Why weekends make you happy
You don't need us to tell you that you're probably happiest on the weekend - provided you're not at work - but what's the reason for this? Is it the extra sleep, the fact we don't have to face a morning commute or the opportunity to laze around at our leisure? Is there anything we can do to bring weekend happiness to our weekdays and enjoy a more balanced lifestyle? The Expertrain team are always on the lookout for ways to be healthier and happier, so we thought we'd find out.
In control of your time
A study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology looked at the moods of a group of participants aged 18 to 62 - all employed for at least 30 hours per week. Over the three week period, study participants were contacted three time daily - in the morning, afternoon and evening - and asked to complete a brief questionnaire about happiness. The results revealed that both men and women feel mentally and physically better at the weekends, irrespective of how many hours they work, what they do and how much money they make (1). Marital status and age seemed to have no bearing on the results of the study either, but why?
Participants reported fewer aches and pains as well as better moods from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon. Leader of the research, Professor Richard Ryan, said, "Workers, even those with interesting, high status jobs, really are happier on the weekend. Our findings highlight just how important free time is to an individual's well-being. Far from being frivolous, the relatively unfettered time on weekends provides critical opportunities for bonding with others, exploring interests and relaxing. These are basic psychological needs that people should be careful not to crowd out with overwork."
It's thought the higher levels of freedom we have at the weekends, coupled with control over what we do with our time, are responsible for the feelings of happiness we get when Friday comes around. Psychologists also found that the ability to spend time with family members and close friends at the weekend boosted mood. Because the week is filled with activities which create pressure and demands on our time, often leading to stress, we look forward to weekends, as they're 'our' time.
A survey of 1,000 Americans looked at their state of mind at the weekend, compared to the working week, and found that the majority of people felt happier on weekends. 32% of respondents felt stressed on Mondays and only 8% on Saturdays. However the study showed that those with children don't necessarily feel more relaxed and happier on the weekends - they're more likely to feel anxious or exhausted. People expressed a difference in their personalities too - for many, their 'weekend personality' was more creative, fun and spontaneous whilst their 'workweek personality' was neurotic. Over 30% of participants said they felt like a 'different person on the weekend.' (2).
Keeping your weekends relaxing
It's important that we take time to actually relax on the weekends, rather than trying to catch up on work from the week before and multi-tasking. Running around trying to do everything at once only leaves you feeling exhausted and dreading the coming week. Don't fall prey to 'Sunday night anxiety' either, where you start to feel anxious and stressed about the week ahead. To combat this, spend some time on Friday morning or Sunday night itself planning your Monday morning, which can help you to feel more oranised and in control.
So, how do you achieve a better work/life balance and bring some of that happy weekend feeling to the rest of the week? After all, our weekends are just two days long - what about the other five days of the week? There's no point being unhappy! Funnily enough, working on the weekends could be the key to attaining a better work/life balance.
"But I love my weekends off!" we can hear you screeching. Bear with us. Research shows that using Sunday night to prepare for the week ahead and make a start on Monday's 'to-do' list could make for a less stressful working week. We're not suggesting you work the whole weekend, and it's important to make sure you have time off. For some people, working on a specific part of the weekend - such as Saturday morning or Sunday evening - allows for greater flexibility during the week. So you could enjoy a morning off to go to the gym, or finish early on a Friday to have drinks with friends. Working on the weekends is commonplace nowadays, but provided you're in control of it and use it in the right way, it can help you to achieve a better work/life balance.
Make your week days happier
If you don't want to work the weekends, there are other ways you can make your working week a happier, more positive experience. Make the positive emotions related to your weekend work for you during the week! On Mondays, be grateful for the fun things you did over the weekend and spend time recalling positive memories. Or make some plans for the following weekend - book tickets to a film or show, organise dinner with friends or plan to try out a new exercise class - this gives you time to be excited and look forward to it!
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