Why we’re hard-wired for hope

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Updated 02 March 2016
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Why we’re hard-wired for hope

We have a tendency to be optimistic but most of us are not aware about it. Yes, indeed, whether we are eight or eighty, we wear rose-tinted glasses. This is known as the optimism bias which Tali Sharot describes in her book ‘The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain’ as “an inclination to overestimate the likelihood of encountering positive events in the future and to underestimate the likelihood of experiencing negative events.”
As we grow older, we should be wiser and be able to distinguish between the harsh reality and the world full of hope that we believe is real. The author, one of the most innovative neuroscientists at work today, provides some fascinating insight into her research on optimism, memory and emotion. Tali Sharot argues that optimism might be so essential to our survival that it is hardwired in our brain where it creates our hopes and dreams.
Optimism can even transform predictions into reality. When the Lakers won the NBA championship after defeating the Boston Celtics in 1987, everyone wanted to know if the Lakers would be able to win the championship a second time since no team had managed a repeat since the Boston Celtics won twice in a row in 1969. The Lakers was a great team with renowned players like Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but it was their head coach, Pat Riley who created a buzz by telling a reporter that he guaranteed his team would win the NBA championship again next year.
Predicting your team will win does not necessarily make it so. However, a prediction has an influence on the event it predicts because people’s behavior is determined by their subjective perception of reality. Riley’s statement was false at the time it was made because no event is predetermined. No one can know what the future will hold. Nevertheless by pointing to a new behavior, that is rigorous training and lack of compromise, the claim resulted in a repeat championship.”Therefore, believing in a positive outcome will enhance the probability that the desired outcome will be realized” explains Sharot.
But what happens when positive expectations do not lead to positive outcomes and cause disappointment? Is it not better to hold lower expectations in order to protect ourselves from frustration? The truth is that low expectations do not diminish the pain of failure and often lead to worse results.
Researchers have found that people who react to illness with passive acceptance of their own impending death die prematurely. On the other hand, optimists exercise more, are more likely to reduce their body-fat level, take more vitamins and eat low fat diets. The result is that optimists live longer and pessimists die younger. Optimists also experience faster recovery after coronary bypass surgery than pessimists and are less likely to be rehospitalized. Underestimating the probability of future adverse events reduces our level of stress and anxiety which is beneficial to our health.
“By definition, optimists are people who hold positive expectations of the future. They expect to do well in life, have good relationships, and be productive, healthy, and happy.
Because optimists expect to do better and be healthier, they have fewer subjective reasons for worry and despair. The result? They are less anxious and adjust better to stress factors…”
A survey conducted by the British research company Ipsos MORI revealed that people believe the following five factors are most likely to enhance our happiness; in order of importance, they are: more time with the family, earning more money, better health, more time with friends, and more traveling.
The factor that is most debated is the relationship between happiness and wealth. Are we happier when we have more money? Many studies point out that people who earn more feel more anger and anxiety so why do we still want to earn more money when earning more does not make us happy?
“We may desire to own a new home, have a fancier car, go on vacation more often, eat at high-end restaurants, and buy expensive suits. However, once we have all of this, within months we acclimate and the extra cash no longer contributes significantly to our level of happiness” says Tali Sharot.
Furthermore a higher salary results in longer working hours and greater responsibilities. While this shows that there is not a clear relationship between wealth and well-being, people strongly believe that such a relationship does exist and that when you earn more money, you are in a better mood.
“The optimism bias is a crucial ingredient for keeping us happy. When people perceive the future accurately, when they are well aware that none of the things people assume will make them happy is likely to have any lasting significance on their wellbeing, when they take off their rose-tinted glasses and see things more clearly, they become depressed, clinically depressed”
Another case of optimism bias concerns our decisions. Why is it that we value things even more after we have selected them? We can spend hours debating which pair of shoes we should buy but once we have made a decision we are genuinely convinced that our choice is the best.
Modern society presents us with more choices than ever. If we start wondering whether we made the right choice, we would feel anxious, confused, regretful and sad.
Winston Churchill said to the gathering at the Lord Mayor of London’s banquet in 1954: “For myself I am an optimist, it does not seem to be much use being anything else” in other words, Churchill believed that a pessimist will see the difficulty in every opportunity and thus will be unlikely even to try, while an optimist will see the opportunity in every difficulty.
Optimism “prevents us from viewing our options in life as somewhat limited. As a result, stress and anxiety are reduced, physical and mental health is improved, and the motivation to act and be productive is enhanced. In order to progress, we need to be able to imagine alternative, not just any old realities but better realities and we need to believe them to be possible”.
This book is easy to read and most of all it makes you feel good. Tali Sharot takes an in-depth look at how our brain generates hopes and what happens when it fails. We are told once and for all that optimism plays a crucial role in our life.

