Science says there’s a specific amount of days you should be holidaying for if you want to get the most out of your time away.
It’s no secret that, generally speaking, most of us enjoy a holiday. Whether that be jetting off to Paris or Greece or even staying in the UK, if given the option, we’d like to spend as long as possible on our jollies.
Getting a break from the daily grind can have a seriously positive impact on our mental health. From the initial excitement of wheeling our suitcases out of the airport in a foreign country, to the lasting enjoyment of sticking to a daily rota of eating, drinking and pretty much nothing else, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognise that taking time out of the mundane makes us happy. It’s why we’re so keen to use the trick that gets us 24 days off from work in a row, just by using 14 days annual leave.
But it’s more than that. Researchers have actually found that travelling can kickstart the reward circuits in our brain. This is because the novelty of being in an entirely new place, with new destinations to explore and new languages to hear and speak, throws us out of our comfort zone and forces us to really concentrate on where we are going. This improves cognition and, in turn, refreshes our reward circuits - which can also lead to an increase in creativity.
So, now that we’ve established once and for all that holidays are a pretty damn good way to give our happiness levels a boost, let’s take it to the next level with this top tip.
It turns out that the length of a holiday can also have a bearing on how much we enjoy our time away. Researchers at Finland’s University of Tampere say that we can find it difficult to let go of work-related stress, and therefore a holiday lasting between 7 and eleven days is needed to ensure we properly relax.
The study explains: “Employees are often unable to recover sufficiently during short respites from work due to increasingly permeable boundaries between work and home domains, long working hours, working overtime and prolonged physiological activation as a result of pre-occupation with work.
“Therefore, a longer period away from work may be needed to fully recover from work. Vacations represent the longest period of temporary absence from work and may, therefore, constitute a more powerful respite opportunity than shorter rest intervals.”
According to the researchers, there’s also a particular point in a holiday that we’re most likely to reach a peak level of happiness. They say that day eight is the sweet spot between having abandoned work woes, while still having enough time away to look forward to.
“Our results showed that health and wellness rapidly increase after the start of the holiday and seemed to peak on the eighth vacation day,” the research states.
Our advice? If you’ve still got 11 days of annual leave left, we suggest you use them all in one go!