Sometimes a quick holiday is better than nothing, but if you can swing it, try for at least eight days. Research suggests you need at least that much time to truly unwind and feel refreshed.
Photo by KyOn Cheng.
The research, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, suggests that your feelings of happiness and personal well-being rapidly increase as soon as you take that break from the rat race. Then, your relaxation and positive vibes peak on day eight of your getaway, maximising your feelings of contentment. After that, your enjoyment slowly fades away until day 11, where you're likely to experience a severe drop-off — maybe due to a bit of homesickness or even boredom. Why day eight? They think that's how long it takes someone on average to forget and let go of all of their work responsibilities and stress.
Unfortunately, the study also suggests that how long you're away doesn't have a huge affect on your happiness after the fun is over. Whether you're gone for at least eight days or not, those happy-go-lucky effects will likely fade away after just one day of being back at work. You might still feel refreshed, of course, but your mind is quick to snap back to reality when it realises holiday mode is over.
For only the second time in my adult life, I just completed a vacation of more than seven days — 10, to be exact. Corroborating my first experience, I am now convinced that there is a certain magic to the 10-day vacation and have resolved to make them an annual habit.
Still, the researchers suggest it's a good idea to book a holiday somewhere in the range of seven to 11 days. And try to make day eight the most relaxing of all to reap the maximum benefits. Furthermore, the researchers recommend you take multiple, evenly-spaced holidays of this length a year, as opposed to using all of your leave time at once. The more opportunity you can give yourself to recharge the better.