Do you know how to have a great holiday? I thought I did but given the number of letdowns we’ve had, our friends know there’s a fair chance they can bob round the day before we’re due back and be welcomed in for tea and cake – which makes me think I’ve definitely got a bit to learn.
A number of psychologists have set about answering the question “are holidays worth it?” and this month I’m bringing you their top three findings to help you maximise yours.
Holiday Psychology Tip # 1:
Go for three – six days
Three to six days is long enough to have a break, short enough not to get into family and friend fallout territory according to Dutch researcher Jeroen Nawijin. Such a short break limits your choice of destination but if the number of female columnists (all mothers I suspect) recounting tales of why British is best this summer, then a trip to the Cornish Riviera or the Western Isles might be just the ticket. No airport queuing, no abysmal ferry food, no lugging bottled water up to your Spanish self-catered apartment and all the rest of it. But if you are flying this summer, pay the extra bit for decent daytime flights from your nearest airport. This year we’re going for six nights to a place we booked based on being able to get their during daylight hours from Luton airport 10 miles up the road.
Holiday Psychology Tip #2:
Do something memorable and end on a high
I’ve written about ‘peak-end theory’ in past mailings which basically says that the way us humans remember things is skewed in favour of what happened at the end of the experience and the highest emotional point during. So if your party has five nights in Normandy with an amazing time watching grey seals in the Baie de Somme on Tuesday with a seamless first class return by Eurostar on Friday you’re likely to remember it pretty fondly. Plan to do something the whole lot of you will really enjoy (in case serendipity doesn’t smile on you with an unexpected pleasure) and try and make your return as sweet as possible. This year our cleaner is coming in whilst we’re away because walking in to a greb-free kitchen, tidied toys and fresh bed linen is the best end I could hope for.
Holiday Psychology #3:
Plan to take it easy when you get back
A five page feature on holiday research findings in this month’s The Psychologist makes it abundantly clear that any wellbeing benefits accrued by holidays are very short-lived. Various reasons ensue and from my client work I’ve seen that an unmanaged workload whilst you’re away is the most parsimonious explanation. Returning to unread client e-mails and a diary of meetings is bound to wind your unwound mind back up again. If you’re a line manager it’s worth considering how your team can cover each others’ backs whilst on holiday to allow the vacationer to retain their calm and contentedness that wee bit longer on their return. Checking e-mails and keeping their diary clear for at least their first day back is a start. Various people I’ve worked with take their iphones and Blackberries on holidays for twice daily checks (and think they’re ‘good’ for this measured approach rather than constant twitching) as a way to avoid that nasty post getaway bump. To this I say, hand it over to your secretary and have done. Otherwise you’re not having a break, you’re working from (holiday) home. My intention is to have zilch e-mail contact between 12 noon Tuesday 30th August – 2pm Monday 5th September.
May I Help You?
Why not prolong your positive post holiday mood by working shortened hours on your return and booking the holiday pedicure, manicure and facial for after you get back? Failing that, get your next break booked sharpish as there’s evidence to suggest simply anticipating a holiday has therapeutic affect.
My work is about changing behaviour and helping people achieve what’s important to them both professionally and personally. If you’re finding it tricky to handle your workload, are hanging out for holidays because work’s not as good as you’d like it to be or – conversely – devoting yourself entirely to your career because your personal life is out of shape and you don’t know how to set it straight, do drop me a line and we can work it out.
This post was inspired by Vacationers Happier, but Most not Happier After a Holiday (2010). Jeroen Nawijn, Miquelle A. Marchand, Ruut Veenhoven and Ad J. Vingerhoets. Applied Quality of Life, 5, 35-47.