Beat the Post-Vacation Blues

Unless your trip was a total disaster, the only downside of a vacation is coming back from it. The good feelings can start disappearing even before you’ve even boarded your flight home.

Fortunately, travelers can take deliberate steps during and after a vacation to prolong the feel-good (and good-for-you) effects of a leisurely getaway.

Beat the Post-Vacation Blues

Vacations are hugely beneficial for our mental and physical health. On vacations, we let go of daily stressors. Our blood pressure drops, concentration improves, we sleep more deeply and become distinctly more aware of our emotions and thoughts. Unless your trip was a total disaster, the only downside of a vacation is coming back from it.

While having time off is healthy, getting back to normal life is often a wake-up call that most of us don’t appreciate. The good feelings can start disappearing even before you’ve even boarded your flight home. As the vacation winds down, we all too often start to experience a looming sense of melancholy. And before we know it, our blood pressure is rising and our anxiety is returning. It’s a typical case of the post-vacation blues.

Fortunately, travelers can take deliberate steps during and after a vacation to prolong the feel-good (and good-for-you) effects of a leisurely getaway.

Buy experiences, not souvenirs

One way to make the positive effects of a vacation last after you return home, is to focus on making “experiential purchases” while on vacation, rather than shopping for material goods. These experiences become part of our personalities and can shape our outlooks. Experiences make people happier than material purchases — this is explained by the fact that experiences provide more conversational value. Though traveling is an experience, research suggests that spending money on tours and activities brings more emotional value than a suitcase full of souvenirs.

Travel by Taste

Food and memory are incredibly closely connected. By recreating your favorite meal from your vacation you can not only jog your pleasant memories, but also share them with friends and family over the dinner table.

Relive Moments

Once you’re home and settled back into routine, reserve some time to look through all the photographs you took on vacation. Pick the most meaningful moments from the trip and frame them for your home or share them on social media. Going back through photos and videos from your trip can evoke a sense of nostalgia, which research shows can enhance your mood.

Plan your next vacation

The happiest part of your vacation may not be the vacation itself, but the moments leading up to it. According to some studies, just planning a trip can lead to increased feelings of happiness. Anticipation becomes part of the vacation itself. Research has found that planning (making a list, for example) can free your mind of intrusive thoughts and leave you feeling clearheaded and, frankly, more earnest about making your next trip a reality. Committing to a specific plan for a goal not only facilitates attainment of the goal, but also frees cognitive resources for other pursuits. Even if that means tackling your untouched inbox, you’ll be able to do so with less distraction or anxiety.

Consider yourself lucky

Bear in mind that if you get to take a vacation, you’re one lucky human being:  More than half of Americans don’t use all of their paid vacation days. Being grateful that you were able to break away from the office is a good place to start. It will help you appreciate the time away and, as a result, make you feel less disappointed that you have to come back to reality.

It’s not always possible to find the money or the resources to escape your every day routine, but there are simple ways to have a blissed-out vacation vibe at home. A hot bath or shower is natural relaxer which may also reduce feelings of loneliness. Additionally, you can always go for a short walk, which research shows can lift boost your mood even when you least expect it.

So enjoy what you experience, and try to make it last. And before you know it, the next trip will be underway.