India and America, the world’s two largest free market democracies have several things in common including very long working weeks. Whereas the wimpy Europeans tend to work 35 hours per week, Indians and Americans regularly crank out 50 hour plus weeks. And then we complain of burn out and fatigue and seek work-life balance. This article cites a novel solution: “Time off is important to reset and recalibrate. But if you’re having trouble making time for a vacation, recent research suggests that simply treating your weekends like a vacation can make you happier.

The findings, from researchers at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, are based on a series of experiments. In one study of 441 workers, half were instructed to spend a spring weekend like they would any other. But the other participants were instructed, “Treat this weekend like a vacation.”

When people returned to work Monday, those who spent the weekend like vacationers reported more happiness, less negativity and more satisfaction than those who approached the weekend like they always did. Weekend “vacationers” also spent more money in vacation mode — about $130 compared to $104. But it wasn’t money that bought happiness. After controlling for the amount of money spent, the vacation group was still happier than the control group.

One reason the vacation approach may have worked wonders: The vacation mind-set appears to be a more mindful mind-set. Vacationers reported being more attentive to the present moment.

“Treating the weekend like a vacation activates a mind-set shift — nudging us out of our constant doing mode, where our activities are items we’re trying to get through to check off our to-do lists,” said Cassie Holmes, professor at UCLA’s Anderson School and a study co-author. “The vacation mind-set allows us to feel like we can actually take a break and enjoy the moment.””

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