"Ahh, this is it." It's the sigh we all want to sigh on holiday. Full relaxation, total enjoyment, that pure feeling of doing nothing. But it may turn out that pursuing a holiday ideal — whether it's a perfect sunset, pre-planned trip, or just the expected awe of seeing, say, Uluru in real life — is exactly how not to get the most out of the holiday time you have.
In the New York Times, psychiatrist Richard A. Friedman discusses some of the leading research on holiday. In 2012, Dutch researchers found that peoples' sense of wellbeing peaked around day eight of long holiday, indicating that more isn't necessarily more, a finding that other research has corroborated.
Friedman proposes, from his personal and clinical experience, that the length of a holiday isn't the deciding factor in how enjoyable or relaxing it is. I mean, of course, you already know that a crappy long holiday isn't as good as a wonderful short one. But Friedman argues for "the importance of unexpected, immersive experiences". When we're open to surprises, he says, we experience things more fully, rather than comparing to our expectations — whether those expectations are for plans we've made or just of what a holiday ought to feel like.
If you want to get the most out of your holiday, don't worry about stretching it out for weeks. Just make sure to leave yourself space to be surprised, by spontaneous plans or by how an experience makes you feel. When you think "Ahh, this is it," leave room for it to be unexpected.
How to Bring Your Vacation Home With You [The New York Times]