A moment just before
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.”
― A.A. Milne
I can totally sympathize with Pooh here. I’ve always found Christmas Eve a bit better than Christmas morning, and planning for an exciting trip is at least half the fun of going. While this preliminary excitement may set us up for anticlimax or disappointment with the actual event, it can also enhance our pleasure, extending special times by giving us an early start on the fun.
The joy of anticipation is strong evidence that mental imagery can exert as much or more power over our moods as our external circumstances do. A number of studies suggest that visualization can improve athletic or competitive performance, and generating positive mental stimuli can improve mood and task response.
Of course, we don’t need to know all the scientific details to connect with what Pooh is thinking of here. The most important thing to remember is that we can schedule happiness for ourselves, even in a day that holds no particular treat in store, by focusing on the things that make us happiest.
We all enjoy displays in museums and stores without needing to buy them or take them home. We can enjoy the presence of a friend through reading or remembering a letter or a funny moment shared in the past. In the same way, we tap into the happiness we feel when we see fresh flowers, take a sip of an ice-cold drink on a hot day, or relax in a hammock or easy chair when we feel tired, without actually doing any of those things, except in anticipation or memory.
Pooh didn’t know what to call this kind of bliss, and I don’t either. But I agree with him; it’s “what I like best.” I hope that each day will bring you many moments of this unique felicity.
One year ago today: