How to Make the Most of Your Weekends by Natalia Peart

Read the original article on Forbes.

We cherish our weekends. More often than not, however, they don’t live up to our expectations. How many times have you found yourself eagerly anticipating the weekend, only to be left disappointed because it went by too fast and you didn’t make the most of it? If you want to enjoy weekends that leave you feeling refreshed and energized, then here are a few ways to help you make the most of it.

Change your mindset

Can you change how satisfied you are with your weekends just by changing your mindset? Researchers say yes. In a study published in the Harvard Business Review, Cassie Mogilner Holmes and her colleagues wanted to see whether we could get the same enjoyment from our weekends as we do a vacation, so they ran an experiment with more than 400 U.S. workers. On the Friday before the weekend, half were told to treat the weekend like a vacation, while the other half (the control group) were told to treat the weekend like a regular weekend. What they found was that those who had treated their weekend as a vacation were significantly happier than those who had treated it as a regular weekend.

What is significant about their study is that it wasn’t the difference in activities across the weekend that was responsible for the increased happiness. Instead, it was treating the time like a vacation that seemed to make the “vacationers” more mindful of and attentive to the present moment throughout their weekend’s activities. In other words, the vacation-minded people weren’t happier because they did fewer chores; they were happier because they were more present in whatever it was that they were doing.

The big take away from their research is that you can apply a vacation mindset to your weekends just by slowing down and taking notice to whatever, it is that you are doing, because your mindset is more important than the amount of money you spend or the activities themselves.

Change your approach

After you’ve changed your mindset, here are a few more ways that you can make the most of your weekend.

(1) Start with a plan. According to Laura Vanderkam, you should plan your weekend just as you plan your week. Decide in advance what your plan is for the weekend. While it doesn’t mean that you will have each moment planned, you should start the weekend knowing what you want to get out of it. If you don’t have any plans, you will end up doing nothing and then wonder where the time went once the weekend is over. If, however, you make plans during the week for what you will be doing on Saturday and Sunday, the anticipation will improve not only your weekend but also your week.

(2) Avoid routine. We live our lives mainly by routine Monday through Friday. If we’re not careful though, the familiarity of our patterns can easily lead us to become stuck in a rut of only doing the same things over and over again. The weekend, therefore, is a good time to force ourselves to step out of our comfort zone by trying new experiences, joining a new club, crossing an item off our bucket list, or revisiting a hobby that we used to enjoy.

(3) Allow for some downtime. Filling your time with different activities can be fun, but to the extreme, it can also take its toll both mentally and physically. Instead, make sure to set aside some time just for yourself so you can recharge your batteries in any way you find relaxing such as reading a favorite book.  You should be careful not to fill up your empty time with things that aren’t relaxing like constantly checking email.

(4) Get outside. Getting outside for a walk, run, bike ride or anything else that will help you get some exercise and enjoy the fresh air will leave you energized while you also reap the health benefits. Since we often don’t get enough exercise during the weekdays, the weekend is a perfect time to catch up.

(5) Reclaim Sunday. One mistake we often make over the weekend is allowing thoughts of Monday morning and the work that is waiting for us to take over our ability to fully enjoy our Sunday. You can stave off the Sunday blues by making sure you have something planned not just for Saturday but also for Sunday, such as a brunch or dinner with others.

Sunday night, you should spend some time planning the upcoming week so that you know what you want to accomplish across the week, both at work and in your personal life. By spending some time on Sunday night planning another fun activity for the week as well as thinking ahead to the next weekend, you can extend the weekend feeling you’ve just created into your week instead of it ending so abruptly on Sunday.

Follow Natalia Peart, Ph.D., on her website and connect with her on LinkedIn.