This is the time of year when many people are planning their holiday vacation. Countless people at work are counting the days until they can ‘Get away from it all’, to relax and be happy. Schoolchildren are looking forward to the end of term and many of us are planning our perfect beach holiday, walking holiday, activity holiday, cruise, camping adventure or cycling, touring holiday etc. And who doesn’t expect their holiday to be a happy experience?

Affordable

The travel industry has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Once, only the affluent could afford to go abroad and now it is often the cheaper option. There are hundreds of travel agencies, thousands of choices and something for everyone. Travelling to countries where the sun usually shines means not having to spend money on indoor activities when it rains, especially relevant for those who live in the UK.

Why do we seek sunshine?

Our brains are wired for us to wake and work in sunlight and until the invention of electric light, our daily habits changed according to the amount of daylight hours available each day. Sunlight is necessary for our health and so whenever we expose ourselves to sunshine we get a release of endorphin, the ‘happy chemical’ that feels good and improves our sense of wellbeing.

From drizzle to dazzle

Might this explain why so many of us feel good when we are on holiday? Spending more time outside, maximizing our exposure to sunlight feels great especially when we are not limited by the time restraints of work or school.

For those who spend the majority of their time working in an office environment the opportunity to be outside in a natural, sunny environment can feel wonderful. How many happy childhood memories are of playing on sunny days without a care in the world?

The downside

It is entirely reasonable to enjoy the prospect of a week or two of happiness although the process of packing and travelling to one’s chosen destination can be really stressful – think traffic jams, delayed flights, lost baggage, Air Traffic control strikes and small voices repeatedly asking, ‘are we nearly there yet?’ Despite the downsides, hundreds of thousands of people will be taking a holiday in the next few weeks.

In anticipation

Looking forward to a holiday and counting off the days until it starts, is all part of the excitement. Research has shown that for many, the positive effect of anticipating their holiday will be stronger than the actual event and happiness will increase in the period before your holiday but be less afterwards

Wanderlust

For some people, an annual holiday is simply not enough, they have a yearning to travel and see new places. There is a scientific explanation that may explain this compulsion to travel. Some people have what is called the ‘wanderlust gene’, or to be more scientific DRD4-D7. This gene variant has been identified as highly correlated with increased levels of curiosity, restlessness and a yearning for travel and is estimated to affect 20% of the population.

Savouring

Make the most of your holiday by savouring the positive experiences. Take time to image how perfect your holiday might be because even if it doesn’t turn out to be quite so wonderful, you will still have gained some happy feelings beforehand.

Consider having more frequent short breaks rather than one long holiday or plan for weekend trips throughout the year. You will have more to look forward to and may satisfy your urge to travel if you have wanderlust.

Take photographs to capture the most enjoyable moments so that you can look back on them and relive those happy times.

Bon voyage!