Why do we love holidays?

The travel industry continues to blossom as people have more disposable income with which to travel and the time to do so bringing with it the expected analysis from the field of psychology. Why do we love (or long) to travel and what are the benefits of doing so? This was recently studied by Tse (2014) who discovered that tourism positively affects how individuals (in this case, Chinese travellers) perceive their own worlds as well as those of others. Travellers expressed greater well-being, had a more positive attitude towards life, and a greater sense of control over their lives too.

On my own recent travel to Alaska, I kept note of the psychological benefits that accrued and concluded that if one can, one should travel as the benefits of doing so cannot be easily achieved by remaining in place.

Restructuring my day

Pulled from my normal physical surroundings and routine, I had the freedom (and anxiety) of restructuring my day and consequently, my activities, thoughts and feelings followed suit. This simple kick-back against adaptation (the fact that we become immune to the things around us (i.e., people, settings, activities); Lyubomirsky, 2011) caused me to pay greater attention to change. The built environment, natural settings, and social surroundings helped me to observe other ways of being, doing, organizing and living. I realized I’d been on autopilot for months. While that’s fine, I haven’t been very purposeful in my actions, nor actively pursuing my best self and most of all, not having much fun despite having a good life.

New Year’s resolutions

Why do we engage in New Year’s resolutions in January, a period of time when we are often hung over, in debt, needy, overweight, and pressured? My own resolutions reflect a panicked anxiety rather than a deliberate and purposeful choice around who I’d like to be and how I can get there.
When I do have spare time, it’s only a little and never enough to plan and organize and allow my dreams to wander and try them on. Plus, my ideas only ever stretch as far as my experience and consciousness can take me. I’m not a workaholic, but a good life needs time and exposure to other lives, environments, and options so you can make sense of your own.

My new resolutions

I contemplate my life and play with some options, and listen for what excites me the most, what is doable and most beneficial to execute, and what I can do now rather than down the road. I decide that from now on, my resolutions will be made in the last week of a holiday after a period of extended contemplation and exposure to “other” rather than in January.
So, what was on my last page on the last day?

  • Start a Facebook page for the Middle East Journal of Positive Psychology to lead the change I want to see, i.e. to popularize psychology, positive psychology in particular, in the Middle East by pulling in people to help me and create this momentum together.
  • To have more fun, I will look up dance classes when I get home.
  • I spend a lot of time helping folks with articles with no benefit or interest for myself. No more. I will write a book about well-being in the workplace for Middle East audiences.
  • I’ve decided that when I wear heels, I have more fun and feel more attractive. Wear more often.
  • Pineapple tastes super good with chilli peppers. Buy more of both.
  • I need a timer to structure my time and not waste it. I have a lot to do and I don’t want to spectate, instead, I want to create and participate.
  • Review next summer. Short-term and frequent planning makes more sense to me than trying to map out my whole life.

The holiday helped me to develop a more meaningful life.

Where do you do your best life project thinking?

Lyubomirsky, S. (2011). Hedonic adaptation to positive and negative experiences. In S. Folkman (Ed.),
Oxford handbook of stress, health, and coping (pp. 200-224). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Tse, T. S. M. (2014). Does tourism change our lives? Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 19(9), 989-1008.

Dr Louise Lambert

‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’

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