The Happiness Factor Of Holidays

Is planning your holiday better than the actual holiday? Sometimes life can just suck on the happiness scale according to psychological researchers who have been spending countless hours determining the different holiday "enjoyment" stages. I wonder if they gave up at some point and went through the exercise themselves?

Apparently our brains are pretty warped, when it comes to the different stages of having a vacation. There is the planning stage when the time factor comes into play as to how far in advance we are planning for. Followed by the actual holiday, and then to coming home and going back to work. Or, some may say returning to the drudgery of day-to-day life; until it is time to start planning for the next holiday.  Maybe what should be added into the returning home mix is the torment of paying for the overspending that may have occurred on the fantastic plastic, whilst enjoying the said holiday. Let alone facing the mountain of work that nobody bothered to do whilst you were away.

I have been known to "worry" a holiday to death in the planning stages, whereupon when I actually go, I am so over it that I feel like staying home and skipping the whole experience. Sometimes it is just so "deja vu" because of my incessant Googling of anything and everything to do with the destination, that I have literally "arm chaired" every moment, every monument, and every so-called must see natural or man-made phenomenon.  The only part I haven't experienced is meeting some of the locals and I am sure I could Skype someone for this hurdle.

Add into this the preparation and researching of different aspects such as listening to the native music, reading biographies or historical events of where I am going and sometimes even trying to re-create national dishes of their cuisine, before I even know what they are meant to taste like.

The Happiness Factor Of Holidays

Then there is of course attempting to learn a few phrases so that the locals will look upon me kindly, or the main one of "I need a doctor", as my own personal insurance phrase.  Considering I have no aptitude whatsoever for foreign languages, my normal routine is a series of post-it notes on every surface that is not covered with a copy of Lonely Planet, the Rough Guide, or clipped out magazine or newspaper article. By now I am quite sure you have a very good picture of my pedantic obsessive ways when in holiday planning mode.

I actually keep a time and date driven spreadsheet of travel arrangements; what city slash country I should be in, what hotels are booked, the cost of each hotel and what I should see in every destination. I drive my kids insane sending them via email, amended after amended copy of such spreadsheet, as each alteration takes place. Of course, they already have my travel insurance details together with a copy of my will.  By now they are used to my rant about it being far cheaper and easier to barbecue me wherever I may have expired, and to take me home in a jar.

According to the researchers, apparently the planning stage is when the "happiness boost" happens.  And the longer you have to plan, the longer you will be in "happy land".  So does this planning time constitute as the "happiest" time for me? Obviously my happiness meter is a tad off skew. The moment I am at my most deliriously happy stage is when I am actually sitting on the plane ready to take off, as it is all hard work before hand.

But for those that do believe the shrinks that nit pick at why we do things, here are a few tips that they believe will up the happiness factor in relation to taking holidays and getting the most benefit out of them.

Firstly make up your mind where you want to go and when, although the timing decision may not be up to you, but at your boss's fancy. Give yourself the longest lead in time possible, so that you have oodles of hours for anticipation and self-teasing.  Go to sleep at night dreaming of all the extraordinary adventures and brilliant times you are going to experience; even sit and daydream during work hours if you can get away with it. This prelude to your holiday will actually last longer than while you are away, so make the most of it.

The Millennial generation may just have it right by taking more holidays, more frequently, but for a lesser time.  Those "once in a lifetime" trips only give you so much of the planning hence pre-holiday happiness phase.  Take holidays like a drip feed, so that you can experience higher than normal happiness levels more frequently.  It is the "wanting" not the "having", that creates the high.

The Happiness Factor Of Holidays

Do you remember when you were a kid and time just stood still?  Now that you are a responsible adult in the workforce, there is never enough time.  The secret to making time slow down is to challenge yourself with new things and not to just do "the same old, same old", especially when you are on vacation. Be a bit reckless and challenge yourself to something new whilst away.   Whatever you do, don't carry on with the same routine that you have at home, but doing it in a different environment.

Holidays are the time for doing the things that you love.  Reading, eating, sleeping, having a drink or two with friends or your partner, also "afternoon delights" can actually take up all afternoon.  If you normally never have time to actually think about nothing, even contemplating your navel as the most fascinating and thought provoking object on the planet for a few hours, is permissible on a daily basis.

Holidaying with kids can be a two edged sword for both parents.  Dad isn't used to being around them 24/7 and mum is still playing the domestic maid, but in a different location.  Alternating between family holidays and adult only holidays is one way to get around this issue.  The other way is to take a nanny with you or make sure you book into a hotel with kids' clubs and baby-sitting services readily available. Some might say bringing the mother-in-law to help out, but then again, this in itself may be more hassle than it is worth.

Another tip is not to pack your work with your surfboard or fishing rod.  And, never give your boss a contact number for whilst you are away, because he or she will use it at some point for some ridiculous issue to nark you about the fact that you are on holidays.  Working for yourself is a different story and if you really can't be unavailable, limit the time frame you work to first thing in the morning before your co-holidaymakers want to play with you.  Your discrete navel contemplation time may actually give you brilliant unencumbered mind power for thoughts or goals for the future, whether in your personal life or in work orientated strategies.

Apparently our brains may not remember the beginning of a holiday but they certainly recall the ending, so finish your holiday with something amazing.  Fly home in style by upgrading yourself, or if by now cash is a problem, sit on the beach with a bottle of bubbly and watch the sun go down.  Make it special whatever you do, because like the lingering taste of your favorite food or drink, this is the time that you will savor for the ensuing weeks of slugging it out back at work.

Be sensible and don't arrive at the airport mere hours before you are due to punch the time clock at work.  Give yourself time to adjust and get organized. You are no longer in the fairyland of lazy sleep-ins, but back in the harsh world of reality.  Remember you are a responsible adult with a job to uphold so that you can pay the constant bills. If jet lag isn't going to bite you, arrange for a quick drink with a friend after that first day at work so you can gloat over your holiday tales and bore them endless with photographs.  This may help to ease the pain of being back in "work mode", albeit at the cost of your friendship.

Whatever you do to get yourself back into your working persona, keep telling yourself and anyone else that will listen to you, that you had the best holiday ever.  Even if it isn't true and every day was a disaster, brainwash yourself into believing it, as you have a long time to go before the next holiday and that boost in your happiness ratio.