This easy life hack will make your weekends more refreshing

Researchers' advice: Frame your weekend as a vacation

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10 ways to make the most out of your weekend

Laura Vanderkam, the author of several time management and productivity books, offers 10 tips for making the most of your days off:
1. Make a plan. Don't hit Sunday wondering where the time went.
2. Don't fill every minute. Three to five “anchor” events can make for an excellent weekend. If you for a run, volunteer at a local food bank, and have dinner with friends, you'll have done plenty.
3. Stretch yourself occasionally. List activities within a two-hour radius of your house you'd like to try, whether biking along the boardwalk or camping in a park.
4. Make time for exercise. Exercise is well known to improve mood and energy levels.
5. Schedule downtime. Don't mindlessly turn on the TV or check email. If you want to take a nap on Sunday afternoon, figure out when that's going to happen, then commit to doing it.
6. Don't give in to the Sunday-night blues. Schedule something fun for Sunday night, like a potluck dinner or a massage.
7. Make the most of other people's schedules. Read a novel while waiting to pick up your child at swim practice.
8. Don't do too many chores. If you do them on weekdays, you'll spend less time on them. It's better to spend your weekends checking out a new cafe.
9. Spend some time planning your week. During some quiet time, glance at your calendar and set goals for what you'd like to accomplish in your professional and personal life over the next 168 hours.
10. Don't work. Give your brain a break. Even if you're not religious, challenge yourself to keep a Sabbath where you don't do any of your usual work.

When it comes to time off, America is definitely not a world leader. The Center for Economic and Policy Research reports that the United States is the only country with an advanced economy that doesn't guarantee workers paid time off, and about one quarter of U.S. workers don't receive paid holidays and vacation days.

But forgoing time off is a consequential loss. Research has found that vacations improve our health, boost job performance, and trigger creativity. They also make us happier.

UCLA Anderson researchers Colin West, Cassie Mogilner Holmes and Sanford E. DeVoe reviewed data from more than 200,000 Americans and found that folks who took more vacation days reported being happier. The good vibes were flowing more, the bad vibes were tamped down, and life satisfaction clocked in higher.

So what to do if vacation time is scarce?

The researchers hit on an intriguing hack: Frame your weekend as a vacation. They found that people who do this return to work on Monday happier than the control group that spent their weekend doing the same-old same-old.

West, Holmes, and DeVoe teased out that it wasn't that the vacation-minded were happier because they did fewer chores or spent more time on enjoyable activities. It had more to do with the fact that once nudged out of their normal weekend routine, they spent the weekend being more present in whatever they were doing.

Being mindfulIn their first experiment, the researchers had approximately 500 participants rate their happiness level on the Friday leading into the weekend.

Participants in the control group were sent off into the weekend with the prompt to treat it like a regular weekend. The other group was instructed, “to the extent possible, think in ways and behave in ways as though you were on vacation.”

When everyone schlepped back to work on Monday, they once again reported their happiness level. Participants were also asked to rate the frequency with which they spent the weekend focused on the present moment. To tease that out, the researchers included statements such as “I seemed to be running on automatic without much awareness of what I was doing,” and “I focused on the present moment.”

Participants prompted to treat the weekend like a vacation reported back to work on Monday happier than the control group.

“Simply by adopting a vacation mindset, people became more attentive to the present moment, thereby extracting greater happiness from this time off," the researchers found.

The second study once again split more than 500 participants into the same two groups. Everyone was asked on Monday to create a diary of their weekend activities and to rate their level of happiness when engaged in a specific activity, as well as their estimation of how “in-the-moment” they were during each.

Once again, the vacation group was happier on Monday than the control group. The vacation group also reported being more present in the moment.

The vacation-prompted group did indeed spend less time on housework and caring for the kids than the control group, and more time eating and in intimate relations. Yet when the researchers controlled for the time spent on various activities, they found that it was not creating the happiness boost.

“Rather than any changes in one's activities, it was indeed one's minding of the present moment throughout the weekend that increased enjoyment during that time and produced greater happiness when back at work,” they write.

Granted, some time on the beach or the slopes definitely has plenty of allure. But for the time-and-money-constrained, this research offers an accessible and affordable alternative that enables them to soak up some vacation vibes.

“The benefits do not require taking additional time off from work, excessive spending for extravagant travel or the inclusion of particular activities," say the researchers. "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.”

Source: University of California, Los Angeles:

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