So there are people who study how to be happy. Like, academically. Like studying how to cure cancer. Did you know that?

One particular scientist, Dr. Fred Bryant of Loyola University, has studied how savoring the moment, past, present and future, can make people more happy, optimistic and just generally satisfied by life. I mean, it makes sense. There are gurus right and left that are like, make sure to live in the now, be in the present moment. But the thing that I want really focus on is savoring the future.

Savoring the future is the phrase that Dr. Bryant uses to describe that wonderful moment of anticipation, excitement and joy you feel when you're thinking about that piece of perfect pecan pie that's waiting for you in the fridge at home. Or that space of time when you're totally zoning out at work because you're busy daydreaming about seeing that pretty lady you're taking out on a well planned night of romance later.

Classically, Advent is the season of waiting. Christians celebrate each Sunday that brings them closer to the (second) most important holiday of their calendar. They light a candle in church, sing some songs, and then it's one week closer to Christmas.

Sure, Advent is a religious holiday. But the idea behind the holiday is anticipation. It's excitement, and hope and joy and savoring the future. And this, apparently is one of the keys to living a happier life.

I know that when I was little, Christmas lasted ages and ages. It was like all year long. But that's not because I was listening to my two favorite christmas LPs on my giant portable record player with the volume up to 11 all year long. (Just from Halloween until Valentines Day, clearly.) It was because I would have these moments of excitement, hope and joy when I would think about Mr. Santa Clause bringing me (insert favorite toy of the moment) for Christmas. Sure, it was July or whatever, but I was alllll about savoring the future arrival of my Betty Doll that could Pee, Cry and Poop.

These days, despite the radios turning on the holiday mixes on November 27th and stores dragging out their pre-lit christmas trees as they're throwing away their halloween candy. I feel like christmas has this habit of coming out of nowhere for one day and then melting away like Frosty in a sauna. And I'm pretty sure it's because I don't really anticipate Christmas as much as I used to.  Christmas is just a day that I (luckily. thanks favorite boss ever) don't have to work and get to eat lots of chocolate.

I'm sure that some of you reading this are not particularly religious. You might not actually care about Advent, wreathes with only 5 candles that have to be certain colors, or rehashing the christmas story one verse at a time every week.
That's fine. Totally fine. But the IDEA of Advent, the idea of anticipation, is just something that can only make your winter a littler more warm and fluffy. Sure, maybe you're not anticipating the birth of Christ, or Santa leaving you a puppy in your stocking. But I'm sure this holiday season there is at least one thing that you can savor in the future.

So this is my holiday challenge to you. (and myself, because I want the holiday to be full of magic, and Dr. Bryant says this will make me like satisfied or something), is to find something that you can anticipate with hunger in your soul.

Maybe it's seeing your folks for the first time in 3 years.
Maybe it's finally having your son come home from basic training.
Maybe it's the super radicalawesomefantasmic game system that is being released at the end of the month.
Maybe it's the first day of the winter that starts getting longer instead of shorter,
Or maybe it's just that 3 day weekend when you've planned a stay at home spa event for you and your five bottles of wine. ahem. I mean five best friends.

I'm sure that there's something that you JUST CAN'T WAIT for. Whatever it is, try and spend some time gleefully anticipating it. Bring some non-religious Advent into your lives and get really excited about the things that have yet to come.

Hopefully, if we take some time to savor the future, no matter what religion we do or do not claim to follow, we will have an even warmer and brighter winter.

So, what do you think?