Philip Whiteley's Blog

August 4, 2011

We’re not rechargeable batteries

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 8:12 am

There are two kinds of finding in social research: the extremely unlikely and the blindingly obvious. Into the latter category fall the numerous earnestly prepared studies that ‘prove’ that rich people have more opportunities than poor people.

An example of the former has attracted huge press coverage this summer in the UK (I suspect many studies are reverse-engineered to produce a certain type of headline): this was the finding that holidays don’t do us much good. Researcher Jessica de Bloom measured health and happiness before, during and after holidays, and revealed that after a week or two of returning to work, energy and mood levels had returned to normal.

I don’t doubt the findings, but the arbitrary narrowness of the terms of reference renders the study pointless. The purpose of a holiday is not to recharge the battery. We are not machines. The purposes of a holiday are multiple: fun; new environments; new experiences; above all, shared experiences. This is particularly important for a family, and especially where one or both parents work long hours. For children blessed with good parents, the holiday memories are some of the most precious, and last a lifetime.

And then there are the books. A new tome can add an enriching dimension to help us see the world in a different way. For me, reading Carl Jung while back-packing in France 25 years ago; or The Open Veins of Latin America, while spending four days on a boat travelling up the River Paraguay, or Wuthering Heights while on a ship in the Med, were formative experiences. I doubt that they would have made such an impression as a bed-time read.

Anyway, having failed to have a holiday last year, for various reasons, I am about to go for a week in the sun, by a pool and a beach. I have not the slightest doubt that my ‘energy levels’ will be about the same a week after as they are now. Fine. I get tired after a game of football, too.


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