How to have the perfect stress-free vacation (according to science)

Family Vacation Vacation Solo Vacation – Getty

We place immense importance on our vacations, perhaps even more so after the pandemic and the constraints on travel, so it’s no surprise that academics have spent a lot of time researching the science of the perfect vacation. Thanks to their findings (and after conversations with leading “happiness experts”) and to celebrate Stress Awareness Day, we have come up with a ten-point formula for a safe escape.

Plan carefully

James Wallman, author of Time And How To Spend It, likens an unplanned vacation to not filling the fridge, but relying on expensive junk food to get through the week and feel a little sick afterward.

It’s a theory backed up by research from Erasmus University that found that stressful and poorly planned vacations leave travelers feeling worse than ever, while those that are okay can be energizing.

Wallman’s advice? Work out your itinerary long before boarding the plane. “The anticipation and planning of a vacation equals free happiness,” he says (he loves planning so much that he created his “Morocco and Science to Get More Out of Your Time” tour in collaboration with New Scientist).

At the top of his list is the right timing. “There is a tendency to take the last possible flight back home, for example, but in reality the best time is mid-afternoon: you don’t have to pack your bags the day before, you can have a pleasant breakfast but you will have home in a civil time “.

Aim for eight days

This is the magic number, according to a 2012 research from the Finnish University of Tampere. Scientists analyzed the travels of 54 vacationers and found that their happiness peaked when they finally let go of persistent work and household stress. By day 11, however, homesickness and boredom had struck. There seems to be a gap in the market for eight-day getaways, but Exodus and Explore have a few. Don’t worry though – subsequent research by members of the same team found that the benefits of a vacation wear off after a week (regardless of how long travelers have been away), so it might be better to take more frequent and shorter breaks after all.

Go alone

Solo Vacation - Getty

Solo Vacation – Getty

Conceived in 2016, the “Savannah Happiness Theory” generated immediate attention by postulating that people with higher IQs felt happier with fewer social interactions and used loneliness as a way to manage stress – it turns out that leaving your partner and / or children at home is big and smart. Roxie Nafousi, author of Manifest: 7 Steps To Living Your Best Life, is a staunch solo vacation fan. “It’s the ultimate antidote to a busy life,” she says. “I love being able to do things in my own time: not feeling obligated to go out to dinner every night and instead go to bed early with a good book. I also find that other people are much more talkative when traveling alone, so there is a greater opportunity to meet new people. “

Come back more than once

There’s no shame in going back to that hotel you stayed in in 1965 because you have fond memories of the Bardot lookalike in room 46. In fact, come back over and over and over and over again if it makes you happy. “The more we go back to the same place, the more we develop a deep connection with it,” says Clay Routledge, vice president of thinktank The Human Flourishing Lab and psychologist specializing in nostalgia. “It makes the experience more meaningful.” Do you want to bore your family by taking them with you for the trip? This is fine too. “Taking your kids to places you’ve been on vacation is a great way to create or reinforce intergenerational nostalgia,” says Routledge. “Having shared and cherished memories can connect through age differences.”

But try new things

It’s okay to stay firmly in your comfort zone during the holidays if you’re savoring every minute, but if you start feeling frustrated and agitated, it might be time to try something different. “By challenging ourselves and putting ourselves in new environments, we are actually able to increase our brain function,” says Emma Humphrey, mentality and wellness coach (refers to the ability of the brain’s neurons to make new connections in response to new experiences. ). .

She puts what she preaches into practice, having just returned from a six-month tour of South America that she embarked on during the pandemic with no knowledge of Spanish. She loved it, but she feels that you will only get that euphoric feeling if you are truly excited: don’t agree to climb a mountain or jump out of a plane just because your friends or family want it. “Check yourself and your motives: if it’s someone else’s goal, you won’t get anything out of it. But if it gives you a sense of adventure, go for it. “

Accept that you are inactive

Extreme sport over, it’s time to relax. Sure visit the markets and museums, but also make a window to sit on a lounger. “Consider the cold times between big experiences,” says Wallman. “They will give you the opportunity to unzip and take in what you did.” You might even have a Eureka moment while sunbathing: Manfred Kets de Vries, one of the most respected leadership thinkers in the world, believes that doing absolutely nothing gives the mind time to reintegrate. He even claims to feel bored as he stimulates the right hemisphere of the underused brain, fueling the imagination along the way.

Turn off your smartphone

smartphone for family vacations - Getty

smartphone for family vacations – Getty

A recent Passport Photo Online survey confirmed what we already knew: 68% of people wished they were unreachable on their last vacation, and 60% said using a smartphone for work impacted their plans. while they were away.

Psychologist Seth J. Gillihan knows all about this, having become smartphone-free during his trip to an experiment. “One of the best parts of a vacation is the change in perspective that a new location offers,” he says. “We see things more clearly from afar, but that shift in perspective may be less noticeable when we keep the same smartphone scheme: checking our online accounts at the same time, continuing to follow the same media threads, knowing exactly what’s going on in the world. We could avoid FOMO, but sacrifice JOMO: the joy of being lost “.

His advice? “If you want to stay away from social media on vacation, remove the apps you will be tempted to use. At a minimum, make them hard to reach so you can’t impulsively control them with a couple of clicks of a button.

Don’t overdo the alcohol

“If you like pina coladas … make sure you drink them in moderation.” That’s not quite how the song goes, but you get it. Holidays are associated with hair loss, which in turn is associated with alcohol, but holidays and alcohol lead to a particular set of problems according to Professor David Nutt, director of the neuropsychopharmacology unit at Imperial College and author of Drink? The new science of alcohol and your health.

Lower prices often equate to higher consumption, while it can be difficult to understand the strength of the local favorite drink. Stag parties and kids’ vacations that involve a lot of alcohol can fuel kinky behaviors like “balcony” (jumping off balconies into hotel pools). Even if you’re not having full-scale spree, “getting drunk with your friends and family could lead to anger, while a hangover will lead to irritable moods,” Nutt says.

If you are concerned about how drinking will affect your vacation, it is recommended that you establish a few rules before taking off. “Avoid duty free and don’t drink in your hotel room,” she says. “Limit to bars and restaurants.”

Don’t worry if everything goes wrong

It could, and flight cancellations, bad weather or overspending can cause stress levels to skyrocket. The key is to see everything as a learning opportunity. “Stressful vacations when nothing goes according to plan can create opportunities for people to push themselves out of their comfort zone and learn about their character,” says Clay Routledge. “At the moment, this can be very unpleasant, but once the negative emotions wear off, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the experience.”

Top end

luxury champagne holidays - Getty

luxury champagne holidays – Getty

The family has insisted on coming with you for all eight days, your wife’s smartphone has been surgically attacked, your long-awaited skydiving excursion has been canceled, and you have a giant hangover because you haven’t listened to Professor Nutt. But don’t give up and go home early. In psychology, the peak rule demonstrates that our final memories are informed by the final moments of an event as much as by its peaks and troughs (the most obvious example is childbirth). Even if your vacation isn’t as painful as a 14-hour labor, make sure it ends with a particularly exciting bang. Take on the theme park on the last day, save dinner for the last night, or grab a glass of champagne at the airport before your return flight – your memory will be grateful to you.

What makes a “perfect vacation” for you? Tell us in the comments section below

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