When we pack our bags for a leisure getaway we often picture the scenery, the food and the wonderful time we will have soaking our senses away from home. However, many factors may affect our getaways such as unpredictable weather, flight delay or last-minute cancellation. So, how can we always enjoy our holiday travels no matter what happens?
Living on an economically well-to-do country the size of an island often prompts its inhabitants to seek sights and sounds outside of its familiar surroundings. Singaporeans have increased their average monthly travelling expenses from $260 to $340 since 2013 with the affordability of budget air travel encouraging spontaneous trips. Despite this, our travel plans can still go awry. A friend who was planning a trip to Japan in September cancelled due to the typhoon.
I have also cancelled a pre-planned holiday trip due to nagging sinusitis. Although it sounded horrifying to some co-workers who heard that I spent two weeks resting at home instead of going away, I was in no way affected by their reactions. I was also content staying home during those two weeks which I had meant to spend away from home. That is because I was not engaged in affective forecasting.
Psychologists Dan Gilbert and Tim Wilson who studied affective forecasting said we often get ourselves into stress or bad mood by miswanting. How can we ever miswant anything? They said that wanting something is intrinsically tied to predicting. Our minds often predict how we will feel about future events, depending on how much we like or dislike that event. Miswanting or affective forecasting means we often make mistakes about how we will like or dislike something in the future. We mispredict the duration of our good and bad feelings in affective forecasting.
Understanding how our psychological immune system jumps into action the moment a terrible event befalls us, we can prevent or reduce how events – good or bad affect our moods.
Although affective forecasting affects us every day – for example, we might be planning to eat at our family’s favourite restaurant only to find out when we arrive that the head chef of that restaurant had left and the food’s standard has dropped. This may cause a feeling of dissatisfaction, thus ruining the key reason for the dinner outing, which is family bonding.
However, affective forecasting is most prominent when we are planning for that holiday getaway. How many people would actually picture having a bad time travelling for a holiday? Most of us instead look ahead eagerly, but some return dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction could be due to having encountered a terrible tour guide, bad weather, food poisoning to quarrels in the group due to each others’ different habits.
The solution to affective forecasting is not to predict or forecast events at all. Rather, understand that anything can happen. We are not in control of nature or anyone in the world. The only thing we can predict is how we will react, thus we can reduce or remove the feeling of dissatisfaction or unhappiness if we remember to stay in the present and allow whatever happens to happen. In this way, we will always be able to enjoy our holiday travels no matter what happens.
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