3 Adventures to Plan for a Better Week
A formula for giving yourself something to look forward to
As pandemic life drags on, many of us are appreciating (and/or missing) the joy of having something to look forward to. An upcoming party gives structure to a weekend. A planned beach vacation makes the winter doldrums bearable. Some research has found that anticipating positive events can reduce negative feelings in stressful situations; other studies find that thinking about future positive experiences can nudge wiser choices in the present.
Covid-19 has made this all more challenging, and the predictable psychological result is a certain level of malaise. Fortunately, you don’t need tickets to Tahiti to reap the mental benefits of anticipation. I’ve studied how people feel about their time, and I’ve found that even a little positive expectation can go a long way. To make your calendar feel more joyful, you just need to set aside time for three things every week:
One big adventure
An exciting, unusual experience can keep us from feeling like each day is bleeding into the next. As the psychologist and memory researcher Lila Davachi explained in her 2016 TED talk: “In an environment with a lot of variety and change, you’re forming far more memory units than in an environment with very little change. It’s these units — the number of these units — that determine our estimates of time later on. More units, more to remember, and time expands.”
I define a “big adventure” as one that takes at least three to four hours, which for most of us would mean half a weekend day. Think about your upcoming weekends: What would you genuinely enjoy that’s within an hour’s drive? In recent weeks, I’ve taken my kids skating at an outdoor ice rink, we’ve visited a botanical garden greenhouse, and I’ve gotten timed tickets to two regional art museums. A big adventure can anchor your days off. You’ll still have tons of open time if you want, but if anyone asks on Monday what you did over the weekend, you’ll have…