Use Happiness Research to Maximize Vacations

Montreal

Regular readers already know that going on vacation is good for one’s happiness and there are ways to travel while keeping a small carbon footprint. It can be hard to find time to travel and expensive too, so how should one go about thinking about vacations?

Vacations aren’t things that should be “efficient” or viewed as a quantifiable experience. Instead, we can use existing research to prepare for a vacation and enjoy it while out and about. Basically, relax by changing your mindset around vacations from an epic journey to a chance to be with people in new places.

2. OPT FOR QUANTITY OVER “ONCE IN A LIFETIME”

A once-in-a-lifetime trip, like a month in New Zealand, would be amazing. But the “once-in-a-lifetime” aspect of such vacations limits their overall contribution to happiness. Research increasingly finds that we return to previous happiness levels fairly quickly (we spend life on the “hedonic treadmill”), and so smaller pleasures experienced frequently contribute more to overall well-being than major but less infrequent ones. Another studyfound that the health and wellness benefits of a vacation peaked at about eight days in. So look for already-shortened workweeks for getaways so you can plan several eight-day vacations (weekend plus workweek plus weekend) in a year for the price of three to four vacation days a pop.

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Travel For a Better Brain

I just booked a flight to London and coincidentally came across an article that says that our brains can benefit greatly from exploring the world. A good way to start the day!

It turns out that the ability of the brain to handle new information is connected to well-being and that travel can get your bring working in new ways. It is also beneficial to step out of your comfort zone, which travelling general encourages. So you should book that trip you’ve been thinking about!

In recent years, psychologists and neuroscientists have begun examining more closely what many people have already learned anecdotally: that spending time abroad may have the potential to affect mental change. In general, creativity is related to neuroplasticity, or how the brain is wired. Neural pathways are influenced by environment and habit, meaning they’re also sensitive to change: New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.

“Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel. Cognitive flexibility is the mind’s ability to jump between different ideas, a key component of creativity. But it’s not just about being abroad, Galinsky says: “The key, critical process is multicultural engagement, immersion, and adaptation. Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment.” In other words, going to Cancun for a week on spring break probably won’t make a person any more creative. But going to Cancun and living with local fishermen might.

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Travel to Become a Better Person

When friends ask for life advice tell them to leave. Over at BBC Travel they have an article about how travelling can make you a better person. So what are you waiting for? Get out and explore the world!

You’ll gain a broader perspective

As Twain’s quote emphasises, travel can open people’s minds and allow them to see things from a new perspective.

“When you travel, you are faced with alternative cultures that have a different way of doing, thinking and believing,” said Simon Huggins. “It challenges your assumptions and makes you shift your way of looking at things. When you get home, you come back to your own culture with different eyes and a more questioning mind.”

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Take a Greener Vacation

Vacations vary greatly on the impact that they can have on the environment. Backpacking in the woods would cause significantly less carbon to be produced than flying halfway around the world. Here’s five tips to make your vacation more environmentally conscious.

The list is clearly focused on Americans, but this is one that can apply to the planet:

4. Find A Green Hotel

This may seem like a monstrous task, but it’s not– check this registry of environmentally friendly hotels. They’re standing ready to assist in your eco-escape, conserving waste, and committed to reducing their toll on the planet.

Faster and Greener Flying

Not only is the proposed A2 aircraft fast (really fast! London to Sydney in 5 hours), it would be one of the greenest in the sky!
Perhaps this plane will even land at the green airports.

Because it is fuelled by liquid hydrogen, the aircraft only produces water vapour and nitrous oxide as exhaust and has a negligible carbon footprint.

Despite its length, the aircraft will also be able to land on current international airport runways.

Mr Bond, managing director of Reaction Engines Ltd, said that from a standing start and with the requisite political will, the plane could be flying commercially within 15 years.

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