Happy Holidays?


So the summer holiday season is upon us, kids away from school and we have either been away or looking forward to our summer break from work. For working adults the one or two weeks (or more if you are lucky) summer holidays away from the daily working routine, is supposed to be relaxing and stress free or are they? 

Surprisingly there is a quite a lot research from different areas of psychology to suggest there are stages of holiday mood & satisfaction depending upon our experiences and the way we perceive the break prior to travelling. Needless to say, the travel industry want us to have good experiences on holiday rather than bad, so they live in the memory for the right reasons. Thus helping us make similar choices next year.

Nawijn, J. (2010) found with international tourists in the Netherlands that they experienced a “holiday happiness curve”. The average mood on holiday was generally high, though “mood was somewhat lower among people who were in the first travel phase of about 10% of the holiday duration. Mood was highest during the core phase, which covers about 70% of the holiday time. Mood then declines slightly, but increases during the last part of the holiday” (Nawijn, J. 2010). 

Therefore, the first part of the trip is unsurprisingly most stressful mainly due to travel arrangements and if the holiday has been restful we experience a “rejuvenation phase”, making the thought of packing up and looking forward to going home and back to work more palatable. Moreover, this study reported a holiday happiness levels were higher when people were away for 3-6 days as opposed to a short 2 day break. 

Perhaps the most beneficial areas for our holidays is our health & wellbeing. Apart from the phenomena of “leisure sickness” where some of us are affected by the changes of routine, disrupted sleep, amount of alcohol consumed, more or less coffee for example; holidays have been shown to reduce the likelihood of a number of health related problems. Though not necessarily so for those with existing conditions (remember the issues to travel stress). Indeed Fritz (2006) suggests that we are generally feeling healthier following a holiday and that our work tasks on our return can feel less effortful. However this did fade rapidly if there is a mountain of work to go back to. So a simple plan to help your return to work following a holiday – try to avoid a backlog of work. Probably easier said than done. 

Clearly, there is enough evidence to suggest holidays are valuable to help dissipate the day to day stresses and strains in the workplace.  They allow us to reconnect with friends and family, and perhaps put other aspects of our working lives into perspective. Though the effects do fade rapidly if care is not taken to plan your return from your break. Perhaps this may give you the ammunition to ask your boss for more holidays to improve health, happiness and increase work performance………….certainly worth a try at least.


Nawijn, J. (2010) The holiday happiness curve: a preliminary investigation into mood during a holiday abroad. International Journal of Tourism Research, 12(3), 281-290.

Fritz, C. & Sonnentag, S. (2006). Recovery, well-being, and performance-related outcomes: The role of workload and vacation experiences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 936-945


Mitchell TRThompson LPeterson ECronk R. (1997) Temporal Adjustments in the Evaluation of Events: The “Rosy View” J Exp Soc Psychol. 1997 Jul;33(4):421-48.