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How to Take Annual Leave for the Best Holiday (According to Happiness Research)

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Research into happiness shows how you can make the most of your valuable time off. Psychological research reveals how the brain works and gives us insight into how we can have more enjoyment while we are away. Find six strategies below for getting the most joy out of your precious annual leave and coming home feeling rested and rejuvenated.


How to Take Annual Leave this Winter


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1. Actively anticipate your trip away

Trips are experiences that people look forward to and anticipation accounts for a large percentage of human happiness.

One study of holidaymakers showed that almost all the happiness happened before the vacation started because they were anticipating their holiday. Just thinking about all the fun you are going to have will give you the same joy as the experience itself.

The enjoyment of your trip actually begins weeks or even months before your holiday begins. As you wait for your holiday to start, read about the destination, learn the language and set aside aside to plan your trip. This might include deciding on locations to visit, thinking about finances or making exciting plans. It also helps to get some books to read on the destination you’re visiting.

2. Spend time in nature

Get outside and spend time with nature. Regular breaks away with time outdoors can help keep you from feeling burnout at work. Research published in Psychological Science found that people perform cognitively better after spending time in nature.

Being outside and surrounded with greenery and water has also been shown to improve mood. A second study suggested that even a brief encounter with something natural like a flower, for example can elevate one’s mood. Nature makes us feel better spiritually, mentally and physically.

In an interview with Psychiatry Advisor, Mardie Townsend, PhD, an honorary professor at the School of Health and Social Development at Deakin University in Australia commented:

“There is mounting evidence that contact with nature has significant positive impacts on mental health. It is associated with reduced levels of stress – which also has huge ramifications for physical health, reduced levels of depression and anxiety, increased resilience” …”improved self-esteem and increased capacity to engage socially.”

3. Have more small trips over one big break

If you’re trying to decide how to use your holiday days, always opt for quantity over “once in a lifetime”. Big breaks like a month away in Thailand are (of course) amazing but aspects of these kinds of trips may limit their overall contribution to happiness.

Research finds that we return to previous happiness levels fairly quickly and we spend life on the “hedonic treadmill”. Smaller pleasures that are experienced frequently contribute more to overall well-being than major but less infrequent ones.

Health and wellness benefits of a vacation peak at day eight. For this reason, it would make sense to look for already-shortened weekends for your next trip to plan a few eight-day vacation breaks throughout the year.

Another study has also proven that pre-vacation stress may be higher in the case of long vacations – since they often require more preparation.

4. Fill your days with enjoyable activities

Spend holiday days doing pleasurable and enjoyable things. ThIs could be making time for a delicious meal, relaxing to read a book, spending time with your other half or having some time for quiet contemplation.

Researchers who asked people to report moods through the day found they were happiest when socializing, relaxing, exercising, doing spiritual activities, eating and being intimate with their other half.

5. Look after yourself for maximum rejuvenation

Be kind to yourself while you are away so that your holiday has a positive impact on your health. One study found that engagement in passive activities such as savoring, pleasure derived from activities, relaxation and sleep had a relationship with improved health and wellness during a break.

Another study showed the recuperation was facilitated by free time for one’s self, warmer (and sunnier) vacation locations, exercise during vacation, good sleep and making new acquaintances, especially among vacationers who reported a high level of work stress before their trip.

The same study showed that health is significantly affected by the way an individual organises his or her vacation. When planning your trip, think about activities that will help rejuvenate you so that you will return feeling rested and renewed.

6. End your trip on a high note

The human brain gives out sized consideration to things that happened last in a series. This is called the “recency effect” and means that the end of your trip is more easily remembered than the beginning.

The Wall Street Journal suggested in a recent article that you can use the recency bias to consciously end your vacations on a high note. This could be splurging on a first class seat on your way home or even planning a big dinner at a fancy restaurant for your last night away.


“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” – Gustav Flaubert

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Get into the travel spirit with these happy beats

Listen to this playlist as you read about how to have the happiest trip away. All you need to do is press play on the button below.

Continue reading for more travel advice:

—> How to Travel With No Money
—> How to Book a Cheap Flight
—> How to Avoid Jet Lag
—> Holiday Packing Checklist




Amy Pritchett

Amy Pritchett

If you truly love nature like me, you will find beauty everywhere.

1 thought on “How to Take Annual Leave for the Best Holiday (According to Happiness Research)”

  1. These comments and suggestions are a God send.. My partner and I adore our travels, our times, and moments. Its vital to have your ‘down time’, try with mobiles switched off, from time to time. It refreshes the brain,the soul, the heart. My travels started later in my life, this is because, ‘Life’ arrived and I had to deal with many complex issues.
    I plan my holidays months in advance to get the best deals on flights and accommodation, visiting places do not just include abroad, but closer to home,like walks in our nearby forest and woods.
    It allows you or/and your partner/self to go, wander, wonder and explore the world – the world is a small place!!!

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