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30 Effortless Ways to Infuse Your Life with Happiness: The Vorfreude Revelation

Be truthful: there have been occasions when you’ve experienced schadenfreude, or the pleasure derived from another’s misfortunes. But have you ever heard of vorfreude? I recently stumbled upon this delightful term, which my German-speaking friend translated as “the anticipation of joy.” It struck me as a concept full of hope – surely we could all benefit from less schadenfreude and more vorfreude. So, what exactly is anticipatory joy, how can we nurture it, and will it contribute to our happiness?

“The essence of vorfreude lies in finding joy in the build-up to an event,” explains , a clinical psychologist and mental health expert at the meditation and . “For instance, the excitement and happiness we feel when planning a trip, thinking about a forthcoming date, or anticipating a special meal.” While it’s easy to eagerly await holidays and special occasions, a life brimming with joy also encompasses everyday moments. Rory Platt, a writer at the personal development company , suggests, “The key is to pepper our calendar with numerous small moments to anticipate – like tiny ornaments that, when viewed from afar, coalesce into a more dazzling future.”

However, vorfreude isn’t about fast-forwarding through life and assuming happiness lies solely in an imagined future. “Looking forward to something can spark joy in the present moment,” notes Karen Neil, a health coach and the founder of . This positive anticipation can uplift your spirits and help prevent burnout. A study published in Frontiers of Psychology revealed that looking forward to positive events activates the brain’s medial prefrontal cortex, linked to a heightened sense of wellbeing.

But doesn’t raising your expectations heighten the risk of disappointment? Some might argue that it’s safer to keep expectations low. , a mindfulness expert and author of Inhale Exhale Repeat, disagrees. “There’s a saying: ‘If you worry, you suffer twice.’ Anticipatory joy embodies the opposite sentiment.” Even if an awaited event falls short, vorfreude aids in swift recovery. “Individuals who embrace anticipatory joy exhibit greater resilience when faced with unforeseen challenges,” explains , a psychotherapist and .

During challenging times when the future seems bleak, it’s essential not to be too hard on yourself. “It’s crucial that positive psychology isn’t misconstrued as toxic positivity,” emphasizes Taylor. “When I was undergoing cancer treatment, most days were spent binge-watching television. It’s acceptable to pause and weather the storm when everything feels overwhelming, without the added burden of guilt for not actively seeking joy.” If feelings of despair persist, seeking assistance from a GP, therapist, or organizations like or is imperative.

For those ready to embrace vorfreude, the process shouldn’t feel burdensome. “Primarily, it involves appreciating the existing elements in your life that you eagerly anticipate,” suggests Taylor. , a mindfulness professor at the University of Oxford, advocates for the benefits of fostering joy. In his book Mindfulness for Life, he articulates, “It only takes a small shift from habit to awareness to relish the presence of our loved ones, relish a meal, or dance to music in our kitchen while cooking. These moments are accessible to us at all times.”

Keeping this in mind, here are 30 simple ways to infuse more vorfreude into your life:

Begin with Small Steps

If the notion of vorfreude feels alien, start by noticing one joyful thing each day, recommends Neil. Consider it a photo challenge – spend a few moments daily seeking out a beautiful flower, intriguing sight, or adorable dog to capture.

Foster Positive Thinking

Create a morning affirmation or positive statement to kickstart your day on a cheerful note, suggests Taylor. Incorporate it into your phone’s screensaver to set a positive tone. For instance, “Today I will seek out moments of joy and cherish them.”

Transform Routine into Ritual

A woman about to drink a cup of coffee

Find joy in the anticipation of everyday rituals, like savoring your first cup of coffee in the morning. Allow yourself to revel in the thoughts of the aroma, taste, and the experience of that first sip.

Discover Joy in Daily Life

“At the end of my evening meditation classes, I encourage participants to identify three things they look forward to the next day,” shares Mills. It could be as simple as a morning stroll in the park or relishing a podcast during your commute.

Break Free from Routine

A crouching man pets his terrier in the kitchen

Engage in hobbies like gardening or spending time with pets consciously, relishing these moments rather than going through the motions, suggests Karen Atkinson, the CEO of .

Overcome Negative Thinking Patterns

Recognize and challenge negative thought patterns to cultivate a more joyful mindset, advises Atkinson. Instead of dismissing positive experiences, acknowledge and appreciate them, steering clear of self-imposed expectations.

Embrace the Present Moment

A relaxed woman taking a bubble bath and reading a book in a freestanding tub

Savor the anticipation just before indulging in a pastry, starting a movie, or stepping into a relaxing bath, suggests Mills. Appreciate the joy that is about to unfold in those fleeting moments.

