Work is a grueling activity. Of course, we are not all equal, some people have a more difficult job than others, and others enjoy what they do. But no matter what, work is a huge mental burden, and if left unchecked, it can be the source of cognitive impairment, emotional distress, accidents, and disease. Studies by Pereira and colleagues have shown a positive association between not taking an annual vacation and higher morbidity and mortality. The good news in all this is that it is a good argument (if you needed one) for taking a vacation!
Vacations and health
Traveling, whether it is to foreign countries, to huge cities that make you dream, to wild landscapes, or even not far from home, is a great way to stop thinking about everyday problems. Studies by Gao and colleagues show that vacationers are happy even before they leave on a trip, just by imagining it, but that this happiness is weak and short-lived. The authors focus mainly on the creation of unique moments. But what is a unique moment according to them?
Sometimes, in front of a work of art, a rock painting, a landscape, an incredible moment, it happens that we feel a strange effect, that we enter as if in a state of trance. If you know this feeling, it is because you have already been "victim" to the Stendhal effect. The authors Lohmann and De Bloom call it sudden moments of happiness, short-lived positive emotions, in their article "happiness in a tourism context". If you don't see what this article is referring to with these magical moments, it's not surprising, because only 44% of tourists experience a moment of ecstasy during a trip, a moment that depends on the age of the person, whether or not they are traveling with others, but also on the destination of the trip: the more unique and exotic the adventure, the more likely it is that intense moments will occur. When, where, under what circumstances, you will not be able to predict, because each moment is different for each person. But after all, that's what makes it unique. However, for those who have not gone far or not gone at all, don't panic: it is not the trip that creates the moment of intense happiness, it is just the moment when you can have the most of it.
Science generously offers us a tip for a successful vacation: play sports! It is a good way to succeed in letting go, especially if the physical activity that we practice during the vacations is different from the daily routine. In short, let's break our habits!
Character and vacation happiness
The travel time, the destination, the people we are with will inevitably influence our vacations. But our character also has a role to play! Are you sanguine, impatient, perfectionist? Do you think fast, are you stressed by relaxing activities? It’s tought but chances are high that you have a type A personality according to a 2013 study by Smith and Bryant. This means that in addition to being more vulnerable to heart disease, you are a person who constantly needs to accomplish more and more things, to participate in many events, in short you don't like to take time to live in the moment and fully enjoy positive experiences. So during vacations, type A personalities are less likely to retain happy memories. Even more so, in daily life, Type A's are more distressed during periods of inactivity than people who have a slower, more relaxed pace in daily life, and spend less time engaging in leisure activities. Finally, where slower-paced people take their time and savor the end of their vacation, type A people have a hard time enjoying themselves by realizing the inevitability of passing time. So stop trying to move forward and enjoy the moment!
The increase in happiness, discovery of new cultures, and reduction in stress that comes with a vacation allows for more creativity afterwards, as positive emotions encourage people to explore, learn, and play. So in the name of your creativity, exercise, slow down, and take time to live in the moment. Beware, however, that studies by Dr. Harting and colleagues show that the effects observed during the vacations seem to fade in the two to four weeks that follow. All the more reason to plan quickly for the next one!
Bryant, Fred B., and Joseph Veroff. Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Psychology Press, 2017.
De Bloom, Jessica, et al. "Vacation from work: A ‘ticket to creativity’?: The effects of recreational travel on cognitive flexibility and originality." Tourism Management 44 (2014): 164-171.
Gao, Jie, et al. "Changes in tourists’ perception of well-being based on their use of emotion regulation strategies during vacation." Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing 35.5 (2018): 567-582.
Hartig, Terry, et al. "Vacation, collective restoration, and mental health in a population." Society and Mental Health 3.3 (2013): 221-236.
Lohmann, Martin, and Jessica de Bloom. "Happiness in a tourism context." དཔལ་ འ. ག་ ཞིབ་ འ+ ག་, ེ་ བ། (2018): 148.
Pereira, Diana, Lionel Iseli, and Achim Elfering. "Health improvement and recovery experiences during vacation of school teachers: The benefit of physical activity." Occupational Health Science 1.1 (2017): 89-103.
Smith, Jennifer L., and Fred B. Bryant. "Are we having fun yet? Savoring, Type A behavior, and vacation enjoyment." International Journal of Wellbeing 3.1 (2013).