An analysis of over 200,000 U.S. workers reveals that not prioritizing vacation is linked to lower happiness. Many people, however, do not feel they can take vacations due to financial and temporal constraints. Researchers from the Anderson School of Management, part of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), questioned how people might enjoy the emotional benefits of vacation without taking additional time off or spending additional money.
Three preregistered experiments tested the effect of simply treating the weekend “like a vacation” (vs. “like a regular weekend”) on subsequent happiness. Although unable to definitively rule out the role of demand characteristics, the study results suggest that treating the weekend like a vacation can increase happiness, and exploratory analyses show support for the underlying role of increased attention to the present moment.
The study included the participation of 441 workers. Half of them were instructed to spend a weekend the way they have always done, while the others were instructed to treat those days as if they were on vacation. When the employees returned to work on Monday, those who spent the weekend as tourists reported more happiness, less negativity, and more satisfaction than the others.
The researchers believe that one of the reasons the approach may have worked is that the vacation mindset seems to be more conscious. The “vacationers” reported being more mindful of the present moment.
“The benefits do not require taking additional time off from work, excessive spending for extravagant travel or the inclusion of particular activities. Fully attainable to anyone, vacations involve a mental break that allows people to become more fully engaged in and absorbed by their time off, making that time more enjoyable.”, the authors write.