Rest, relaxation--and anticipation

Woo hoo! Summer's finally here!

That means time for a vaycay. (Note to readers: This is the first time I've ever used the word "vaycay" and don't plan to use it again any time soon. But I'm just so excited!)

Picture yourself on the beach, staring out at the water, frothy drink with a tiny colorful umbrella in one hand, and young adult genre literature popular with adults and kids alike in the other.

Can you hardly wait? Well, maybe you should.

It turns out anticipating the vacation could be the best part. Maybe Carly Simon had it right.

Researchers from the Netherlands measured the effects of vacations on overall happiness and how long that happy feeling lasts in a 2010 study published in the journal "Applied Research in Quality of Life."

They interviewed more than 1,500 Dutch adults, including 974 vacationers, and found that the vacationers felt most happy before their trips. The study found that the biggest boost in happiness came from the act of planning the vacation, but after the vacation happiness dropped back to baseline levels for most returning vacationers.

In fact, there was no post-trip boost in happiness levels for people, no matter whether they said their trip was "stressful," "neutral," or "relaxing." They were no happier than those who didn't go on vacation at all.

On the flip side, anticipating something hard, like a looming deadline on the calendar, can be tough.

My friends and I have talked about how we freaked out a bit when we turned 30. We spent the bulk of age 29 anticipating our birthday with dread. But then, when the big day arrived, we ended up enjoying our foray into our 30 something years just fine. In fact, we even felt a little bit wiser and more confident with our new age.

Last month, I took a two-day intensive speaker training as part of my professional development. The company I took the course through, called EMS Communications, is run by three very cool Jewish guys in Northbrook. They film you delivering unscripted speeches so that you can play back your speeches and figure out how to improve.

I'm not a huge fan of speaking in front of groups without notes--so the thought of speaking in front of a group without notes for two days straight wasn't super appealing to me. But I did it anyway because they say (not sure who they are) it's the things we don't do in life that we regret.

I signed up for the course a month ahead of time, and pretty much thought about the upcoming course in the back, or sometimes the front of mind depending on how slow a news day it was, for a month straight--until I actually took the training.

And you know what? Once I was in the moment actually presenting in front of the others, it really wasn't that bad. The anticipation was by far the worst part.

Now I'm not saying I want to publicly speak every day. Let's not get carried away here. But it's amazing that the things we're scared to do so often seem less scary after--or even while--we're doing them. They can even be, dare I say, kind of fun.

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