At this time of year, many of us will be preparing for some hard earnt and much needed R&R.
Maybe you’re jetting off; perhaps you’re staying put. But whatever your plans, this time away from work is important. Because like all systems, our brains and bodies need downtime to recuperate from their labours.
Time off from work boosts our productivity, enhances our sense of engagement and contributes to our overall happiness. So it’s doubly-important not to short-change ourselves (and those we take with us) on holiday.
Here are 8 ways to make the most of you and your brain’s holiday.
#1. Don’t write a “To Do” list – write a “To Feel” list
Before you go away, you’ll try and get everything done. And when you realise that’s not going to happen, you remind yourself that most of it doesn’t matter, pre-holiday; and that it’ll all be there when you get back.
So skip that stressful and distracting line of thought. Instead, get focused on how you want to feel about your workload and commitments as you leave for holiday – and what you need to achieve to feel like that.
That’s your targeted list to work on, pre-holiday. To leave you feeling relaxed, in control and ready for holiday. It’ll also keep you focused on what really needs doing – and leave some time for you to transition from work time to holiday time.
#2. Get to a satisfying point of completion
And for all those other things you don’t have time to get to pre-holiday: bring them to a satisfactory state of incompletion.
Get to the next logical stopping point; delegate the work to someone else; make notes on what needs to happen next. These sorts of steps will help temporarily close that brain connection and allow you to put it down for the duration of your holiday.
#3. Unplug the tech
As far as possible, turn-off the technology. Better yet, don’t take it with you. Even if you’re using the screen to watch or read content that’s nothing to do with work, it’s not restful for the brain.
Putting our devices down makes it so much easier to let go of your “real life” and tune in to the magic of what’s happening around you and within you, right now.
#4. Have fun reflecting on non-work goals
We spend much of our time setting and working towards work/career/financial/professional goals. Over your holiday, have some fun letting your imagination run wild setting goals in some other areas that don’t normally get the bulk of your attention. Here are 3 suggestions – or you can, of course, choose your own:
- A personal development goal: all the things you want to achieve start and end with you. So set a goal that works on you.
- An adventure goal: all areas of our lives are enriched when we add a sense of adventure. So set an adventure goal – what crazy journey or experience do you want to bring into your life?
- A contribution goal: what wider impact do you want to have on the world? What charitable contribution do you want to make? What difference do you want to be in someone else’s life?
#5. Get present and mindful
Dedicate some of your vacation time just to being in the moment. To be happy and content “resting in awareness”, noticing the details of what’s happening around you.
Let your thoughts come and go as you elevate your attention and notice first your environment; and then, yourself.
#6. Take your puzzle book
Gentle, non-taxing mental stimulus, such as you might get from doing the crossword or a Sudoku, provides the sort of light challenge and stretch the brain craves. And when we complete those puzzles, it stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine, so feels good too (even if we look-up a couple of the answers!).
So pack your favourite puzzle books. They’re a great way for the brain to unplug and relax.
#7. Focus on new experiences
One feature that makes the human brain so very special is its plasticity: that ability to continuously change, learn and adapt to unexpected and varying circumstances in novel and creative ways.
When we try new things, enjoy novel experiences, and generally allow ourselves to be spontaneous, creative and adventurous, we make new connections in the brain. So this holiday, purposefully seek-out new experiences to feed your brain.
#8. Channel your reflections
We don’t need too many special techniques or handy reminders to make sure we find time for reflection whilst on holiday. We’re going to be doing that, anyway. Enhance that reflection time by channelling your energy with a few choice questions:
- What am I grateful for?
- What achievements am I most proud of?
- What do I want to acknowledge myself for?
- What do I really want for myself in the next 5 years?
That last question is a great place to put your focus. Who knows where you might be and what you might have achieved by your next holiday.