Your vacation should be planned in advance, it should contain moderate physical activity, and last a little more than a week. Also, your holiday should be in the countryside or at least in the middle of nature.
These would be the four general rules for living the perfect vacation, found in the various published studies collected by Scientific American. If you spend your holiday according to these rules, researchers believe that it will not only rejuvenate your mind but may even save your life.
Studies About The Perfect Holiday
A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine at the State University of New York found that the risk of death from any cause for those who go on vacation at least once a year is reduced by 29%.
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A successful trip, explain experts at Erasmus University Rotterdam in an article published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, starts with planning, which increases levels of the "happiness hormone" serotonin from this stage onwards.
"So, if money is tight, one can try to plan a 'local holiday'," the article says, "by looking for new and fun things to do in one's own city."
As for the length of the trip, a review from the same Erasmus University found that there is no perfect length, at least in terms of long-term mood effects: the effects last as long after three-week trips as after shorter ones.
An article from Radboud University published in the Journal of Happiness Studies noted, however, that levels of hormones linked to relaxation and satisfaction start to rise immediately after going on holiday, peaking on day eight.
The Perfect Vacation Destination
In terms of the optimal destination, almost all research points to contact with nature as the best choice for "re-charging" the mind and body, with rural areas possibly having an extra "advantage".
Research from Sage Colleges in New York found that Mycobacterium vaccae, which is commonly found in soil especially in rural hilly or mountainous areas, when injected into mice leads to increased serotonin levels and reduced anxiety levels.
When it comes to physical activity, researchers agree that a moderate amount is optimal. While the beneficial effects of a little physical exertion on the body and mind are well known, the Erasmus University study found that those who described their holiday as "very relaxing" had more lasting effects than those who described it as "relaxing".
"The most successful trip," the experts write, "seems not to have a well-structured set of activities, but rather a series of random 'wanderings', not forgetting the importance of sleep and eating more differently than usual".
So, now that you know the four general rules for a perfect holiday discovered by researchers, it's time to act on them and plan your next trip with more wisdom and inspiration.