy pre-event delight.
There’s a Dutch word for this, and it’s just as exciting to say as it is to feel: voorpret.
It’s the “joy or pleasure ahead and in anticipation of the actual fun event,” and it essentially sums up all the feels that creep up before an actual experience.
There’s proof that adapting a voorpret mindset can actually improve our happiness.
Research shows that we gain a lot more before a big event, rather than after. Professors and psychologists Leaf Van Boven and Laurence Ashworth studied the impact anticipation has on our feels and found the connection to be a lot stronger than retrospection—so much more so that it can impact our overall well-being.
In their research, Van Boven and Ashworth conducted five different studies to measure emotional reactions to various events, including everything from Thanksgiving Day to imaginary ski trips. Participants found the events in the future, whether or not they were real, were more exciting than real experiences that have happened in the past.
“Our research suggests that the enjoyment people glean from anticipation might also be an important component of life satisfaction: one’s satisfaction with life is influenced both by looking backward and by looking forward,” they wrote in their report.
Here, some ways to tap into voorpret:
MARK IT UP
Consider adding things in the future on your calendar or master to-do list—however far in advance they may be. Don’t feel silly about it! One study showed that even just thinking about watching a favorite movie raised participants’ endorphin levels by 27%.
Whether it’s something happening this weekend or six months from now, jot it down to start building some voorpret. Put it somewhere where you look often and soak up that sweet anticipation.
TAKE YOUR TIME WITH IT
I’m the first to admit that binge watching shows is my intended method of consuming any sort of television. But it wasn’t until recently that I chose to slowly watch seasons of my favorite shows.
In an age where streaming makes it easy to indulge quickly, taking the time to slow down and watch episodes a week apart (alright, a few days apart) lets me feel some voorpret between episodes.
PRACTICE REALISTIC OPTIMISM
Like I said earlier, it can feel risky to get excited about something in the future. Cue worries like, “what if it’s not as great as I think it’ll be?” or “what if I set myself up for disappointment?”
But realistic optimism can help you look forward to something without the letdown.
The gist: Let yourself get excited about an upcoming event, but also recognize that if it doesn’t go as planned, you can handle it. If you trust you’re resilient enough to handle what actually occurs, it’ll let you indulge in voorpret without a side of worry.
You deserve to look forward to the things on the horizon—so let yourself tap into your voorpret.
This article originally appeared on Shine and is reprinted with permission. You can download the Shine app here for daily self-care support, personalized to you. Explore meditations, articles, and more to help you calm your anxiety and feel more confident at work.