Have you ever said: “I need a vacation from my vacation?” I hear this statement a lot from clients, colleagues and friends. Why do we over-plan, over-schedule, and overdo our vacations?
These are the two common reasons: We have a fear of missing out and we are used to over functioning in our regular lives, so we take this same energy on our vacations. As a result, we create lengthy itineraries, schedule many locations to see, and try to visit too many people. But what we often need is less, not more.
One study found that female participants were happier and more productive after a relaxing vacation. Another study revealed that if the vacation is relaxing, participants’ happiness levels will last two weeks after the trip is over before returning to back to their baseline level of happiness. If you want to boost health, happiness and productivity, take a relaxing vacation. The following tips will show you how.
1. Go somewhere where your nervous system can relax. In other words, when you think of a place that creates calm and peace in the mind, where do you go? Is it the beach or a national park? It’s probably not an amusement park with your mother-in-law, right? Find a balance between a place you and your kids (if you’re bringing them along) can enjoy. If you’re bringing the kids, it’s a must to ensure there are activities for the whole family. This allows you some downtime away from parenting.
2. Don’t over schedule it. This means stick to one location for a period of time (a few days or even the entire vacation). Only aim to do a few things each day, such as read by the pool, make the family one meal, do something active, etc. The aim is to try not to do too much in one day. If you think it might be too much, then it probably is.
3. Savor the moment. So much of our lives are spent running from one thing to the next, and this is the time to slow down. Set an intention to savor your vacation time, foster connections with your family, and do things you might not normally do (get a massage, take a nap, etc.). This is likely an experience that will never happen exactly like this again. One of my mentors, James Baraz, often says, “This is your life, don’t miss it.”
Research indicates that having pleasurable and relaxing experiences on your vacation, and savoring those experiences, are important for remaining happier for a longer period of time after a vacation.
4. Nurture your relationships. When we have unstructured time, we have a greater opportunity to connect, listen, show appreciation, be affectionate, and foster generosity with those we care about.
5. Be flexible. Nothing ever goes according to plan. If you notice you are getting tight around how you want something to go or be, see if you can practice forgiving and letting go. Can you rethink the situation with an open, flexible mind?
6. Take time for you. You may be sharing time and space with others, but see if you can carve out some me time every day to refill your well. You can go for a walk, take a swim, read, etc. If you take this time, you will have so much more to give to your life.
7. Tune into your natural rhythm. The instruction is to get back on your clock, not the workday clock. This means eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full, sleep when you need to sleep (yes, naps are included) and wake up when your body feels ready to wake up. Re-set and your mind and body will thank you.
I have aimed to take a relaxing vacation every year for the past several years. One of my annual rituals is to attend silent meditation retreats. This is partly to increase my knowledge in meditation and Buddhist psychology so that I can share it with my students and clients, but it also helps me to slow down and tune into what is really important to me. I just returned from a week of silent meditation before writing this blog post to get ready for my new online mindfulness course, Blooming Lotus. I decided I needed to add in a little fun on top of my retreat, so I traveled to Portland and Astoria, Oregon, on my way there. It was the perfect combination.
Let me know how your relaxing vacation goes! You have my full permission to slow down, and you can see research supports it, too.
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