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Many Americans spend too many hours at work and don’t take time off like you should. But a new study suggests treating your weekend like a full-fledged vacation could make you happier.
The study, from researchers at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science in 2020. It finds that simply telling yourself to “treat the weekend like a vacation” before your weekend begins can affect your mood once Monday inevitably rolls back around. While they stress that this is not a replacement for an actual vacation, it helps.
The researchers initiated a series of experiments in which 441 workers were either instructed to spend a spring weekend like they normally would or “treat it like a vacation.” The results found that those who treated the weekend like a vacation were happier than those that didn’t. As a boost to the economy, they even spent more money ($130 compared to $104).
“Treating the weekend like a vacation activates a mindset shift — nudging us out of our constant doing mode, where our activities are items we’re trying to get through to check off our to-do lists,” Cassie Holmes, professor at UCLA’s Anderson School and a study co-author, told The Washington Post. “The vacation mindset allows us to feel like we can actually take a break and enjoy the moment.”
The authors of the study note that, when people treated the weekend like a vacation, they spend less time doing unenjoyable activities like housework and reported more happiness throughout the weekend. Even after accounting for differences in the use of time, simply paying attention to the present moment was associated with a better mood once Monday rolled around.
So, does this mean you need to go away every weekend or spend money for the “vacation effect?” Not at all. The researchers say it’s simply about being mindful. Keep yourself focused on the enjoyment of the time you have off. Tell yourself you’re on vacation, rather than looking to Monday’s work duties.
“I love this finding because it’s so easy to implement, yet can have such a dramatic effect,” Holmes said.
If you need help with creating a vacation mindset this weekend, try practicing yoga or meditation. One of my personal favorite meditations is from Yoga with Kassandra and it’s on YouTube for free (and it’s only 9 minutes).
You’ll find dozens of other free yoga and meditation videos as well — and even some “travel yoga” to really channel a vacation vibe. You can also look for apps that help, or if you have an AI assistant like Siri or Alexa, tools may be available to you.
Get started today to make sure you start Monday off refreshed and ready!