An Ideal Saturday and The Science of Optimism


English: Walking on the beach Looking along th...

Walking on the beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daily Prompt: Me Time — What’s your ideal Saturday morning? Are you doing those things this morning? Why not?

The ideal Saturday morning? Well the ideal Saturday morning would have to begin before Saturday with the perfect Friday lead in.

Dr Tali Sharot in her TED e-book ‘The Science of Optimism’ tells us:

… people prefer Fridays to Sundays. It’s a curious fact, because Friday is a day of work and Sunday is a day of pleasure, so you would expect people to enjoy Sunday more, right? But we don’t. It’s not because we really like being in the office and can’t stand strolling in the park and having a lazy brunch. We prefer Friday to Sunday because Friday brings with it the thrill of anticipating the weekend ahead. In contrast, on Sunday the only thing to look forward to is work on Monday.

So what would that Friday be? The right lead in would be a week where when you got to Friday you were really looking forward to Saturday. Not a bad week full of frustration or conflict but one full of honest, hard work where things got done. You don’t want to be in a bad mood, just an anticipatory one.

For me I’d have to go back a while to the December back in 2010 to find a week just like that. When you work in the IT department of a large Australian university December is hard work without being crippling. There are no students so it is a time of maintenance, it’s in your longest period of downtime so the big projects are going with deadlines still a little way off. You know what has to be done and you work through it step by step. December 2010 I had to image a bunch of lab Macs, some general access Macs and two specialist labs, one for music and one for digital photography. I also had to re-engineer the imaging system behind them. When Friday rolled around I could look back on a week of hard, interesting work that filled my days and was ticking off the items on my lengthy to do list.

Then you’d want a good, relaxing Friday night so you woke up Saturday feeling just right.

That would be a short drive from work back to the home I shared with Sonia and her son Blaze. Friday night would be dinner and then relaxing on the couch next to her with a book and something interesting on the TV. There would probably be some cuddling and perhaps even kissing before going off to bed looking forward to Saturday.

So how would the actual ideal day start? It would probably start with getting woken up by Blaze coming in and waking Sonia and I up. After a few moments of us all on the bed she would get up, taking Blaze with her and head off to get him some breakfast. I would lie there anticipating someone coming back to bed and cuddling up to me.

Dr Sharot in her book says:

This belief that the future will probably be much better than the past and present is known as the “optimism bias,” and most of us have it. The optimism bias is our tendency to overestimate the likelihood of good events happening to us in the future and underestimate the likelihood that bad events will come crashing down.

So on my ideal Saturday morning I start with optimistic anticipation (there’s Sharot’s joy of anticpation again) that Sonia will settle Blaze down with his breakfast and come back to bed.

Of course on this ideal morning she will. There would have to be some more of that cuddling and kissing and maybe even fooling around for a while. Time spent in that big, high bed under the white sheets in that white room.

Then wander through the lounge to the kitchen for a cappuccino and maybe some toast. A quick shower and ready for the day. After a little pottering around the house it is time to do something we all enjoy.

Off we go to Bar Beach where we wander along the sand with us all allowing the waves to wash up and get our feet wet. Blaze is sometimes beside Sonia and I and sometimes running off to scare the seagulls or chase a wave. Sonia and I walk along holding hands. Then when we start to feel hungry we leave the beach to go and get hamburgers and chips from Newcastle’s best hamburger shop.

That sounds like the ideal Saturday morning. The ideal Saturday morning is one of joy and good things shared with people you love.

I can remember Saturdays just like that. I’m almost certainly wrong. I’m probably conflating several happy episodes and dropping pieces that disrupt the happy scene. Dr Sharot again:

Memories [researchers at Harvard University] surmised, are susceptible to inaccuracies partly because the neural system responsible for remembering the episodes from our past may not have evolved for the memory function alone. Rather, the core function of the memory system could in fact be to imagine the future — to enable us to prepare for what is to come. The system was not designed to perfectly replay past events, they claimed. It was designed to flexibly construct future scenarios in our minds. As a result, memory also ends up being a reconstructive process. Occasionally, details are deleted. At other times, they are inserted.

Though Sharot does not say it if we combine the Harvard theory with Sharot’s “optimism bias” then we can easily imagine that when we do drop some details and insert others we will end up with a memory that is happier than the reality. As I probably did when I cast my mind back for a previous ideal Saturday.

I didn’t do those things this Saturday morning as I now live by myself. Sonia and Blaze have gone, that ideal has gone.

I also have to say that my optimism bias isn’t working terribly well. That wouldn’t surprise Sharot, the final word from her — “people with severe depression tend to be pessimistically biased; they expect things to be worse than they end up being.”

About these ads

3 thoughts on “An Ideal Saturday and The Science of Optimism

  1. If I was an optimistic type, I’d be saying forget about past ideals and focus on the one to come. That’s the whole point of the weekend anticipation, I would have thought. (I’ve always thought it should be Sundayitis). But what would I know, I’ve turned into an old crab. PS, I know about the TED talks (I stumbled on the site one day), but did not know you could get TED e-books.

  2. Pingback: Shiver With … | Tony's Texts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s