As the summer months draw to  an end, many of us are returning from less-structured, relaxing days of happy vacations. We are beginning to load our agendas with activities, tasks and “to-do’s” back in the swing of our hectic daily routines. In this blog I propose we reminisce over our vacation, taking time to notice 6 “contemplative” rather than “active” habits we can nurture now to balance every day and prolong that beautiful summer vacation feeling all year long!

1)   UN-FOCUS DAILY. Vacation provides a rare opportunity to relax the brain and train our unfocused network or do mostly nothing network which is responsible for creativity, linking ideas and connecting us to our inner selves. Making it a priority to un-focus throughout each day to contemplate, meditate, dream, or just “be” is a wonderful way to relieve stress, improve mental clarity, loneliness, heart disease, blood pressure, chronic pain, sleep, and even digestion. Doesn’t that sound laid-back and doable? 


2)   READ BOOKS. Reading real books, especially fiction, has been shown to increase compassion, generosity and empathy. This pleasant vacation habit, along with limiting any digital distractions that prevent us from being present, can help us re-connect with ourselves and others fully enjoying our everyday life without the constant “action” of our digital world. Try turning off tech by 8pm each night and turning in with a good novel to see how your rest and mood improve.

3)   EAT DIFFERENTLY. Did you ever notice that during vacation we tend to eat at different times, different foods and often slower than normally? It’s often surprising when we think we’ve gained weight during a break but actually maintain (or lose!) with a more easy-going schedule and relaxed attitude. As you fill your agenda, include time to shop and eat more intentionally, maintaining a flexibility that allows you to eat when you’re truly hungry, more mindfully and perhaps even slower. Try integrating some of the new foods you discovered on vacation. After eating, contemplate how you feel and, without judgement, try to learn from the experience for the next time so you can always savor and enjoy your food and drink….like on vacation.


4)   SLEEP MORE. Think back to how many hours you typically slept on vacation without an alarm to wake you. Use this as a target for what your body needs to thrive and aim to structure your day backwards to meet this target. Instead of determining everything you need to get done before bed, determine what time you need to be in bed and then anticipate backwards how your day must be organized to allow for it. Remember, sleep enhances mood, focus, energy, health, patience, metabolism and resilience while reducing stress, risk of accidents and illness… like a mini-vacation every night!

5)   WALK IN NATURE. Movement in nature is not just a pleasant vacation activity, but rather a major influencer on our mental and emotional health. Plan to have appropriate gear ready for all weather and simple, incidental daily movement, like walking. Research shows that walking in nature can put the brain into a meditative state, allowing us to pay better attention to the world around us, while creating the calmness needed for contemplation - the calm, quiet reflective state where our creativity flourishes. An anywhere – anytime approach, like on vacation, is often less daunting than promising to sign-up for the gym or overdoing it. In addition, movement in nature has been shown to improve mood, energy, memory, inflammation, depression, anxiety and stress – all key to happiness and well-being.


6)   PLAN A VACATION! Studies show that the largest boost in vacation happiness comes from the simple act of planning! This boost can last for up to eight weeks prior to the vacation itself and typically quickly drops back to baseline levels once over. One of the main reasons for this is due to the  stress of returning to work or to the daily grind. By integrating the above contemplative habits into your daily routine, you can optimize well-being and help prevent the post-vacation drop. Just imagine, if you begin planning now, you’re already en route for an 8-week boost…definitely worth contemplating!

I’d love your comments or to hear which of the above habits you’ve decided to nurture this Fall!

Want guidance? Contact me!