According to a study published by the New York Times, taking a vacation boosted happiness in travelers during the trip. But once the trip was over, vacationers and those who did not travel during the study timeframe tended to realign at the same level of contentedness.
It seems vacationers had fun and were happy right before and during the trip but then slid right back into their normal mental state upon returning. Researchers found happiness was more about “looking forward to the vacation.” There may be a reason behind all of this, and it could be simpler than we think. When we’re still plugged into our daily routines during a trip, we’re likely not reaping the benefits of the vacation.
If we successfully disconnect and relax, it has been physiologically proven that our brains function differently and may operate on a higher level post-vacation. Here’s what to consider to ensure you do just that.
Plan Your Work Schedule Far Ahead
Work can get in the way of any vacation. Before you start packing your bags or checking the weather at your destination, be sure to have your work planned:
- Your vacation schedule aligns with your work responsibilities
- You have a trusted person to cover for you while you’re out
- Any projects you’re currently working on won’t pull you away from your trip
These tips don’t apply only to work, however. Planning for any life responsibilities while you’re planning to disconnect will take a burden off your shoulders as well. For example, set your bills on auto-pay while away, so you won’t have to worry about missing a payment.
Create a Personal “Vacation” Email
If you need to communicate with friends or family during a trip, or need to use your email to book a room or verify a password, consider creating a new email address only to be used on vacation. That way, when you do have to check your inbox you won’t be bombarded by the 45 new emails that just pushed through the night before. And, never use your work email address for any vacation-related activities; it’ll suck you right back into the office.
Don’t Bring Work-Related Materials
“Oh, I’m just going to log in from the hotel at night.” How many times have you either heard that or said it yourself? Bringing along a work laptop and related files mean you intend on working during your vacation. Why not just enjoy the destination for what it is and leave the work at home? By planning your trip appropriately, leaving a key person in charge, and finishing time-sensitive work before you leave, you shouldn’t have to work on your trip. If you do, consider a self-assessment of your delegation abilities and time-management philosophy.
Ditch Your Phone
Nowadays, it is far too easy to use your smartphone as a substitute for a mobile office. Its easy accessibility will keep you from unplugging while on your trip. Instead, have your spouse or a travel partner bring along their phone for use in a pinch, but keep yours happily on the charger back in your hotel room. Or, delete your email app and set your phone to do-not-disturb, if you must have it for safety’s sake. Alternatively, you can purchase a simple temporary cell phone to leave your smartphone behind, while still having a means of communication for emergency calls or texts if you are traveling solo or your partner wants to disconnect as well.
Forget About Television
Instead of watching shows at night in your hotel room, go out and explore the sights. Listen to the sounds around you, and take in the experience without any distractions. The stillness may not seem enticing at first, but when you let yourself fully relax and let go, you’d be surprising how valuable it is.
It is a fact that American workers aren’t using all their allotted vacation time each year, and those who do often spend it working remotely. There is adventure awaiting you and much to gain by immersing oneself into the wonders of our planet and its people. The next time you’re about to head out on a vacation, unplug. Disconnect from what you’re intentionally not supposed to be doing at the moment, and reconnect with what is most important to you.