Will A Holiday Really Make You Happier?

Who doesn’t love going on holiday, taking a days off to meet with friends and family or explore the world?  But will a holiday really make you happier?

Research from the Netherlands on the impact of holidays on individual happiness has turned up surprising results. Setting out to measure the effect a holiday has on overall happiness, as well as the period of time this happiness lasts, researchers studied 1503 Dutch adults of whom 974 went on holiday during the 32 week period of study.

The study, published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, found that the largest increase in levels of happiness occurs when one is planning their holiday and anticipating leaving for it. This level of happiness is sustained for eight weeks prior to the onset of the vacation itself.

Are You Happier After Going On Holiday?

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Sadly, this research also found that, once one returns to work there is little if any ongoing boost in happiness. How much stress or relaxation an individual experiences while on holiday impacts their continued levels of happiness on their return to work.

However, the maximum period of time sustained happiness was found to last is two weeks. Only individuals who reported feeling “very relaxed” during their vacation reaped this benefit.

Surprisingly, even those travelers who described their trip as being “relaxing” did not reap the benefits of those who described it as “very relaxing”.

“They were no happier than people who had not been on holiday,” said the lead author, Jeroen Nawijn, tourism research lecturer at Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.

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The takeaway here is to ensure that your holiday is as relaxing as possible, make sure you get at least one or two days of ‘you time’ and really do something that you will appreciate. This will help to ensure that the happiness benefits of your holiday last longer.

“Vacations do make people happy,” Mr. Nawijn said. “But we found people who are anticipating holiday trips show signs of increased happiness, and afterward, if it was not “very relaxing”, there is hardly an effect.”

The stress of returning to work, having to catch up and sometimes face an increased work load, seems to be the cause of the short lived happiness effects of a “relaxing” to “neutral” vacation.  We suggest putting a strategy in place the day before you go back to work, to ensure that you don’t feel overwhelmed and can better manage your stress levels.

Will Taking A Longer Holiday Make You Happier?

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Interestingly the study did not find any link between the length of the holiday and overall happiness. Since the largest happiness boost came from planning and anticipating the holiday, the researchers suggest that the biggest benefit is to be gained from taking several small trips throughout the year, rather than one lengthy trip.

“The practical lesson for an individual is that you derive most of your happiness from anticipating the holiday trip,” he said. “What you can do is try to increase that by taking more trips per year. If you have a two week holiday you can split it up and have two one week holidays. You could try to increase the anticipation effect by talking about it more and maybe discussing it online,” says Mr Nawijn.

The research used a control for differences among the participants, including; income levels, general levels of stress and individual education.  However, the study did not look at whether or not the time of year a holiday is taken makes a difference, or if the type of trip that is taken effects post holiday happiness.

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