There’s a reason why the saying exists: I need a vacation from my vacation. Research suggests that the benefits of time off can wane within a week of returning to work. A 2010 study of 1,500 vacationers and non-vacationers suggested that those who went on vacation were not actually happier when they returned than their non-vacationing counterparts.
The key difference between the two cohorts, the researchers found, was in the planning: vacationers who injected more relaxing experiences into their vacation time reported higher levels of post-trip happiness. Additionally, researchers saw vacationer pre-trip happiness as an “indication of vacationers looking forward to their holiday.”
So it might not just be the holiday that counts — it’s how you plan the vacation. Consider incorporating these three mindfulness tips to maximize your next vacation (or weekend).
1) Create unstructured time
Usually on a vacation — or if it’s a “staycation” — we have a long list of things we want to do, and things we want to see. Practice dropping the “To Do” list at times and just notice your surroundings. See how this not only enhances your vacation but also sometimes brings the vacation home.
2) Take time to meditate
Bring your meditation practice on your vacation. Researchers at a Harvard medical school did a study where they compared people who went away on a six-day vacation versus people who went away on a meditation retreat. What they found was both groups had positive impacts on stress reduction and their immune functioning and the group that went on the retreat — who took time for more self-reflection and meditation and yoga — saw a longer impact. So what’s the takeaway here? If you’re going to go on a vacation see if you can integrate meditation to really double up on that impact.
Vacations are temporary. See if you can hold difficult moments lightly. In other words, practice being graceful during the difficult moments and practice savoring and being grateful for the wonderful moments that are there and seeing if you do notice good moments, allowing yourself to linger in them for a little bit longer.
This article was originally published on Mindful.org.
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and conducts a private practice in West Los Angeles. He is creator of the 6-month online program A Course in Mindful Living, author of Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion (Atria Books, 2015), The Now Effect (Atria Books, 2012), Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler (Atria Books, 2013), and co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger, 2010).