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The Psychology of Summer Vacations

Why do vacations pass so quickly? How can we make them a better experience?

Do you take full advantage of your vacations, or does your vacation pass too quickly and you feel as if you never got any time off? Do you return from vacation just as stressed as when you left work (or even more so)? Here are 6 strategies that will make your vacations better, and help you return to work happy and refreshed.

1. Use all of your vacation time. As strange as it may sound, most Americans don’t use all of their allotted vacation time. Instead, they may squirrel it away in some sort of vacation “savings bank” thinking they will use it for that big vacation ‘in the future.’ Don’t do it. Space your vacations out with several mini-vacations throughout the year and your one or two ‘maxi-vacations.”

2. Do something different each day. One of the reasons that time seems to pass more quickly is when we get into a routine of doing the same thing every day. That’s why the first day(s) of your vacation seem to last forever – everything is new and exciting. But the days pass more quickly and before you know it, it’s time to go home. So, don’t just go to the beach every day, but try to do something unique each day. It will make your vacation seem longer and leaving lasting memories. [To read more about time passing quickly go here]

3. Go someplace different each year. My brother-in-law says that they never go to the same place twice for vacation. That’s a good strategy to make vacations more memorable. Of course, there is comfort in the familiar place, and many of us love going to that special place, but realize that our memories will begin to merge because of the sameness and routine, so go back to #2 and do something different each trip.

4. Don’t photograph your way through the entire vacation. Research has shown that taking pictures sort of frees our memory from making lasting images in our minds. So, definitely take pictures of those special sights and places, but don’t try to photograph everything. Use your mind’s eye, as well as the camera’s.

5. Live in the moment and savor the experience. An important way to enjoy your vacation (and to make it seem longer) is to live in the moment. Don’t anticipate too much (“I can’t wait to get to Paris!”). Try to experience and enjoy each moment as much as possible.

6. Disconnect from work. Research shows that on vacation many Americans stay connected to work. As a result, they don’t get the benefits of escaping from the pressures of worklife, and “de-stressing.” If you do have to check in every now and then, limit that time. Realize that the benefit of vacation to your employer is to have you return recharged and reenergized.

So, next vacation, keep these strategies in mind and see if it doesn’t lead to a better and more memorable experience. Enjoy!

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