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Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Dr. Christine Carter Tells Us How

Written on October 19, 2012 at 9:22 am , by

Happiness expert, Dr. Carter says routine is key, embracing color-coordinated calendars with non-negotiable exercise time and pancakes for dinner once a week. (Photo courtesy of Blake Farrington)

As the 80s hit goes, “everybody’s working for the weekend” and now, thanks to a recent Hampton Hotels survey, we know why. The survey, which examined how Americans feel and spend their time during their two-day respite, found that happiness tends to peak on the weekend—no surprise there!

What’s startling, however, is that one in three of the surveyors reported that they feel as though they have a completely different personality on Saturday and Sunday—one that is more engaged, creative, agreeable and spontaneous. “We clearly need our weekends,” said author of Raising Happiness, Christine Carter, Ph.D., who worked with Hampton on the poll. Interested in bringing the “Weekend State of Mind” to your workweek? Here are Dr. Carter’s tips for a healthier, happier you:

Recharge and Refuel: Fifteen percent of the surveyors said that they missed having a structured schedule on Saturday and Sunday. “We really are creatures of habit and routine,” said Dr. Carter. “When you take that structure of a routine out, you’re having to consciously make decisions around it.” Retain your productive workweek structure by creating a fit plan of healthy eating and exercise for your weekend, making sure to use your rest days to do just that—sleep!

Habits Make Perfect: “I’m a huge proponent of consolidating decision-making so that you’re not making decisions about food and exercise always in the moment when you’re less likely to make the right decision for your health or your happiness,” said Dr. Carter. Create prompts for your fit routine during the week and anchor them to healthy choices you already make so that eventually, you won’t even think about it! Try putting your workout clothes on immediately after waking up, for example, so you hit the gym before work or make the exercise commitment the night before by leaving your sneaks by the door. Blocking off time in your calendar for exercise and keeping the order of your day relatively the same also helps.

Practice Gratitude: Booting up your email for the first time in 48 hours can be stressful. To combat “Monday Madness,” recount a happy weekend event or moment. “Gratitude is actually a very powerful, positive emotion and when we consciously cultivate it, the physiological effect it has on our body is to put the breaks on that fight or flight system,” said Dr. Carter. Relive, reflect and reclaim your sanity!

Create Workweek Leisure Time: Monday through Friday doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Bring Saturday pleasures into your workweek by incorporating friends, family and fun into your daily routine. Dr. Carter’s family, for example, celebrates “Wacky Wednesday” with pancakes for dinner in their pajamas – one of the top guilty pleasures found in the study.

De-Funkify: Adding workweek stress to a busy schedule can be a recipe for a fitness funk disaster. Take small steps, be flexible and don’t forget to reward yourself for the little victories—even if you go for a walk instead of your long run. If you do fall into a funk, distract yourself by joining a fit cause or use back door excuses (i.e. keep up with the Kardashians on the treadmill) to get back in the swing of things. In terms of diet, Dr. Carter suggests creating a weekly menu to limit bad-for-you options, like blinders on a horse. Heading out to your favorite restaurant? Focusing on what you can’t have makes sticking to your diet more difficult and makes you sad! Limit negotiations but satisfy your happiness by looking up the menu online beforehand so you have a healthy option in mind.

Now tell us: How do you bring a “Weekend State of Mind” to your workweek? Any fun ways you stay healthy and happy during the Monday through Friday grind?