Ask five people what their idea of an awesome vacation is and you might get five different answers. Everyone understands the main point, which is to recharge and recover from the stresses of everyday life, but what you focus on when you take vacation could impact its overall restorative effect.
There are four major factors, based on the findings of sociologists from German’s University of Konstanz, that make a vacation truly beneficial. Some are more obvious than others:
- Relaxation: This is the whole point of vacation. What you do shouldn’t feel like work. It should give you “positive energy” instead.
- Control: When your other time is filled with demands of bosses and family members, regaining control during your vacation is liberating. You decide how to make use of your leisure time, energy, and attention.
- Mastery Experiences: You spend time doing the things you’re good at. This could be challenging and engaging, like chess.
- Mental Detachment from Work: This is pretty straightforward. You might take a smart phone or laptop with you “just in case,” but we all know how counterproductive that’ll be.
As the article notes:
Breaks that are high in all four are the equivalent of nutritious and nourishing meals; those that aren’t are like empty calories.
Interestingly, your happiness levels seem to shoot up fastest in the first couple of days of vacation and peak around a week into it. Then it stagnates or dips a bit in the days beyond that. This is to say that maybe you don’t need to accumulate weeks and weeks of vacation time when a week of time-off with those four factors could also do you a world of good.