Anticipating a pleasant experience can increase our overall enjoyment of an activity.
In the chronic pain classes I taught at VA, we discussed the importance of scheduling activities we enjoy. There are several reasons why scheduling time to do things you enjoy is important, and one of these is what happens to our bodies when we look forward to something.
If I plan to go fishing this weekend, I will imagine where I’m going to drop a line, which bait I’m going to use, and I will picture myself on the water. I will arrange my tackle box, check the weather forecast and block all chores from my Saturday schedule.
During the planning, my brain almost believes I’m already on the lake. Neurotransmitters and hormones that trigger happiness will flood my system. Pleasure areas of my brain become active, and I experience the joy of fishing before even leaving the house.
Our minds can create an array of feelings. Recall your first day of basic training and you will probably notice how you felt that day – maybe nervous, maybe excited, maybe even a little scared. Remember your happier days, such as graduation, your wedding day, the birth of a child—you will probably notice you are smiling.
Why not use this gift that the mind offers and plan something fun this week? You may just find your excitement building and bringing you joy in the moments leading up to the activity.
The mind can also create a physical feeling of serenity and safety through meditation. Try this 9-minute meditation and you will experience how powerful the mind-body connection can be. Giving yourself time in a quiet place—a place of peace, tranquility, safety, and happiness—will allow your mind and body to rest and recover wherever you are.
Recreation is an important part of our health and well-being. Have you been looking for an activity that will take you out of your routine and give you some time to unwind? VA offers an array of recreation opportunities, and each VA offers options that can help you to discover or rekindle a passion. If dance, music, or art are your thing, check out VA’s creative arts program here.
Marc Castellani, Ph.D., NBC-HWC, is the Whole Health Clinical Education Coordinator for the VHA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation.