American’s get an average of 12 vacation days per year and many of those days go unused. Out of the 20 most developed countries, the U.S. ranks last in number of vacation days taken compared to European countries where 20 – 30 annual leave days are required by law. Since starting my own business three years ago I don’t think I’ve taken more than two consecutive days off at one time, so taking five days to relax with my sister in Hawaii was a welcomed break. Research has shown that vacationing provides many health benefits including less stress, better sleep, stronger immune system, easier time maintaining optimal weight, and better moods. Right? We all know we feel better when we’ve had a good vacation. Here is what I discover on mine.
5 Health Lessons I Learned on Vacation
Adapt to the Pace of Nature – Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Adapt the pace of nature, her secret is patience.” That about sums up the basic teachings of Ayurveda and the purpose for taking a vacation— to tune into our natural rhythm, reset and de-stress. The frantic pace of our day-to-day is often the cause of our imbalances. We rush through our days, sit under artificial lighting and spend a little too much time engaging with technology rather than tuning into nature. While on vacation I had no trouble rising with the sun around 5:30 a.m. for my meditation, which I did outside. We ate what was local and in season and although there was no rushing in our day I felt like we did a lot! When I returned home I kept this pace. Easing into my day, connecting with nature first thing and then taking small breaks to reconnect during the day. I find I am getting more done and I’m feeling more at ease.
Eat When You’re Hungry – This is one of the main tenets in Ayurveda wellness and especially for weight loss. Mindless eating much? So often we eat because it’s our lunch break, we squeeze a meal in between errands and appointments or we eat out of habit during our favorite TV show. The easy pace of vacation allowed me to listen to my body’s wisdom and call for true hunger. It’s amazing to me that when you slow down and listen to your body you begin to trust its signal on when, what and how much to eat. It’s simple: eat when you’re hungry and eat until you’re full. If you can do that your relationship with food will shift immensely.
Try Something New – Vacations are great for reminding us to have a sense of adventure. Let’s face it for most of us our days are way too serious. By trying a new food, a new activity or even exploring a new place we ignite our sense of adventure. I find that by seeking out new experiences it keeps things fresh and prevents me from getting stuck in a rut. Also there is usually a good story to share after the adventure and a lasting memory created. When was the last time you tried something new?
Connect – Relationships and connection to family, friends and community is one of the three pillars of health in Ayurveda. How often do you remove yourself from all distraction and give your full attention to the person you are with? Have you ever looked around while out to dinner and noticed how many people are sitting across from each other on their phones and not engaging? What about the trend of having relationships with people based mostly on texting? Is that connecting? Vacations are a great place to explore our ability to relate without distraction. My teacher Anand says that giving someone your full attention is the highest form of service and love. Next time you are out to dinner, coffee or catching up with a good friend on the phone give them the gift of your full attention.
Walk Barefoot More – At fist your feet may be tender and you may have to tip-toe but walking barefoot on vacation reminded me how amazing it feels to connect directly with the Earth. There is a whole movement called Earthing that is based on new research showing that the lack of direct connection to the Earth may actually contribute to chronic pain, fatigue, and poor sleep that plague so many people. The solution? Simple—walk barefoot outdoors! Studies have shown that connecting directly to the Earth for at least 30 mins/day improves sleep, boosts moods, reduces inflammation, lowers stress and increases energy.
Wishing you Vibrant Living