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Happiness is…the Weekend?

Are you happier on the weekend?

Most people are, according to a new survey of 1,000 Americans about their “weekend state of mind.” The idea that most people are happier on the weekend than they are during the week is not particularly revolutionary, but weirdly, this finding made me realize that in some ways I’m actually happier during the week than I am on the weekends. (The survey was commissioned by Hampton Hotels, and I was paid as a consultant to review the results.)

I know that I’m lucky to get so much joy from my workweek and weeknights with my family. By comparison, though, the multi-tasking that weekend parenting often demands — as well as the sometimes near-total deviation from our comforting routines — can make me more cranky and irritable than I am during the week.

My experience seems strange in that for the majority of people surveyed, happiness and feelings of satisfaction peak during the weekend, while stress drops dramatically. For example, 32 percent of respondents feel stressed out on Mondays, but only 8 percent on Saturdays.

It is worth noting, however, that in general parents don’t always to reap these benefits of the weekend: The survey found that parents are considerably more likely to feel exhausted during their weekend or anxious at the start of the weekend than are people without kids. So maybe my experience isn’t so strange.

The majority of survey respondents report pretty large “personality changes” over the weekend, saying that their “weekend personality” is more spontaneous, imaginative, creative, fun, and easy to be around—and that their “workweek personality” is more neurotic and less engaged. A third of participants say they are “a completely different person on the weekend.”

Reading about these “personality changes,” I had an “aha” moment: My weekend routine doesn’t always work for me.

I realize this probably would be blazingly obvious to anyone who knows my routine: frantically trying to run all my errands, carting kids to and from birthday parties and sporting events, fixing things around the house, paying bills and squeezing in some hasty gardening, getting caught up on email and grocery shopping and school forms — all while trying to “be present” for my children. But I’ve been so busy trying to master my weekends that I’ve forgotten how easy it should be to enjoy them — and I suspect I’m not alone.

As is the case for many parents, weekends are low-hanging fruits of happiness that I’ve been forgetting to pick.

Want three ways to make weekends even happier? See this post on my Raising Happiness blog at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.