Pandemic fatigue affects 45 percent of Spaniards. That is why it is so important to ‘reset’
That there is desire is shown by the fact that the Spanish will spend 1191 euros per person this holiday, thus recovering the level of 2019. But not everything depends on the budget. Evolutionarily we are designed to alternate activity and rest. And the balance is fragile. How long should a perfect getaway last? Is it better to fill the agenda with activities or lie down to battle? Do you have to plan or improvise? Do the usual or go on an adventure? Here’s a crash course in a subject that’s harder than it sounds: enjoying one of the most important summers of our lives.
Seven rules for the perfect vacation
The pandemic has resulted in countless hotel and airline cancellations. Make plans again! Matthew Killingsworth of the University of Pennsylvania says that planning fosters an optimistic outlook. As humans, we spend a large part of our mental life living in the future. And it can be a source of joy if we know that good things are coming, especially when it comes to traveling. But don’t overdo it: you have to leave some room for improvisation. If we program to the minute, leisure becomes an obligation.
Where are we going? On a cruise, on a safari, to a theme park, on a gastronomic journey …? It is convenient to limit the options. When the brain is left with too many possibilities to choose from, it locks up. If it helps, a study from the University of Virginia notes that introverts prefer the mountains and extroverts prefer the beach.
Choose the best travel companion
In any case, it is not so important where, but with whom. “In terms of happiness, the relationships we build through shared experiences are more important than the experience itself,” says researcher Graham Hill. But who is that who? The obvious choice is loved ones. Although studies show that interacting with like-minded strangers makes us happier. However, this is the summer of reconnection, rather than disconnection. For families long separated by restrictions, the time has come to reunite. “A multi-generational vacation, with children, grandparents and brothers-in-law, is a way to reconnect while staying in a safe family bubble. But it is not easy for things to go smoothly. There may be a dominant figure, like a father who was used to managing many employees and wants to do the same with his family; or a mother who feels hurt because her children want to spend time on their own terms. Or old grudges may arise. The best thing is to reach a consensus beforehand from the levels of privacy of each one to the budget so that no one is forced to pay more than they can afford, “suggests psychotherapist Matt Lundquist.
The confinements produced social isolation, especially among the elderly. But they also produced the opposite effect: they made us spend more time with each other. And it is that loneliness is not the same when we yearn for company than being alone when we want to voluntarily take time of our own. A deficit of moments of microledad can become a problem. Spending some quality time with yourself on vacation improves emotional well-being.
Holidays are the elixir of life
And if you despair of being hand in hand, think that not taking a vacation shortens your life. This is the conclusion of a study carried out by the University of Helsinki over 40 years and in which 1222 male executives participated. Those who took less than three weeks of vacation a year were 37 percent more likely to die earlier. Holidays also alter the genome (for the better). It has been proven that beneficial mutations appear from the sixth consecutive rest day. In addition, the levels of beta-amyloid peptide (related to depression, senile dementia and Alzheimer’s) decrease. And they improve biomarkers of inflammatory processes, which influences long-term brain health. The heart also benefits. Research from the University of Syracuse indicates that people who take vacations have a lower risk of heart disease. And the vitamin D rush from the hours of sunlight improves our spirits.
Rejuvenate outside and inside
As if that were not enough, the holidays rejuvenate. They say that Marie Antoinette’s hair turned gray overnight just before her beheading, in 1791. Although such a legend is inaccurate – the hair that has already emerged from the follicle does not change color – a University study of Columbia relates stress to graying. But the most surprising thing is that the pigmentation of the hair can recover when the tension is removed, especially during the holidays. Too bad they are only a few dozen hairs out of the hundred thousand that the scalp has on average. “That gray hair is reversible shows that aging is not a linear process, but that it can be stopped,” says neurologist Martin Picard.
Longer vacations doesn’t necessarily mean better vacations. In fact, duration has a limited influence on how people feel during and after a trip. Several getaways of a week, without going any further, are usually more satisfactory than a month at a stretch. What does influence is the intensity. “Doing activities that absorb us completely is usually very positive,” says psychologist Elizabeth Dunn. They do not have to be physical activities, but they must have a component of exploration and variety. For example, attend a cooking class instead of dining out; or take an archaeological tour instead of spending every day in the pool.
The laws of probability can help us decide when to try new things and when to stick with the known. In computing, the problem is known as ‘explore / exploit’, and it is a way of defining the eternal dilemma between going forward and going deep. “In general, you have to be more explorer at the beginning of the holidays and more ‘exploitative’ at the end,” explains computer engineer Brian Christian. This is because the chances of finding a place, a meal or an experience that we like more than the ones we have already tried diminish as time goes by. Everything is new the first day. By the seventh, we already know more or less what we like, and even if we make a great discovery, we won’t have time to go back.
Try sleeping differently
And perhaps it is also time to rethink our sleep habits. At this point we are not going to discover the virtues of the siesta, although you may not know that the word comes from the Latin sixth (‘noon’), and that at that time the Roman legionaries, when they could, took a nap. But there is growing scientific evidence that sleeping eight hours a night at a stretch is unnatural. No civilization did until the Industrial Revolution, as historian Roger Ekirch has shown. The usual thing, both in Europe and in other continents, was to go to bed a couple of hours after dark, wake up at dawn, read for a while, or have sex, or pray … And then continue sleeping until dawn. This sleep pattern, divided into two segments, is better suited to circadian rhythms. And also on hot nights …
Extend the holiday effect
How much do we charge the batteries? The relaxing or euphoric effect appears to begin to wear off in the first two weeks after returning home and dissipates completely after eight. If you’ve been excited about a field trip, monument, or restaurant, tell your friends and office colleagues about it. Research on happiness suggests that people can relive the feeling of an experience by talking about it. Until you can take another breath, it only remains to remember how well you had.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism