Negative anticipation is when we are waiting for something bad to happen filling our lives with worry and anxiety. Our phone rings - What if that's the school? Is it the nursing home to say Mom fell again? Is it another bill collector? We get the mail - Will there be a letter from the mortgage company? It's weigh in day - Did I gain another pound? There's no way I lost weight this week. Dad needs me to go the doctor with him - What will the doctor say? Is it more bad news?
Reality is not going to go away. However, we can combat that negative anticipation by purposefully creating positive anticipation for ourselves. What is one way to do that? By adding some mystery to our day! By giving ourselves something positive to look forward to aside from the worry and dread that can start to take over our lives.
I started doing this several years ago and it has made a difference in my life. Mystery has added fun, created good memories to reflect on and lowered my stress. Here is a previous blog post I wrote about adding mystery to our day:
Will my husband be able to get out of bed today? Will I need to call my parents to come take care of the kids? Will I get everything done that needs done today? As a mom and caregiver I found that my thoughts were overrun with the negative anticipation of the next crisis.
One day, I read an article in a women’s magazine about how adding an element of mystery can spice up a relationship. Right now my relationship was fine, but my own life definitely needed some spice. How could I add mystery to my life?
That Friday was my monthly self-proclaimed Donut Day. Once a month I would treat myself to two donuts and a coffee for breakfast. For a year I had been getting the same thing. This month I decided to spice things up a bit. I asked the server to pick my donuts for me and then I turned my back to the counter. She handed me my closed bag. The two minutes that it took me to get from the counter to my car were very exciting. What kind of donuts did she give me? Chocolate? Cream-filled? Glazed? I couldn’t wait to open that bag!
Those turned out to be two of the most relaxing minutes I’d had all week. To be thinking of something fun instead of something stressful was wonderful. I arrived at work with a smile on my face instead of a pounding headache.
My first attempt at adding mystery to my life was successful so I decided to try again. In making plans to meet a friend for dinner I asked her to pick the restaurant and only give me the address for my GPS. When getting dressed one Saturday I had my daughter pick out a shirt and then I based my outfit on it. I bought a crazy flavor of potato chips that I had wanted to try and waited a couple of days before opening the bag.
Now I'm constantly thinking of ways to include some positive anticipation to my day. If my GPS takes me on a route that I'm not sure of, I can just go for it and see where the GPS leads me. When I'm reading a book and get to the last chapter, I can set the book aside for the day or an hour to let myself anticipate how things are going to end. There are so many possibilities!
The negative anticipation is still there, but the added spice of mystery provides me with enough of a break to keep pushing ahead.