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Startup of the Week: Protein Laboratory: Making healthy eating fun and easy

Updated 17 September 2019

Startup of the Week: Protein Laboratory: Making healthy eating fun and easy

  • And with growing health awareness, many Saudis are switching over to more nutritious dietary habits

JEDDAH: An enterprising Saudi family is aiming to take the world by storm with its scientific approach to healthy eating.

The Bogari’s newly opened Protein Laboratory restaurant in Jeddah is the brainchild of brothers Ahmed, Hussain and Hassan.

The three doctors got the inspiration for their startup from hospital laboratories while studying in medical school, and with the help of their parents set about establishing their innovative culinary venture.

In recent years the health and fitness fad has become a flourishing business sector in the Kingdom, which has witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of gyms and fitness centers.

And with growing health awareness, many Saudis are switching over to more nutritious dietary habits. However, eating clean can be a challenge for those with busy, modern lifestyles who do not have the time to prepare meals.

Enter the Protein Laboratory, opened to add fun to the idea of healthy food. “We wanted to reintroduce the concept of healthy food to the Saudi health and fitness community,” Ahmed, 27, told Arab News.

“We believe that healthy food does not have to be boring and achieving your goal of fat loss can actually satisfy your taste buds and leave you happily full at the same time.

“We are planning to expand in Jeddah and Makkah to help more people achieve their fitness targets while enjoying tasty food, and we are aiming to be recognized globally,” he said.

The trio started planning their enterprise while studying at medical college but credit their parents’ support for helping turn their vision into a successful business launch.

Their father guided them in setting up the company and their mother took responsibility for the restaurant’s kitchen, playing a major role in developing recipes and supervising operations.

The brothers’ association with the field of medicine also helped them in their efforts. Ahmed was first inspired by hospital laboratories and the way researchers worked on minor details to get the best possible results.

“The long counters, glass walls, and test tubes are what I liked the most, in addition to the complete transparency of the place. It is exactly how I wanted our restaurant to be. Everything to be prepared and cooked just in front of the customer with a high level of attention to detail,” he added.

The idea behind the name Protein Laboratory was to ensure customers had the option to select, mix and create ingredients according to their taste or preference.

“Customers can order their meals according to their nutritional needs and preferences, starting with selecting the protein base, cooking method, side dishes, the sauce and portion of the meal’s components in grams.”

Ahmed said: “We use the healthiest cooking methods possible. We don’t use frozen meat; we blend our own spices and make sure everything is always made in the healthiest way.”

The brothers and their mother work like scientists. “We spent one year testing ingredients and creating healthy recipes. We had only one goal in mind: High protein in a healthy meal and a portion that could help us and others to stay healthy while still eating the food we desired with higher quality and better taste,” Ahmed added.

Their lab salad dish includes more than 20 organic ingredients high in protein, fiber and antioxidants. The restaurant’s burger has only 396 calories, and one of their best-selling desserts is a sugar-free banana pancake.

“We aim to make our prices within everyone’s reach,” Ahmed said.

One of the services offered by the restaurant is subscription to a meal plan drawn up according to the nutritional needs of the customer and delivered to their workplace or home.

Protein Laboratory is located in Helmi Kutbi Street, in Jeddah’s Al-Zahra district and can be followed on Instagram @proteinlabsa.