Your vacation is the perfect time to be mindful. A mindful holiday will help you to disconnect from the daily grind, recharge and renew. You don’t need to book yourself onto a far away retreat. You can transform any holiday into a mindful oasis with a few simple steps. Here’s how to create a mindful holiday.
Several years ago I spent six blissful weeks in Kaikoura, a beautiful small town on the coast of New Zealand’s South Island. I didn’t have a plan or a holiday itinerary.
I walked. I swam. I drank coffee at the local bakery opposite the beach each morning. I joined the local gym. I watched films at the town’s old cinema. I cycled. Sometimes I laid on the beach, feeling the warmth of the stones radiate beneath my body. I walked, sharing conversations with locals. I watched the sun go down before listening to the rhythm of the waves on the beach as I slept each night.
Several times I was asked “Where are you headed next?” only to be met with perplexed amusement when I responded “Nowhere.” Each time explaining that I was staying right there, in Kaikoura. I felt obliged to qualify my choice with how I was always travelling for work. Always trying to get somewhere or do something. I just wanted to stop for a while. To rest. Recharge. To enjoy ‘being.’ So that’s what I did and I enjoyed every precious, mindful, minute. Here’s what I learned about how to create a mindful holiday.
That’s right. We’re talking digital detox. Ever been on holiday and spent your days in the sun, device in hand, only to feel as though you’ve never been away afterwards? If you are constantly driven by FOMO, checking emails, sneaking a look at social media or posting updates, you’re in ‘doing’ mode.
Perversely, research has discovered that we’re even more likely to do this when we’re on holiday. Why? It’s known as the default mode network (DMN) and it’s what our brain does when we’re confronted with nothing to do. We look for something to fill that space. That’s why we head straight for the addictive, feel good hit of dopamine provided by social media. All the more reason to disconnect. Who wants to spend their vacation in a repetitive social media induced Pavlovian fugg that is anything but a mindful holiday?
Being constantly connected can drain you, creating a negative impact upon your self esteem along with your ability to wind down. Plugging in hooks us into mind-less-ness. That means you’re missing out on valuable relaxation, renewal and healing. Bring your mind and body together to be fully present on your vacation for a truly mindful holiday.
The purpose of a holiday is to unplug and recharge. If you can’t manage a complete detox, set aside tech time for an hour a day. Let friends and colleagues know you’ll be off grid, stick to those boundaries and switch your devices off, leaving them in the hotel. Your body and your brain will thank you for it.
Stop Trying to Control Everything
Consider ditching your expectations of what a holiday should look like and open up to the possibility that each day brings. We spend so much time putting pressure on ourselves for everything to be perfect, creating expectations of mythical proportions, living up to impossible standards. It’s exhausting.
Take your foot off the gas and give yourself permission to accept the day exactly as it is. Watch it unfold with curiosity rather than judgement. A mindful holiday involves disrupting your usual mode by being open to experiencing life without a roadmap. Switch your pace and stay in the moment.
And if things go awry? Sit with it. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to do on a holiday except experience what is there. If you’re delayed or something doesn’t go as you wanted it to, notice how that feels, what sensations do you experience? Observe your response to it. Explore what’s going on for you. See if it’s possible to be in that moment, to experience it without making judgements like ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘better’ or ‘worse.’ Try accepting things as they are. Pause. Take a breath and notice what’s there before letting it go.
Create Space to ‘Be’
Set an intention to carve out space for mindfulness each day. Meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting crossed legged on the beach. See if it’s possible to bring mindfulness informally to your everyday activities.
If you’re sitting enjoying coffee, notice the flavours, the aroma, the heat. Watch what’s going on around you as you enjoy the moment. The sounds, smells and sights.
If you’re swimming, feel the temperature of the water, the sensation of salty liquid against your skin. Notice the water supporting your body, holding your weight, pushing against your limbs as you move through it. Tune in to the rhythm of the waves around you.
When you move, move mindfully whether it’s walking, stretching or noticing the contact between your body and different surfaces. Bring your attention to the quality of each moment; Soft? Hard? Cool? Warm? Smooth? Sandy? Rocky? Just notice what’s there. Spend time in green space, enjoy nature and feel the benefits of being in the natural world.
Before you set foot on that plane, train or automobile switch on an automated response to work emails and forget about it. If you find yourself making excuses like “It’ll be worse when I get back if I don’t check.” you’ve already lost. That fear of what will happen after your vacation is dragging you into future focused stress. The truth is that everything will still be there when you return and worrying won’t change anything apart from robbing you of your opportunity to recharge.
Disconnect before you leave. Better still, leave any device that connects you to work at home. Nothing is so important that it won’t wait until you return. Enjoy your mindful holiday. You’ve earned it.
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