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Why Cancelling Plans Feels So Good

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Cancelling plans provides a rush of dopamine to the brain, producing the tangible happiness people feel in these situations.

The dinner date or camping session that you scheduled with a friend under the influence of a couple of drinks can be repressed and forgotten until the last minute. Then, it catches you off guard in the most unexpected of times, often as you’re relaxing at home after a long day. Dread floods your system. Your plans of having a glass of wine and catching up on TV fly out the window.

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According to experts and psychologists there is evidence that canceled plans provide relief in the brain. “If having to keep to a plan made is causing the person discomfort — say she has a lot to do or does not really want to meet the person — it is likely there will be increased activity in the emotion centers and in the prefrontal cortex, where most higher level processing takes place,” Dr. Regan Gurung tells Bustle.

Gurung explains that cancelling plans provides a rush of dopamine to the brain, producing the tangible happiness people feel in these situations. The dopamine effect becomes even more pronounced in people who have social anxiety.

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Another expert, Dr. Maya Borgueta, says that we put ourselves in these unwanted situations because we agree to things on the moment, without thinking about our real motivations and what we really want. “We’ll say ‘yes’ to something because we can’t think of a good excuse not to go in the moment, but we’re really not interested,” Borgueta told Apartment Therapy.

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PhD Chip Raymond Knee provides a more layered explanation for this phenomenon, putting the blame on the plans themselves. He told  Men’s Health that in order to be motivated to do something, you have to know that your plans will fulfill at least one of the following requirements:

1) Autonomy: Feeling that your behaviors stem from what you really want

2) Competence: Feeling capable and effective in what you’re doing

3) Relatedness: Feeling like you belong

If your plans don’t satisfy any one of those needs, you’ll most likely stay in for the night.

Of course, it all depends on the plans; canceling some plans might feel better than canceling others. While a party that you chose to skip out on might leave you with some FOMO, a canceled meeting with a friend that you haven’t seen in a long time might produce some guilt and hurt feelings. It’s important to prioritize and to avoid canceling plans when your fears are rooted in laziness and social anxiety.

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