Ahhh, summertime. For many of us, summertime means a vacation of some sort (even if it’s a staycation at the neighborhood pool). It makes sense that during our time off, we want to get the most benefit out of our vacation. We want to relax and enjoy, rather than worrying about work or trying to fit a million things into “downtime.”
But then we pack our travel itineraries with tours and activities, end up checking work email, and come home more tired than when we left. Have you ever thought, “I need a vacation from my vacation” upon returning home? You’re not alone.
With research suggesting that the relaxation benefits of vacation wane after just 1-2 weeks back at work, it’s time to refocus our vacation time so that we come home refreshed rather than exhausted.
Enter mindfulness: a presence practice that can help you get the most out of each moment. Here are some mindfulness-inspired tips to help you maximize your vacation time and bring some of that serenity back home with you:
- Look Forward to Your Vacation – Research suggests that much of the emotional benefit of going on vacation is the boost you get while anticipating going away. Consider booking a trip farther in advance so you have more time to look forward to it. And when you know you’re going on vacation, make a regular practice of looking forward to it (perhaps by exchanging travel plans with friends, researching the spot you’re headed, or creating a packing list).
- Wind Down Before You Leave – In order to be present and relaxed during your vacation, it’s important to start the process of winding down before you leave. Consider booking a massage or a deep stretch class 1-2 days before you leave, or scheduling an extra day off of work to get ready for your trip without the last-minute frenzy. These spacious activities will help to engage the parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system for mental and physical relaxation.
- Plan Time to Do Nothing While Away – Have you ever packed books to read on vacation and then never cracked one open, let alone all three? Less is more when it comes to planning out your vacation schedule. Research shows that the benefits of vacation translate best to regular life when the vacation is relaxing and restorative. It’s important to plan time to do nothing so that you get to relax, wander around your hotel, and maybe read that book you brought along.
- Spend Time in Nature – Incorporate the natural world into your vacation. Consider planning an outdoor walk or hike, time to relax by the water, or even porch or hammock time to enjoy the scenery. As evidenced by Attention Restoration Theory, time in nature uniquely restores our ability to pay attention. Incorporating nature into your vacation will enhance the relaxation and restoration benefits of going away.
- Practice Mindfulness – A relaxed vacation setting is the perfect time to train your mind for peace and resilience. Mindfulness meditation has been shown to boost overall wellbeing and protect against mental illness. Practicing mindfulness meditation will empower you with practical tools to maintain optimal brain health even when you return from your vacation.
- Savor the Good – Savor your time away by practicing presence and gratitude during your vacation. Stay present for all the pleasurable experiences – eating, drinking, basking in the sun – by focusing your mind on the sensory inputs. Keep asking yourself, “What am I grateful for?” and writing your gratitude or sharing your thoughts with others on the vacation. Vacations are temporary, but you can increase the enjoyment you get by focusing on presence and gratitude.
No matter whether you’re taking time off in your home or in another city, you can use these tips to help you fully enjoy and appreciate your time off.
As Chief Mindfulness Officer of Mastermind Meditation, Dorsey Standish brings research-backed mindfulness and mindful movement to clients throughout the state of Texas. A lifelong learner and scientist, Dorsey has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and is enrolled in the UT Dallas Applied Cognition and Neuroscience Master’s Program. After mindfulness transformed her own work, health and relationships, Dorsey left her corporate role at Texas Instruments to share the power of mindfulness with others full-time. Dorsey’s teachings combine neuroscience research with her experiences in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program and multiple weekend and 10-day silent meditation retreats. Join Dorsey for one of Mastermind’s upcoming applied mindfulness programs at mastermindmeditate.com/programs.