Wouldn’t you love to make the glorious, feel-good vibe of your summer break last all year? We all would. But did you know that you can achieve it in just three hours?
Think back to how happy you felt during your last holiday. Nothing beats the joy of relaxing on a beach at sunset, the excitement of stumbling upon a gem of a local restaurant or the fun of wandering through a colourful market. When you’re on holiday, you’re more relaxed, spontaneous and open to new experiences than usual.
The good news is that you can extend that holiday vibe into your everyday life to benefit your health, happiness and relationships once you’re home.
Researchers from Purdue University in Texas found that holidays contribute positively to something called “crescive bonding”, which is a strengthening of connections through shared experiences. These bonds can be strengthened when planning shorter outings or events. Even a local get-together with family or friends can conjure up those wonderful positive connections.
GET A NATURAL LIFT
Being on holiday goes hand in hand with being outdoors. Just a few minutes of sitting out in the sunshine boosts your mood, because as well as increasing production of serotonin which boosts contentment levels, sunlight also ups your production of vitamin D, which is linked to better moods.
So when you get home, try to spend at least half an hour outside each day. Why not pack a hamper and treat yourself to an early morning breakfast picnic in your local park or do your yoga in the garden to catch the morning rays?
One of the biggest luxuries of holidays is time – you can sit undisturbed, reading a book or simply watching the world go by for hours. When you slow down like this, your body releases less of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol and, at the same time, increases the mood-boosting neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine.
“Slowing down isn’t only about calming your body and thoughts, it’s also about your expectations,” says life coach Lucy Faulks. “In this day and age, we’ve started to expect everything to happen immediately – emails to be answered, food to be served, online shopping to arrive – yet on holiday, we let go of these expectations and enjoy a far slower pace. We’re more relaxed and more patient and compassionate, which leads to less disappointment or frustration.”
And perception of time is exactly that – just a perception; it’s something you can control. Neuroscientists have found that the more new things you experience each day, the longer the day seems, which is one of the reasons the days feel longer when you’re on holiday – everything is new. To create this perception at home, vary your days, whether it’s taking a different route to work, trying a new food or speaking to a stranger.
TRY A DIGITAL DETOX
Technology can be a wonderful thing, but being away from home gives you the perfect opportunity to take a break from being “available” 24/7. “Being on call not only increases your stress levels and reduces self-esteem, but also negatively impacts your sense of creativity,” says Faulks.
Also, if you’re in the habit of using your phone or laptop before bed, this suppresses the hormone melatonin, which signals your body to sleep. But when you’re on holiday, you’re more likely to leave your phone switched off until you need it.
“By removing yourself from the demands and distractions of emails and social media, you free your time to fully relax, reflect and get creative,” says Faulks.
Once the habit is broken, it’s easy to continue using tech less often at home. Perhaps try a tech-free Sunday. Avoid social media, your phone and even TV, and use the extra time to go somewhere new. You can also cut down throughout the week with a few small changes.
“Use a traditional alarm clock and leave your phone in a different room when you go to bed,” advises Faulks. “Set specific times to check your emails and social media throughout the day.”
EXPLORE YOUR CREATIVE SIDE
Writers and artists have long used travel to unleash their creativity. And it’s now been proven that travelling creates new pathways in the brain, which spark new ways of thinking. Fresh sounds, smells, tastes, languages and sights all stimulate these new neural branches, sparking fresh ideas.
“On holiday, your brain is freed up to be more broadly attentive, you notice different things and make new associations between them, all of which help creativity,’ says clinical psychologist Dr Katrin Scanlan.
To capture this creativity when you’re at home, try some inventive projects that remind you of your holiday. “Choose a small, attainable goal, such as trying a new recipe inspired by your travels,” says Scanlan.
Also try doing something at least once a week that requires you to use your imagination, such as mapping out a local adventure trail or crafting a piece of jewellery. For inspiration, think back to activities you enjoyed as a child.
PICURE IT PERFECT
Try the technique, known as Broad Minded Affective Coping (BMAC), to recapture that holiday happiness. Many people look back on their holidays with rose-tinted glasses, experiencing more positive feelings about their trip upon their return than they did when they were there. But this isn’t a bad thing. People who are better able to forget the downsides to a situation, known as the “fading effect bias”, are much happier than those who can’t. You can use positive memories to boost your mood during an ordinary day at home using the BMAC technique. Here’s how.
Take a sensory journey
Relive your holiday with sounds, smells, taste and touch by bringing them into your home. Capture the scent with a candle, fresh flowers or the aroma and taste of the local food, enjoy a novel or film from the region or flick through photos from your time away to awaken your senses and bring back those happy memories.
Relax over breakfast
Set aside a day during the week to try out a new café for breakfast, or recreate your favourite holiday brunch. It helps to break up the week and brings back that relaxed and indulgent holiday feeling.
Enjoy a mini holiday
We can’t all afford weekend breaks, but why not plan a three-hour holiday? You could try a cycle around an area you’ve never been to, or be a tourist in your own town. Think of all the things you’d recommend to someone who’s never visited, then try them out yourself. Make sure you appreciate all the details of your locality that you don’t typically have time to notice.
Meditate yourself away
Close your eyes and think back to a moment on a recent holiday when you felt happy, relaxed and content. Build the scene in your memory. If you were outside, what was the weather like, and what could you see? If you were inside, think about the floor, walls and furniture. Focus on each thing you can see around you.
Engage all the senses involved in that memory. What could you hear? Where there any scents? If you were eating or drinking, recall the tastes.
Now focus on the strongest, most positive part of this memory. How did it make you feel? Allow this feeling to really wash over you and fill your mind; savour this feeling. Now think of a word that can bring you back to this feeling at any time – for example, a word a local taught you or the main street you walked on. By regularly associating a specific word with that precise feeling, you’ll be able to go back to that place of happiness and contentment whenever you like, simply by recalling that word.
Finally, think about what this memory means. Does it conjure up romance, happiness, a sense of adventure? Embrace that feeling and float away.