The Healing Power of Weekends

healing weekendWe all love weekends?just listen to songs by Lily Allen, Alanis Morissette or the Black Eyed Peas. But did you know that you?re less likely to feel aches and pains on weekends? And more likely to feel energy and joy?

Those are the surprising results of a new study in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. Tracking the moods and physical symptoms of 74 adults three times per day for three weeks, researchers found that both women and men experience better moods, a higher sense of vitality and energy, and fewer physical symptoms (such as aches and pains, and digestion and respiratory problems) from Friday evenings through Sunday afternoons. ?It was really surprising to see how strong the weekend effect is?there?s so much of a difference for most people in terms of happiness and physical symptoms between the weekends and the weekdays,? says study author Richard Ryan, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, psychiatry and education at the University of Rochester. It?s true no matter how much money people earn, how many hours they work, what type of work they do, how old they are or what their marital status is.

What?s so healthy about weekends? It?s not exercising more, catching up on your sleep or any particular activity, at least not directly. It?s doing what you want, with the people you like. ?Being able to connect with people you love and having more of a sense of autonomy on the weekends improves people?s well-being,? Ryan says. Compare that to workdays, especially in certain kinds of jobs: ?It?s stressful to be working in an environment where you don?t feel connected to other people or you feel oppressed, and people feel time-pressured during the week, which also contributes to negative moods.?

That?s why it?s important to try to reap maximum enjoyment, recovery and restoration from your weekends?by spending time with people you love, doing activities and hobbies you enjoy and making your own decisions about how to spend your time as much as possible.

You might even be able to take a little of the weekend?s magic to work. ?We could do a lot more in the workplace to improve people?s well-being and their sense of voice and empowerment,? Ryan says. Look for ways to enhance your satisfaction during and after work, he suggests. Volunteer to participate in a work project that really interests you. Take a fun class after work (yoga, origami?). Meet your girlfriends for lunch or coffee during the week.

By creating some freedom of choice for activities that will bring you satisfaction and carving out a bit of quality time with your favorite people, says Ryan, you just might be able to bring some of the healing power of weekends into your weekdays.

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