This easy life hack will make your weekends more refreshing
Researchers' advice: Frame your weekend as a vacation


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When it comes to time off, America is definitely not a world leader. The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that the United States is the only country with an advanced economy that doesn't guarantee workers paid time off, and about one quarter of U.S. workers don't receive paid holidays and vacation days.
But forgoing time off is a consequential loss. Research has found that vacations improve our health, boost job performance, and trigger creativity. They also make us happier.
UCLA Anderson researchers Colin West, Cassie Mogilner Holmes and Sanford E. DeVoe reviewed data from more than 200,000 Americans and found that folks who took more vacation days reported being happier. The good vibes were flowing more, the bad vibes were tamped down, and life satisfaction clocked in higher.
So what to do if vacation time is scarce?
The researchers hit on an intriguing hack: Frame your weekend as a vacation. They found that people who do this return to work on Monday happier than the control group that spent their weekend doing the same-old same-old.
West, Holmes, and DeVoe teased out that it wasn't that the vacation-minded were happier because they did fewer chores or spent more time on enjoyable activities. It had more to do with the fact that once nudged out of their normal weekend routine, they spent the weekend being more present in whatever they were doing.
Being mindfulIn their first experiment, the researchers had approximately 500 participants rate their happiness level on the Friday leading into the weekend.
Participants in the control group were sent off into the weekend with the prompt to treat it like a regular weekend. The other group was instructed, “to the extent possible, think in ways and behave in ways as though you were on vacation.”
When everyone schlepped back to work on Monday, they once again reported their happiness level. Participants were also asked to rate the frequency with which they spent the weekend focused on the present moment. To tease that out, the researchers included statements such as “I seemed to be running on automatic without much awareness of what I was doing,” and “I focused on the present moment.”
Participants prompted to treat the weekend like a vacation reported back to work on Monday happier than the control group.
“Simply by adopting a vacation mindset, people became more attentive to the present moment, thereby extracting greater happiness from this time off," the researchers found.
The second study once again split more than 500 participants into the same two groups. Everyone was asked on Monday to create a diary of their weekend activities and to rate their level of happiness when engaged in a specific activity, as well as their estimation of how “in-the-moment” they were during each.
Once again, the vacation group was happier on Monday than the control group. The vacation group also reported being more present in the moment.
The vacation-prompted group did indeed spend less time on housework and caring for the kids than the control group, and more time eating and in intimate relations. Yet when the researchers controlled for the time spent on various activities, they found that it was not creating the happiness boost.
“Rather than any changes in one's activities, it was indeed one's minding of the present moment throughout the weekend that increased enjoyment during that time and produced greater happiness when back at work,” they write.
Granted, some time on the beach or the slopes definitely has plenty of allure. But for the time-and-money-constrained, this research offers an accessible and affordable alternative that enables them to soak up some vacation vibes.
“The benefits do not require taking additional time off from work, excessive spending for extravagant travel or the inclusion of particular activities," say the researchers. "Vacations involve a mental break that allows people to become more fully engaged in and absorbed by their time off, making that time more enjoyable.”
Source: University of California, Los Angeles: newsroom.ucla.edu