The four stages of happiness: anticipate, savor, express, and reflect.

We’ve all heard Dr. Kublher-Ross’s stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.

I’ve been thinking about the four stages of happiness – really, the stages of appreciating a particular happy moment.

My research has shown me that a key to happiness is squeezing out as much happiness as possible from a happy event. Unhappy people don’t have fewer happy experiences as happy people, they just think about them less.

To get the most bang for the happiness buck, I’ve realized that I should complete four stages of reveling in a moment of happiness:

 anticipate with pleasure,
 savor the moment as I experience it,
 express my happiness to myself or others, and
 reflect on a happy memory.

(I wish that I could get these four stages to spell out LIFT or GRIN or some clever mnemonic – any ideas?)

I’ve already done quite a bit of thinking about reflecting on happy memories. Nowadays, I spend more time on things like photo albums, making videos, and organizing mementos, because I realize what a happiness boost these reminders can provide.

But I hadn’t thought much about anticipation until the last few weeks. If anything, I think I discouraged myself from anticipating a happy moment – either out of some kind of superstitious fear that I’d be “jinxing” it, or by trying to keep myself from feeling disappointed if the anticipated moment didn’t happen.

That’s foolish. First, “jinxing” is superstition. Second, why squelch present happiness from some attempt to manage my future feelings? Such a disappointment wouldn’t be a crushing blow, and I’m depriving myself of the joys of anticipation.

This issue caught my attention last week, because I noticed that I had a week of good things. By chance, every day included something that I was really looking forward to doing. These events were hardly monumental – one was nothing more exciting than watching the new Sopranos episode.

But I noticed what a lift I got, each time I glanced through my calendar (which I do about 45 times a day).

So I’m resolving to do two things to do a better job of reveling in pleasant anticipation.

I’m going to make more of a commitment to plan to do things that give me a happiness boost. I should say to the Big Man, “On Saturday, let’s go to the bookstore to buy books for our trip.” Probably we would do that anyway, but by putting it on the schedule, I can look forward to it — thus increasing my happiness bang for the buck.

Also, I’m going to make an effort to have something to look forward to each day. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and coffee with a friend makes it a lot easier to work on the fifteenth draft of my HAPPINESS PROJECT sample chapter.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • http://www.mariahelm.com Maria Helm

    I love a word challenge. I dredged the thesaurus and came up with:
    lite:
    look for
    indulge
    talk
    enshrine
    ease:
    expect/envision
    appreciate
    spread/show
    enshrine
    free:
    forecast
    relish
    enumerate
    enshrine
    happy:
    hope for
    appreciate
    proclaim/profess
    pay tribute/perpetuate
    YES!
    I guess the last one is stretching it a letter, but I couldn’t resist.

  • http://www.ettonim.blogspot.com minotte

    what a clever idea–anticipating happiness to get more bang for its buck. we are so good to anticipate sadness, in fact, we were taught suffering is good.
    i hope you heard about dr. robert holden’s happiness project, too. basically he says, happiness cannot be pursued because it is within all of us already.
    great blog!

  • Anneli

    In the german language there is a sayine: “Vorfreude ist die beste Freude”. Meaning the anticipation of joy is the best joy. I use to think about that a lot. My daughter Sally (16 y) is going through very tough times with a serious heart disease and we plan each day with great care, making sure to put something fun and enjoyable on the schedule. Knowing that tomorrow will bring something good gives us both hope and make the difficulties lighter to bear. Greetings from Sweden and Anneli

  • Jane E.

    How about “STAR” – Schedule it, Taste it, Articulate it, Reflect on it.

