Study: To boost health and happiness, treat your weekend like a vacation

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Published Friday, March 10, 2023
by Roz Brown

(New Mexico News Connection) If weekends fail to reduce your stress levels or bring you happiness, behavioral scientists say you should instead think of them more like a vacation. 

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, Anderson School of Management studied whether people who spent more money eating out at restaurants or hitting the ski slopes were happier than those who prioritized weekend relaxation. 

Study co-author Colin West - now a postdoctoral fellow and behavioral scientist at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management - said the research showed happiness wasn't based on activities.

"What we found was that had little correlation with how happy people were on Monday," said West. "But what did predict how happy people were on Monday were people who treated it like a vacation - it didn't matter so much what they did, but they tended to be a little bit more in the present moment."

West said adopting a vacation mindset heading into the weekend could be compared to the Buddhist philosophy of "mindfulness" - which studies show can reduce stress levels and possibly make you happier.

Americans get fewer vacation days than many people in other parts of the world, but some don't use the vacation days they're owed. Still others tie their personal value to productivity, and treat weekends like any other day. 

The average European gets 21 days of vacation each year and takes all of them, while Americans get about 15 days annually and only use about 13, according to New View Strategies.

West argued that a reset can help avoid the "Monday blues" many people report at the beginning of a new work week.  

"Sometimes there's a bit of a status to, 'oh, I'm so busy right now,'" said West, "that people almost kind-of brag about how busy they are - and prioritizing leisure time can seem frivolous. And if you don't mentally prioritize it then you're not going to get the benefits of it."

Of course, chores such as cleaning house or grocery shopping don't magically disappear when you treat the weekend like a vacation, but West said many in the study noted improved well-being when they tweaked their approach.

"They reported," said West, quoting the participants, "that 'actually when I was doing chores around the house - I really tried to like be in the moment and not be thinking about work or stressing about things. I tried to get that mental separation from work.'" may earn an affiliate commission if you purchase products or services through links in an article. Prices, when displayed, are accurate at the time of publication but may change over time. Commissions do not influence editorial independence.

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