Indulge in Self-Care

Allocate time for brief indulgences and outings to uplift your spirits, recommends Platt. Treat yourself to early finishes on Fridays for dinners with friends, visits to art galleries, or solo cinema trips without guilt.

Document Your Plans

Incorporate the habit of jotting down your plans, as suggested in , to elevate your excitement levels. Even the act of penning down your aspirations can make them feel more tangible and exciting.

Maintain a Joy Journal

Identify what brings you happiness by documenting moments of joy in a journal, advises Neil. By recognizing these sources of joy, you can proactively plan to incorporate more of them into your life.

Prioritize Physical Activity

Young woman doing pushups on her kitchen floor

Allocate time for activities like gentle stretching, yoga sessions, or dance classes to infuse joy into your routine, recommends Taylor. Exercise should be enjoyable, so find an activity that brings you pleasure.

Engage in Meal Planning

Enhance your anticipation by creating meal plans for the week, giving you something to look forward to, suggests Taylor. Consider using a slow cooker for time-saving recipes like rice pudding.

Socialize with Friends

, a mindful change consultant, finds joy in planning exciting outings with friends. Whether it’s a night out or a cozy movie session at home, the anticipation of spending time with loved ones can be a source of vorfreude.

Dream of Future Getaways

Explore the thrill of planning imaginary or upcoming vacations, as the anticipation itself can bring more joy than the trip, notes Mort. Engage in the excitement of envisioning your next travel adventure.

Appreciate Nature’s Beauty

A woman’s hand gently touching a flower in a field of pink and white cosmos

Immerse yourself in nature’s wonders, as Taylor suggests. Whether it’s admiring a sunset or observing the intricate details of a flower, these simple joys can elevate your spirits.

Practice Mindful Walking

During your walks, strive to be present in the moment, focusing on the beauty around you, advises Neil. Let go of worries and distractions, allowing yourself to fully experience the serenity of your surroundings.

Engage in Treasure Hunts

Taylor enjoys geocaching, a treasure-hunting activity that brings her joy. Consider participating in similar activities that add an element of excitement and anticipation to your daily routine.

Cultivate Creativity

Female hand holding an origami crane

Explore your creative side through activities like collage-making, writing, or learning new skills, suggests Taylor. Engaging in creative pursuits can foster a sense of anticipation and joy.

Musical Pursuits

Neil finds joy in playing the bass clarinet, emphasizing the role of music in her life. Consider joining a community choir, learning an instrument, or attending music events to spark anticipatory joy.

Embrace Novel Experiences

Enroll in dance classes, workshops, or activities that introduce new experiences and excitement into your life, recommends Mort. The thrill of learning something fresh can invigorate your routine.

Visit the Library

A dark-haired girl looking through books on a shelf in a library

Frequent your local library to infuse your life with vorfreude, as Taylor suggests. The anticipation of diving into a new book or the excitement of exploring different genres can bring joy.

Daily Poetry Reading

Immerse yourself in the world of poetry by reading a poem each day, recommends Mills. Consider purchasing a poetry anthology and relish the daily ritual of discovering and enjoying new poems.

Host Celebratory Events

Take pleasure in planning and hosting gatherings, such as birthday parties or themed events, as Taylor enjoys. Celebrate moments with friends and loved ones, creating opportunities for shared joy.

Embrace Seasonal Delights

Look forward to seasonal changes by marking special occasions like equinoxes and full moons in your calendar, suggests Mills. By acknowledging and celebrating these small joys, you can find delight in everyday occurrences.

Acts of Kindness

Experience joy through others’ happiness by planning small surprises or treats for loved ones, fostering a sense of sympathetic joy, as Neil recommends. Small gestures can bring about shared moments of anticipation and joy.

Personal Talismans

Hand holding a yin-yang necklace

Discover joy in simple pleasures by identifying personal talismans or objects that bring you happiness, suggests Neil. Display these items prominently to evoke feelings of joy and comfort during challenging times.

Establish Welcoming Rituals

Create special rituals to anticipate reuniting with loved ones, whether it’s a warm greeting or a shared activity, as Mort suggests. Cultivate moments of connection and joy in your daily routines.

Embrace Silence

Vorfreude extends beyond external activities to moments of introspection and stillness. Dedicate a few minutes daily to meditation, allowing yourself to anticipate the peace and clarity that each session brings, advises Mort.

Prepare for Bedtime

Look forward to bedtime rituals that promote rest and relaxation, such as slipping into fresh sheets or enjoying a warm bath, suggests Taylor. Embrace these comforting routines to enhance your anticipation of a good night’s sleep.