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. Read more
This week’s fit links from around the web:
- We thought yoga was about tuning in to your body and finding zen, but a new take on the practice (with medals?) may draw in competitive athletes. — USA Today
- Sometimes, you just have to appreciate the little things in life. — The Wannabe Athlete
- How healthy and happy is your home state? — Gallup
- Heat up the kitchen this weekend. We’re already dreaming of these as a brunch treat! — Peas and Thank You
- It is possible to build a well-balanced breakfast on the road. — Healthy Tipping Point
One of Roko Belic’s wealthy Hollywood friends approached him with an interesting question: “Why does it seem like the people who clean celebrity homes and do their yard work are oftentimes more happy than the celebrities themselves?” Belic found this concept so fascinating that he spent years exploring the topic. The result: Happy, a documentary by the Academy Award-nominated director that is now available on DVD.
We spoke with Belic about the project, and he shared these five simple steps to make your H.Q. (happiness quotient) skyrocket.
- Be grateful. “Gratitude is one of the best tools to boost your mood,” Belic says. “Thank someone who did something for you with a handwritten note, even if it’s just a few sentences long.” The act of writing the message adds happiness to your life for days. If you send the note, you extend the joy even longer (as you anticipate the letter arriving in their mailbox). And if they thank you back?
- Novelty keeps life fresh. Try something—anything—new! Whether you take a different route to work, eat at a new deli for lunch or go to a concert rather than a movie this Friday, doing something out of the ordinary “helps you appreciate what you have and expands your life,” Belic says.
- Set humble goals. Many researchers have tried to pinpoint what makes certain countries, like Denmark, happier than others. Having expectations that are within reach seems to make you feel more accomplished. “Aim to provide for your family or find a job where you are friendly with your co-workers,” Belic suggests, rather than trying to win the lottery or finish first in a marathon. You’ll be much more likely to actually make these goals a reality and won’t feel like you’re missing out on the “better things in life” if you frame it this way.
- Go with the (fitness) flow. Aerobic exercise affects the dopamine system in your brain, Belic explains. “Think about it: You rarely see a person complaining about how terrible they feel after finishing a good run or spending a day surfing,” he says. Fitness is even more beneficial for your mood if you’re able to find “flow” in the activity. Look for something that totally captivates your attention and keeps your mind fully on your body rather than on paying the mortgage or something else stressful.
- Share the wealth. “Happiness is contagious. Research has found that the happier you are, the happier your friends are—and even your friend’s, friend’s, friends are,” Belic says. Translation: If we were playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, joy spreads to your third degree connections. If you prioritize your happiness by following the previous four steps, you’ll boost the collective mood. “This isn’t just good for individuals; it’s good for the world. Happier communities have fewer crimes, less pollution and more people who are willing to help a stranger in need,” Belic adds.
Now tell us: What’s making you smile lately?
Just like you, our staff is gearing up to celebrate the holidays with family and friends! While we’re planning to indulge (Exhibit A: the discussions about cookies and feasting below; Exhibit B: the dessert spread at our staff holiday party!), we also have some fit customs that have been passed down through the generations.
Here are a few of our favorite fun ways to mark the holidays with our loved ones.
- “My sister and I make a large variety of cookies, then give them as gifts and share with each other! A lot of time is put into creating the different varieties, but now we have help! We’re continuing our productions with the assistance of my two helpers—my niece and nephew.” — Elaine Roake, photo director
- “Everyone in my family is a huge fan of games, so some new contraption finds its way under the tree each year. On Christmas, after opening gifts and eating breakfast, we spend the morning testing out our new game, whether it’s Rock Band, Wii Fit or something else equally fun!” — Samantha Shelton, editorial assistant
- “On Christmas, my brother and I usually run three miles around a lake near my parent’s house. That way we don’t feel too guilty filling up later at our Aunt Christine’s epic Christmas Day feast.” — Lisa Haney, health editor
“My mom and I make these special thumbprint cookies. Now that I’m not at home anymore, she always sends me a batch and I send her some of mine too. I even made them for a holiday party I hosted this past weekend!” — Jenna Autuori-Dedic, fitness editor
- “One of my favorite holiday traditions with my good girlfriends is our Holiday White Elephant Thong Party. Instead of bringing gifts, we buy elaborate, ridiculous, hilarious undergarments to put under the Christmas tree. (They’re all brand-new of course…and are usually from Victoria’s Secret!) The night is always an absolute riot and I don’t think gift-giving can be more entertaining!” — Christie Griffin, digital director
- “If there’s snow on the ground, my family and I would always take the opportunity to build our snow ‘twin’ with all of the trimmings—charcoal eyes, carrot noses and paper towel roll arms. They even get our hats when we’re sweating from all the rolling, packing and lifting. Biggest snowman wins!” — Karla Walsh, editorial assistant
- “On New Year’s Eve, I do the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run in Central Park. The gun goes off at midnight along with the fireworks. It’s four miles and this is my third year doing it. It’s fun to start the new year off with a run and it makes me feel like I’m able to stick to running and staying fit all year long.” — Argy Koutsothanasis, fashion director
Now tell us: What is your favorite holiday tradition?