  • http://www.slowdownnow.org Christopher Richards

    Often happiness and merriment are confused. I was at a particularly low ebb in my life some 20 years ago. I picked up Edward De Bono’s book, The Happiness Purpose. It helped me.
    These days, I consider myself to be lucky and I am grateful for the life I have. It’s my life and not to be compared to others. I think owning your own experience and being appreciative of what you have is happiness. It is hard to think of yourself as lucky and not be happy.
    Comparing yourself to others is a great way to make yourself miserable, but if you must compare, compare yourself to everyone else on the planet.
    I even think it may be necessary to have suffered in order to be happy. Happiness isn’t a destination, it is a state of being, and that state changes. So my feeling is that it is unrealistic to feel euphoric all the time. You can even feel horrible and still be happy.
    We talk about being happy about something. But happiness is a state that is difficult to describe, because it is different for all of us.
    Nevertheless, I like a good laugh.
    Yours in slowness,
    Christopher
    SlowDownNow.org

  • Anonymous

    Hap-E
    Hope for it
    Appreciate it
    Proclaim it
    Enjoy the memory

  • http://www.michaelmelcher.blogspot.com Michael Melcher

    How about BEAM
    Before the event, anticipate
    Experience
    Acknowledge to others (or articulate the story)
    Memory — savor it

  • shuchetana

    Often, the event itself passes quickly. Or we’re so caught up that we can’t fully appreciate it during the moment. (Getting good grades, watching a great movie, etc).
    Anticipation and reflection are two important steps that most people miss out. I think that’s because of the conscious effort involved, and as you mentioned, overcoming the fear of being jinxed. Also, it’s sometimes difficult to share your joy with other people, since they may become jealous/resentful.

  • http://www.gretchenrubin.com Gretchen Rubin

    Great mnemonics! I can’t decide which one I like best. I may have to use them all. Thanks!

  • http://theparkerpens.blogspot.com Mary Parker

    When my parents came to Scotland, I carefully outlined a plan to take them around the high points: the Edinburgh Tattoo, the Highland games, the castles, Loch Ness…I figured out how many miles we could travel each day, the points of interest along the way, and researched a little of the history and background so it would be more personal and thrilling.
    I have to admit that I truly enjoy the anticipation part of anything—whether it’s travel or making a big purchase. I think too many people overlook this as an essential element of an experience, tangible or not. Our capacity for instant gratification robs us of this pleasure.

  • http://www.shardsofconsciousness.com Rick Cockrum

    This isn’t specific to happiness, but applies as much to it as to experiencing life in general. My candidate is LIVE.
    Look forward to it.
    Immerse yourself in it.
    Verbalize it.
    Examine it.

  • Stephen Morell

    mnemonic:
    In order to be happy you must AACT
    A-Anticipate with pleasure
    A-Appreciate the moment
    R-Relate your happiness to others
    T-Tell others of your experience

  • Keith G

    I love this site! You do such a great job of pointing out all the luscious ways happiness can be felt!!

  • http://www.rookiemoms.com RookieMom Whitney

    I guess I intuitively knew these steps, but I like how you’ve articulated them. I think this is why I wanted to be engaged for a long time – I wanted the wedding to be something to look forward to. I love the anticipation part. My son does, too. We just introduced the idea of watching a movie (he’s 3.5) as a special event for our family and watching him get so excited about making popcorn and getting everyone settled on the couch has been a huge thrill. The next day he keeps saying “that was a great movie” even though he’s only seen one movie so far. His reflections are a delight to me.

  • http://www.coloryourlifehappy.com Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D.

    You’ve touched on an important aspect of happiness, reveling in it. Savoring the joy, talking about it and reflecting on it extends the happy event for a wonderfully long time.
    I’m especially happy when small things give me joy. I have a white wooden clock that has that distressed look and a picture box with a desk scene. It was inexpensive but I loved it. When it stopped working I changed the battery, but it still wouldn’t work. I searched long and hard looking for another one, but wouldn’t throw the nonworking clock away. Finally, something told me to give it another try with another new battery. This time I noticed rust and thoroughly cleaned the metal battery housing. When I put in a new battery and the clock starting working I was elated. Every time I look at it it gives me joy.

  • http://www.rxgs.com/ Viagra Online

    Often, the event itself passes quickly. Or we’re so caught up that we
    can’t fully appreciate it during the moment. (Getting good grades,
    watching a great movie, etc).
    Anticipation and reflection are two
    important steps that most people miss out. I think that’s because of the
    conscious effort involved, and as you mentioned, overcoming the fear of
    being jinxed. Also, it’s sometimes difficult to share your joy with
    other people, since they may become jealous/resentful.