The psychology of summer holidays

Why do holidays pass so quickly – and how can we make them a better experience?

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article which appeared on the Psychology Today website, written by Ronald E. Riggio. 

Do you take full advantage of your holidays, or do they pass too quickly and you feel as if you didn’t have any time off? Do you return just as stressed as when you left work – or, even more so? Here are six strategies that will make your holidays better – and help you return to work happy and refreshed.

1. Use all of your annual leave
As strange as it may sound, we don’t all use all of our allotted holiday time. Instead, we may squirrel it away in some sort of holiday ‘savings bank’, thinking we will use it for that big holiday ‘in the future’. Don’t do it! Space your holidays out, with several mini-holidays throughout the year and your one or two ‘maxi-holidays’.

2. Do something different each day
One of the reasons that time seems to pass more quickly is when we get into a routine of doing the same thing every day. That’s why the first day(s) of your holiday seem to last forever – everything is new and exciting. But the days pass more quickly and, before you know it, it’s time to go home. So, don’t just go to the beach every day – try to do something unique each day. It will make your holiday seem longer and leaving lasting memories.

3. Go somewhere different each year
My brother-in-law says that they never go to the same place twice for holiday. That’s a good strategy to make them more memorable. Of course, there is comfort in the familiar place – and many of us love going to that special place – but realise that our memories will begin to merge because of the sameness and routine, so go back to number two and do something different each trip.

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4. Don’t photograph your way through the entire holiday
Research has shown that taking pictures frees our memory from making lasting images in our minds. So, definitely take pictures of those special sights and places, but don’t try to photograph everything. Use your mind’s eye, as well as the camera’s.

5. Live in the moment and savour the experience
An important way to enjoy your holiday – and to make it seem longer – is to live in the moment. Don’t anticipate too much. Try to experience and enjoy each moment as much as possible.

6. Disconnect from work
Research shows that, on holiday, many people stay connected to work. As a result, they don’t get the benefits of escaping from the pressures of work life and de-stressing. If you do have to check in every now and then, limit that time. Realise that the benefit of annual leave to your employer is to have you return recharged and re-energised.

So, for your next holiday, keep these strategies in mind and see if it leads to a better, and more memorable, experience. Enjoy!

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