If you could enjoy a vacation right now, where would you go? Would it be to a farmhouse, the beach, or a European city you’ve always wanted to explore? Or maybe you’d go a little further away and visit a Caribbean island or a Latin American hotspot? Wherever it may be, chances are you’d not only like to go away to experience a new place, but also to unwind a little.
But just because you’re on vacation, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to rest and relax. Between chasing after kids, sneaking in work emails, or rushing around to fit in all the sites, it’s not uncommon to return from a trip feeling even more tired than when you left.
Believe me, I’ve been there. But thankfully, I’ve found that practicing a few techniques on vacation helps me to return feeling revived, inspired, and filled with gratitude. I hope you find them useful, too.
Pick up a great book
There’s no better feeling than getting lost in a great book. When we read we’re able to immerse ourselves in a whole new world, escape the worries of everyday life, and – something that shouldn’t come as a surprise to bookworms – reduce stress.
According to University of Sussex research, reading can in fact reduce stress levels by an incredible 68 percent. “This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness,” said the author of the study.
So when headed on vacation, never forget to pack a good book - your happiness and health depend on it.
Let your creativity flow
Life gets busy. And unfortunately for many people, this means not having time to focus on the creative endeavours they crave. So whether you like to sing, write, sketch, colour or paint, make sure to set aside some vacation time to get back in touch with your creative side. Yes, this will make you feel more fulfilled and inspired. But it will also help you to feel more relaxed, too.
In one 2016 study, for example, researchers asked a group of participants to create art using collage materials, clay, and markers for 45 minutes. And although everyone had a different level of artistic experience, about 75 percent of people showed lower levels of cortisol, a hormone released with stress. It goes to show: letting your creative juices flow - even just for a little while can really help you to unwind.
Bring on the aromatherapy
I have always been an advocate for aromatherapy, and use herbs and essential oils to improve my wellness, concentration, and mood everyday. When I’m on vacation it’s no exception - and I never forget to pack the essential oils that make me feel most at ease.
Lavender for one is balancing and calming; it’s often used as a natural stress reliever, and to fight insomnia, depression and anxiety. For a deep and restful sleep, I like to put a drop on my pillow at night. I also make sure to bring chamomile oil - a natural mood lifter - and passionflower oil, which has also been said to combat insomnia and anxiety.
Write down your goals
If you’re like me, you like to spend your vacations engaged in deep reflection. You might ask yourself: Is my career moving in the right direction? How can I help my loved ones be the version of themselves? What steps do you need to take to be the best version of myself?
Put these thoughts down on paper, write down your goals beside them - and most importantly, what steps you’ll take to achieve these goals. This will help you to have a clear vision of what you’d like to get done, which is a powerful impetus: one study shows people are 42 percent more likely to reach a goal, just by writing it down regularly.
Give yourself some credit
That said, it’s easy to be hard on yourself while reflecting on your feelings and the actions you’ve taken in the past. But hey, give yourself some credit! Even if you’re not where you want to be in life, think of all the little victories you’ve had; just heading on vacation to practice some self-love is a noteworthy achievement.
I always make sure to set aside time on vacation to boost my mental well-being. I practise mindfulness with short meditation sessions, practise self acceptance through writing in my journal, and also practise self-compassion, which means understanding my emotions, actions and thoughts without judgement. Doing so can also help to be more compassionate with others.
Overall, taking a step back from life can do wonders for the way you assess your emotions - so really, there’s no better time to do this than on vacation.
So there you have it! These are just a few rituals I follow to make the most of a relaxing vacation. I hope you can weave them into your vacation experiences too, so that you return revived, lifted, and brimming with happiness.