Take More Short Trips and Be Active, Study Says

Making Your Time Away Even Better

I was reminded recently of a radio talk show I once heard about vacationing where the caller thought that by going somewhere completely different she would act in completely different ways. But then a psychologist came on to say that the thing we forget is that we’re still us when we travel. If we tend to worry too much here, we’ll probably worry too much there as well.

What reminded me of this was an article by Marta Zaraska in The Washington Post Health & Science section about the benefits—and potential downsides—of getting away from it all. There is apparently something called “leisure sickness.” People with this condition develop symptoms of illness during weekends and vacations, even though they rarely feel bad at work, says Ad Vingerhoets, a quality-of-life expert at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. “I feel that there is a strong connection with workaholism,” he says. “Men and women with responsible positions in management and much work pressure may suffer from this condition.”

And then there is the reality of returning from vacations. Another Dutch study found that with people who “were less tense and more energized during their trip, those benefits had all but vanished within the first week of everyday life.” Those people may compare the life we normally have vs. the week we were away. Others may worry about the piles of work waiting when we return. These experts actually conclude that even with no vacations, our life satisfaction would, on the whole, be about the same.

But don’t fret. Obviously, vacations still have their upsides. They certainly add to our perspective and views of the world, and allow us to meet different people and see other ways of life. They also bring us highs that everyday life can’t deliver. Zaraska gives us ways, research tells us, to make vacations a better overall experience:

1) Take more short trips. “Research shows that additional days don’t bring us additional happiness,” she writes. A 2010 Dutch study encouraged more two- to six-day trips. I think the idea here is to keep everything fresh. You may enjoy your routine at home, but with no breaks it can feel stale. Miss it for a week or two and then you will enjoy it more when you get back.

2) Be active on your holiday. Apparently, exercise makes us both healthy and happy. And maybe that will carry over to when you return.

3) Try not to come back on a Sunday. This one makes a lot of sense. “Research shows that if we return on a Thursday or a Friday, we can insulate ourselves from the shock of job demands and prolong the holiday happiness boost.” Even coming back on a Tuesday or Wednesday gives you a short week and an easier transition back into your world.

4) Get a good workout in just before going on vacation to help the body unwind—at the least look at your two lives, work and non-work, and see if they balance.

5) Plan your trip as early as possible. (This one I don’t do so well.) Interviews with 1,530 vacationers found that “preparations for a trip elevated people’s moods.” So enjoy the process by looking at a restaurant or special attraction that you can visit. I do remember on a trip to France a couple years ago, I discovered during my research that we would be passing a castle once lived in by the American star Josephine Baker. So I became familiar with her life and when we got there—it is now a museum—it was a richly rewarding experience.

There are still four weekends left of what we think of here in the U.S. as summer, plenty of time to plan a short trip—if you haven’t done so already.


Or here’s another idea:
Register now for SIPA’s Marketing Conference
in Miami Beach Dec. 7-9 and extend your trip.
You’ll be doing something that helps both your
work and leisure lives. And by signing up now at
the early-bird rate, you’ll have plenty of time to
enjoy the planning and look forward to your
break from winter. Sounds like a plan!



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