Ah, precious weekend. Two days of freedom, a mental break from the stresses of work and the rush of the weekday life. The only bad thing about weekends is their duration - 48 hours is just not enough to recharge, destress, and rejuvenate for the coming workweek.
We look forward to the weekend all week. But usually the weekend feels way too short to truly enjoy. We come home exhausted on Friday, run errands and chores on Saturday, and Sunday morning the anxiety of the looming workweek already starts to creep in. By Sunday night, we're typically wondering how these 48 hours could have flown by like this, in the blink of an eye.
How can we slow down the weekend, to stretch those golden 48 hours to their maximum?
Why the weekend seems to fly by
To best get at what approaches may work to slow down our weekends, it’s important to understand why the weekends seem to fly by in the first place. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University, has some interesting answers on this point in his book "The Brain: The Story of You". He has found that pursuing novel activities, ie picking up new tasks that you’ve never done before, stretches our perception of time. This stretched perception occurs because our brains are processing unfamiliar data when doing something new, which tricks our brain into thinking the experience/activity lasted longer. Doing the same old things as always don’t supply our brains with new input, which makes our weekends seem super fast and forgettable.
One way to think about this is to remember back to your childhood -- remember how time seemed endless and slow? Summers seemed to last forEVER. That’s because nearly everything was new to us then!
When doing unfamiliar things, we're also paying more attention to the details and actively noticing new things that we wouldn't have otherwise. When our brains are working to make memories more detailed, the moments seem to last longer.
Alternately, when we’re doing familiar things, we’re not paying attention to the details. Our brains don’t notice the nuances and variety, and so it all slips by faster.
This also explains why it seems that time speeds up when we grow older… the more familiar the world becomes, the less information/details your brain processes about it, and the more quickly time seems to pass.
Ideas to Slow Down Your Weekend
Do Something Different. Doing something different is a key way to slow down your weekend. This doesn’t mean that you need to do anything elaborate -- a few simple yet different activities from what you normally do will mix up the routine enough to reap the time-stretching benefits.
You could try simple additions to your weekend like:
- Get up early to watch the sunrise or to take an early-morning walk in the peaceful quiet before the rest of the world wakes.
- Try a new breakfast or brunch restaurant in your neighborhood.
- Visit a local tourist spot (museum, park, landmark) that you haven’t been to before.
- Try out a new recipe
- Start learning a new hobby
Don’t forget Friday night. It’s easy to overlook Friday night, with the exhaustion from the long work week. But planning something for friday night, even if it’s extremely low-key, can make your weekend seem longer.
- Order take-out and watch a Netflix movie together
- Take a long soak in the bath
- Start reading a new book
- Open a bottle of wine, light some candles, and turn off your phones and tv - just talk for an hour!
Create a 'weekend starts here' ritual. Having a ritual that reminds your brain to leave the hectic week behind and take a break can be powerful. It helps to shift your brain into a different gear for the weekend. Again, it doesn’t have to be elaborate: pick up a special dessert from the grocery to enjoy together in the evening. Play your favorite ‘friday’ music on your way home from work. Wear some special accessories/clothes on friday. Read an inspirational quote at the end of your workday. Anything to mark the end of the week / beginning of your weekend.
Practice mindfulness during your weekend. Find ways to keep yourself in the moment during your weekend. If you stress about what’s happening on Monday, or how fast it is coming, it will get here all the faster. Get out in nature, light some aromatherapy candles, play some relaxing music, anything that will help you to be present and live in the moment, pushing those non-weekend thoughts aside.
Don’t leave everything until Sunday. Having all of your chores to do on Sunday just makes for instant stress -- laundry, groceries, cleaning, etc. -- do these on saturday morning instead. Better yet, spread them out in small chunks during the week (throw in a load of laundry on tue/thu, clean up the kitchen on wednesday after dinner, etc.)
Use your weekend evenings to their full potential. Resist the temptation to simply veg in front of the TV on your weekend evenings. Again, it’s one of those things that will require no new thinking/processing for your brain - and the evening will FLY by. Instead, fill your evening with something that will bring you into the moment. Go to a movie, go out for a quick meal, invite some friends over for drinks, play a board game with the family.
Step back from social media. Social media prevents us from recharging, from clearing our minds and resting. The more we disconnect from social media, the happier we become. Aim to disconnect for at least part of your weekend -- turn off the internet router for an hour!
Plan quality time with those that matter. During the work week, we often are so rushed and stressed, there is little time to spend with friends and family. We rush through dinner, help with homework, prepare for tomorrow’s big presentation, etc. Weekends are the time when we can reconnect, let our loved ones know how much they mean to us. Sit down with a cup of tea and chat. Go to the bookstore together. Take a walk together. Doing anything together outside of the daily rush will be restorative!
Ideas for an easy evening/family cocktail hour
One of my favorite ‘weekend starts here’ thing is a super-simple ‘happy hour’ for just us, just the family, on friday night. It’s our time to reconnect, mark the start of the weekend, and leave the hectic behind. And it HAS to be super simple, because on friday night i’m definitely not up for creating some major gourmet masterpiece. Simple. Together. Special. Yess, weekend!
My magic weekend-starter combination is:
10 minutes prep, set it all out in the kitchen, light the candles, turn on the music, and let the weekend begin!
Some of my favorite, super-easy appetizer recipes below.
Parmesan crisps, with variations
- ½ cup shredded hard cheese, such as Parmesan, or Asiago
- Heat the oven to 400F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Drop about 1 Tbsp of cheese into a circle on the parchment paper.
- Leave about 2 inches between circles.
- Bake until the cheese is golden brown and lacy, about 5-7 minutes.
- You’ll need to watch these carefully, as they burn quickly.
- Allow the crisps to cool slightly, then transfer them to paper towels to drain and get crispy.
- Add a slice of jalapeno to the middle of the cheese before baking.
- Sprinkle Italian seasoning onto each crisp before baking.
- Include a bit of cheddar cheese with the parmesan or asiago.
- Make the crisps with shredded gouda cheese plus shredded carrots (2c gouda mixed with 1c shredded carrots)
- Sprinkle pine nuts and sage onto the cheese before baking.
Strawberry salsa + cinnamon chips
For the salsa:
- Pint of strawberries, diced
- 1 kiwi, peeled and chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon (or lime if you prefer)
- 2 teaspoons sugar, or honey
For the cinnamon chips (you may be able to find ready-made cinnamon chips at your grocery. If not, here is how to make some):
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 5 flour tortillas, cut into triangles
- 1/4c melted butter
- 1/3c sugar
Directions for the salsa: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir.
Directions for the cinnamon chips:
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Combine sugar and cinnamon.
- Lay tortilla triangles on baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.
- Brush tortilla triangles with melted butter.
- Sprinkle each triangle with cinnamon sugar mixture.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until crunchy.
Brie with Olive Pate
- ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, or any olives of your choice
- 2 tsp drained capers
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
- 1 small wheel (7-13oz) brie cheese
- Place the olives, capers, garlic, parsley in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
- Slice the brie in half horizontally to create two rounds.
- Spread the olive puree on the cut side of the bottom circle and top with the other circle.
- Slice into small wedges and serve at room temperature.
This can be made in advance, wrapped tightly, and refrigerated to let it marinate.
For cocktails, I like to pop a bottle of champagne for the adults, and make a ginger ale + cranberry or pomegranate juice spritzer for the kids.
The key is to drink out of festive glasses!
Cheers to slowing down your weekends!