Recall the last time you went on a holiday, or perhaps the last time you planned for a holiday. Was it a long time between breaks? Did you suddenly begin to imagine all of the possibilities that lay before you, instead of thinking about the day to day grind of work? Did you imagine all of the places you might be able to see in the world, excited by which one you might pick?
Well, studies have shown that this is very normal. When we ready ourselves for a vacation, we anticipate possibility and are filled with excitement. We are imagining what we are about to experience, and we are filled with the eagerness of what is about to come. We are suddenly filled with the happiness of what just might be, not the holiday, but still the best part of a “life vacation”.
The Idea of Happiness
Do we fully appreciate vacations while experiencing them? Yes, probably. But can we say that this is the absolute best part of the trip away? And do they necessarily make us happier?
‘Happiness’, achieved through vacation, is a desire to vacate the life we have made for ourselves ad rarely break from. So when we are faced with the option of change, our happiness soars. And while there are a plethora of psychological factors at play that determine our happiness, studies have shown that when satiate our personal needs of newness – and step up from a stable existence to a sudden fresh and exciting one – our levels of happiness soar momentarily. We are suddenly faced with a fresh idea of happiness, and our bodies and minds are preparing for it.
The simple act of planning a vacation is actually where our happiness peaks. Which airline will we fly with? What movies will they show? Where will we stop over? Should we choose an exotic island destination? Or a fun city? Will we go somewhere romantic, like Paris, because we’ve never been there in Summer? OR should we vacation somewhere private, tropical, and beautiful, maybe Fiji? (AND WHAT WILL WE WEAR?)
According to a study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, we are most excited and happy when awaiting, or planning for, our holiday. This is the time period of possibility, and this state of anticipation and happiness is said to last up to eight weeks.
But Does It Last?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Further research indicated that when participating in their holiday, happiness levels were either less or dropped slightly. What’s more, when the travelers returned from their holiday, they were no happier than before they left for vacation. Studies show that the activities partaken whilst on holiday did influence the happiness levels during and after the vacation, but essentially there was still no increase in happiness when returning from their holiday. Even holiday-goers who admitted to relaxation on their trips did not have increased happiness levels upon their return to everyday life. In fact the only people who benefited from residual feelings of happiness were those who experienced very high levels of relaxation and stress-free activities while holidaying. Their happiness levels were somewhat higher than others afterward, although it indicated that this level returned to pre-holiday range after two weeks time.
In conclusion, what the research shows is that we acclimatize to our surroundings. Also, that anticipation of an exciting experience is the happiest period of the entire process. Leading up to a birthday, or a performance, or a date – or a holiday – can be even more exciting than the experience itself . This is not to say you won’t have a good time. It is also not to say that there isn’t a point to having such experiences if they aren’t necessarily going to make us happy. It does show, however, that we should enjoy the entire process, and relish in the lead up to an experience just as much as the experience itself – and enjoy the full road of happiness.