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?