Every weekend, we’re prepared to plan meals, pack up our cars, and battle traffic, all so that we can unwind at the cottage for 72 hours or less.
At times, it might seem like a lot of stress for little payoff, but research continues to show that cottage weekends not only allow us a chance to reconnect with our loved ones, but also return to work feeling refreshed.
Here are seven reasons that explain why we feel so relaxed and renewed after a trip to the cottage.
1. We’re happiest when we’re near trees and water.
Getting away from the concrete jungle is a guaranteed mood booster. According to a 2013 study of 20,000 UK residents, we’re happiest when we’re in green or natural environments. Mountains, wetlands, farmlands, and woodlands all boost our natural high, with marine or coastal environments being most likely to make us substantially happier. After all, there’s a reason why lakeside properties are so coveted.
2. Engaging in physical activity reduces stress.
It’s well documented that getting in as little as 20 minutes of exercise a day improves our physical and mental well being. And while you might not associate a day at the lake with “working out,” the fact is that you probably are—whether you’re chopping wood, pulling weeds, water skiing, or paddling your canoe. And any of these activities beat spending the day in a smelly weight room
3. Not only does exercise improve your mental health, but you’re happiest if you do it outdoors.
Research published in the journal of Environmental Health and Technology in 2010, which examined 10 studies and 1,200 cases studies, concluded that exercise in natural areas can improve your mood and self-esteem in just five minutes. Other studies have demonstrated that being outside makes you feel more energetic, as well as more caring and generous.
4. We’re about the state the obvious here, but research has demonstrated that relaxing makes us happy.
However, it does depend on what you do to “relax.” One study, which evaluated survey data from 48,000 respondents in 33 different countries and regions, found that the type of leisure activity had a profound effect on mood. Among the activities that had the highest positive effect on happiness? Reading books, listening to music, and getting together with relatives—all things that we typically do at the cottage.
5. Disconnecting gives us the chance to reconnect.
Before you start wandering up and down your cottage’s driveway searching for a cellphone signal just so you can check your work email, consider this—logging off, even temporarily, allows you to return to work on Monday refreshed. That’s why countries with longer amounts of vacation time (including Sweden, France, Austria, and Germany) have some of the highest rates of productivity.
6. It’s the perfect chance to indulge in home-cooked meals.
While eating out is often considered a treat or a reward, home-cooked meals are actually correlated with a higher level of happiness. A 2012 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that cooking at home encourages healthier choices, and positive emotions are triggered as a result. So fire up the barbecue and rejoice that there’s a crew on hand to help with the dishes afterwards.
7. You’re more likely to get up with the sun.
Although the night owls among us may be loathe to admit it, there’s something undeniably enticing about waking up early at the cottage. Getting in more daylight hours and spending more time in the sun boosts Vitamin D and serotonin levels, and according to group of researchers at the University of Toronto, morning people are happier.