Answering “How was your weekend?”

Weekends are valuable. They are the chunks of time that we are most in control of. Can we make this cliched question truer to its stated intent? Can we use it to evaluate our weekends, rather than to merely make small talk?  Firstly, let us broadly outline the two kinds of activities we can fill our weekends with.

There are things that gratify instantly. Like eating that chocolate cake topped off with some rich creamy fudge. Or scrolling through our Twitter or Reddit feeds. Or watching our favourite sport. Or reading a page-turning thriller. What all these activities have in common is their ability to flood the brain with some feel good dopamine the minute they are indulged in. There is an impulsive tendency to reach for them during times of boredom or stress.

And then there are activities that delay gratification. Like going for a run, a long bike ride, working out, playing the sport we love or reading non-fiction or classical literature. The idea of pursuing them are appealing, but their execution is difficult. They start off as commitments, but are not usually followed through. A lot of times, they can even feel painful while executing them. The satisfaction comes later, or over their sustained pursuit.

What makes for a good weekend?

Instant gratification starts off as pleasure and ends up becoming a craving or even an addiction. With time, these activities rarely end up as capabilities and have the potential to do long-term damage. Delayed gratification begins as pain or struggle, but transforms into a fulfilling skill with time. There are several studies that show how children that are pre-disposed to delay gratification become happier and more successful individuals.

The nature of gratification can be a useful heuristic to evaluate our weekends – a thumb rule to think of whether its activities were centred around instant or delayed gratification.

So how was your weekend?

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