A quick glance at the calendar will confirm that weekends make up two-sevenths of our lives. That's a not-inconsiderable fraction. But subjectively most of us also know those two days can pass in what feels like about five minutes.
You get home exhausted on Friday night and flop down on the couch to watch some Netflix. You try to catch up on some sleep, run a few errands, maybe hang out with a friend or two, and then, in a flash, it's Monday again. How did your two days of rest and relaxation pass so quickly? And is there any way to slow them back down?
You don't have to be constantly busy; you just have to be strategically busy.
This jibes with science showing time tends to feel slower when we have more novel and memorable experiences. The more things our brain remembers about a time period, the longer that time period seems to feel. Which is why childhood seems to last forever and a routine day at work disappears completely the second you walk out the door.
But while the psychology behind the "have busier weekends" advice is sound, I, for one, suspect a lot of people will resist it nonetheless. Life is hectic. Work is stressful. People are busy. Few of us want to make our precious time off one long catalog of effortful hobbies and meaningful volunteering.
Is there a middle way? Can you slow your weekends down without forcing yourself to become a busy beaver of off-time activity? Yes, insists Joanna Goddard on her blog Cup of Jo. All you have to do is be strategic about when you're active on the weekend.
Active Sunday nights are the key to longer feeling weekends.
It's an insight she stumbled upon accidentally. "Last year, my friend Gisela invited me to a movie on Sunday evening. I found myself looking forward to it all day, then rode my bike to Alamo Drafthouse; she'd already ordered popcorn and we sat back to see Three Identical Strangers. And that Monday morning, I noticed something. My weekend had lasted forever," she explains.
Liking the effect of their Sunday night movie, the friends did it again and again. "It changed everything," Goddard reports. "I realized: No matter what else I do all weekend, the anticipation of a Sunday night hang--and the afterglow--stretches out each day and takes away the Sunday scaries. Instead of anticipating work, your mind is busy gearing up for an evening adventure."
The trick of an active Sunday night works whether or not you're a film buff, "as long as you end your weekend with a bang," Goddard says.
It's simple advice, and more doable than exhortations to pack your weekend schedule as full as your weekday one. And just like this less attainable advice, there are psychological reasons to believe an active Sunday night will have an outsized impact on how long your weekend feels.
As happiness researcher Dr. Elizabeth Dunn has explained, "the very end of an experience seems to disproportionately affect our memory of it." In short, happy endings tend to make for happy memories. Which means tweaking your Sunday evening for the better should positively color the whole two days.
So what fun thing are you planning to do this Sunday evening?