Can delayed gratification increase happiness?

Anyone that lives in the Northeast knows what it feels like to wait and wait for the glorious days of summer, and it’s *finally* here!

Each spring, as my senses awaken to the enchanting smell of lilacs, I ask myself, why endure five months of cold and gray to get here?  I could make it much easier on myself. That’s why places like San Diego exist!  Alas, I always come up with the same explanation…waiting makes it THAT MUCH BETTER.

It’s called delayed gratification or put simply, it means making a choice that limits pleasure now in exchange for having something better and more pleasurable later.  What fascinates me the most about delayed gratification is it’s link to happiness.  People that delay their indulgences get to experience something others don’t.  They get to experience the pleasure of anticipation.  That feeling of anticipation (e.g. day dreaming of what it will be like once you have X) allows the person to lengthen the experience, increasing their overall enjoyment and excitement.

Think about planning a trip months ahead of time…chatting with friends about how great it’s going to be, getting their recommendations, picturing yourself going off the beaten path, having new adventures.  That build up is actually increasing the amount of happiness you’ll have overall.  It’s kind of like getting the most out of your happiness dollar!

And, there’s science to back this up. There’s a well known study called the Marshmallow Test conducted by a Stanford University professor that correlates the ability to delay gratification with being more motivated, healthier, getting better grades, and having a more positive outlook on life.

The way the study goes is that researchers gave a group of four-to-six year old children a marshmallow, telling them they could have a second marshmallow if they waited until the adults returned to the room.  After 15 minutes, they returned, finding some of the children had eaten their marshmallows and others had not.

According to the 1970 study, “In over 600 children who took part in the experiment, a minority ate the marshmallow immediately. Of those who attempted to delay, one third deferred gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow.”

The researchers went on to track these children into their adult lives to see how the two groups fared.  The children that did not eat the marshmallow had higher grades in high school, had lower BMIs, were more dependable, and had less financial difficulties.

If you’re intrigued, here’s a very entertaining video of the experiment!

While I may not have been the happiest camper waiting for the first 70 degree day to appear, it has made me appreciate the beautiful flowers and warmth that much more.  And that my friends, is what it’s all about.

And, of course, if you’re ever looking to experience the spring a little earlier, there’s always Blossom Water!

Happy summer!