Saturday, July 24, 2010

How to maxmize your happiness from a vacation.

I am sure that most, if not all of us would agree that going on a vacation makes us happy. But are we really happier than people who are not going for a holiday? And if we are indeed happier, how long do these effects persist and how does the length of our vacation and amount of holiday stress impact our happiness levels? These are some of the questions that Nawijn, Marchand, Veenhoven & Vingerhoets (2010) attempt to answer.

Their main findings are listed below.
  1. Pre-trip happiness: Vacationers (n=974) displayed significantly higher degrees of happiness than non-vacationers (n-556)
  2. Post-trip happiness: Vacationers were generally not significantly happier than non-vacationers. Only vacationers who rated their holidays as very relaxed (as opposed to relaxed, neutral, stressful or very stressful) had significantly higher degrees of happiness for the first 2 weeks after the vacation.
  3. Length of vacation was not associated with post-trip happiness.
*Note: The vacation began between week 27 and week 35.

So what do these findings tell us about how we should plan our vacations?

For starters, the planning and anticipation of the upcoming vacation makes us much happier folks than those who are not looking forward to a vacation.

The second finding, in line with the set point theory of happiness, indicates that once we are back from a vacation, our happiness returns rapidly back to baseline levels. Only the 'very relaxed' vacationers get an additional 2 weeks boost of happiness. So if you want that extended endorphins kick, make sure that you are really relaxed during the vacation.

The last finding, together with the first two findings, suggests that in order to derive the most happiness out of your vacation, it would be better to take multiple short trips rather than a long trip. Since the length of the vacation is not associated with happiness, you'll get the most bang for your buck by enjoying the pre-trip happiness generated from planning and anticipating multiple trips.

In sum:
  1. Enjoy the planning process
  2. Do your best to make your trip very relaxing (a trip that is just 'relaxed' doesn't quite cut it)
  3. Multiple short trips are better than one long trip
Nawijn, J., Marchand, M., Veenhoven, R., & Vingerhoets, A. (2010). Vacationers Happier, but Most not Happier After a Holiday Applied Research in Quality of Life, 5 (1), 35-47 DOI: 10.1007/s11482-009-9091-9

No comments:

Post a Comment