5 Tips for a Refreshing Vacation

As we head into a US holiday weekend, I’ve been reflecting on vacations and, well, why I’m not very good at them. Many of us tend to think that vacations are a time to do absolutely nothing while others think of vacations as an opportunity to do all the “work” at home that we haven’t had time to accomplish because of our day jobs. To return truly refreshed and recharged, the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle where we focus on giving our minds a break while allowing our bodies to move in different ways. Engaging in a few of the activities below can help you get there.

Pause. Studies have shown that many of the biggest breakthroughs in innovation and science have come when we’re not exactly thinking about those big problems. Like when we’re in the shower, mowing the lawn, taking a walk in the woods, sitting and watching waves lap on the shore and the like. What’s key here is that our brain isn’t being cluttered by a lot of other things. The space allows your brain to work in the background connecting disparate bits of information and observations. So while you’re on vacation, take the headphones off from time to time. Better yet, see if you can put your devices away for a few hours. The world will still go on.

Play. What does “play” mean to you? When we were kids and school was out for the year, we immediately thought of being able to play the entire summer. As adults, we might be tempted to add “golf” or “video games” after play, but the act of playing is generally something unstructured. Where we engage our creativity. Do what brings us joy. Engage with others. Explore. Laugh. It frees us from at least some of our inhibitions and opens us up to new ideas, similar to pausing.

Create. Creating can be part of play, but it’s more than just that. It’s allowing our imagination to run a bit wild. To deliberately try something new. You don’t have to be an artist to create something. It can be as simple as trying a new recipe, adding edging to the landscaping, capturing the mist at sunrise in a photo — whatever you’re into. It doesn’t have to be shared with anyone but yourself, but the very act of creating gives us a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction and moves us towards a growth mindset in other areas.

Move. Most of us spend way too much time sitting and in front of screens during the day. Vacations are a great opportunity to let your body move in more natural ways. Cycling, hiking, surfing, wading, flying a kite — whatever the movement, it releases chemicals that make your brain and body feel better. Too much time doing hard, physical manual labor, however, can counteract the positive effects, physically and mentally. (I speak from experience doing too much landscaping and gardening in recent weekends.) As with pauses, engaging in physical activity without electronic interference will allow your brain to recharge.

Give. Whether you’re helping someone out or just giving a smile, the act of giving makes us happier inside. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost any money. Giving also creates a mindset of abundance in that we recognize all that we already have and that we have even more to give.

As you can see, there a common themes — disconnecting with devices and reconnecting with our passions and our people. What will be the highlights of how you recharged on your vacation?