Getting your act together at the end of the week can be a boon to all aspects of your life, from planning meals and organizing carpools to managing long-term school projects. Anticipating challenges preweekend will prevent late-night dashes to the market and Staples, and the headaches that go with them.
Slipping into hermit mode is all too easy come Sunday, especially in the short days before daylight saving time kicks in. But there is plenty of research that shows that people who are less social tend to be less happy. And a Sunday already potentially mired in the blahs is when you’ll need contact with others the most. Can you stay in your pj’s and communicate on Facebook? “Perhaps,” says Mogilner. “But connecting over a computer isn’t as effective as connecting with living, breathing humans.”
Any regular Sunday social ritual—church for some, yoga or softball for others—can lift spirits. In fact, a 2010 study published in American Sociological Review found that people who routinely attend religious services were more satisfied with their lives than were those who didn’t. The reason, researchers determined, isn’t just related to faith; it’s also about having friends in the congregation who give people a sense of belonging and, in turn, higher levels of well-being.
You may get similar benefits without joining a formal group. Institute a standing date with pals to skip the exhausting back-and-forth of making plans, suggests Gretchen Rubin, the author of Better Than Before ($19, amazon.com), a book about mastering good habits. “Being accountable makes it much more likely that you won’t back out at the last minute,” she adds. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated. (Who wants to wash a fondue pot on Sunday night?) And it doesn’t have to involve many people. Something low-maintenance—like a scheduled phone call with your sister, margaritas with the neighbors, or even Yahtzee night with the kids—can make all the difference.
Volunteering is one more way to connect, but it has an unexpected perk, too. Giving away your time makes you feel as if you have more time, reports a 2012 study published in Psychological Science. Hence, it extends your weekend. “You get a sense that you’re doing a lot with your time,” says Mogilner, who worked on the study. “That inspires you to do more later on that day,” which leads to more satisfaction. It’s a tactic to fend off that “Where did the weekend go?” spiral.
Make Over Sunday Night
Why is it that 7 p.m. on a Sunday feels like 11 p.m., but on every other day of the week 7 p.m. is just the start of the evening? Maybe because our idea of “doing nothing”—say, binge-watching Game of Thrones—is not necessarily the best medicine for relieving the Sunday blues.
Active leisure—a book club, practicing yoga, or even going to the movies—will make you happier than choosing something that is passive. “If you’re engaged in an activity that keeps you moving, you’re absorbed in the moment and your mind has much less room to allow workweek worries to sneak in and take hold,” says Mogilner. So while we’re forever grateful to HBO for transforming Sunday nights, you may want to DVR your favorite episodes and watch them on a night less fraught with anxiety—say, hump day.