You know the routine. Wake up, put the tea (or coffee) on, shower, make lunches, look everywhere for the match to the last pair of clean socks, somehow get the kids to school with clean teeth and homework complete, and then you’re off to the races. For many of us, this means several hours of sitting in front of a computer, phone meetings, constantly jockeying for position with co-workers, and trying to stay mindful of all that’s good in the world while driving home from work to the tune of the nightly news.
No wonder getting away is good for us or that the possibility of a vacation, however far off in the future, the one thing that gets us through the day. But how good is good?
In our home (like so many others) getaways are few and far between. Joe Robinson coins this conundrum “vacation deficit disorder” in his book, Work to Live: The Guide to Getting Life Right. Not only are Americans doing more jobs, multi-tasking unlike prior generations, we’re also taking less time off. And, according to him, it takes 2 full weeks of relaxing on holiday to completely unwind and recharge. But there’s more.
Psychology professor Brooks Gump at the State University of New York, Oswego, discovered that men who skipped vacations for 5 consecutive years are 30% more likely to suffer heart attacks compared to those who took at least one week off per year. In the science world, the verdict is still out as to why fewer vacations lead to more heart attacks, but do we really need science to help unravel this onion?
If you’re like me, the answer lies somewhere in a drawer, tucked between the pages of a book, or in the photo gallery neatly stored on your computer — snap shots from the first day of school, the crab that washed up on shore during a recent visit to the beach, and that amazing camping trip you took to the Carrizo Plain for the wildflower superbloom. (That was truly amazing.) It’s all there in pictures.
The Many Benefits of Getting Away
- Relish in time to spend with family and friends.
- Let go of every day worries, replacing stress cycles with a mind that has room to wander, imagine, and be inspired by the small good things of life.
- The realized placebo of an anticipated vacation or, in this case, the mere thought of getting away or musing over photos of prior vacations (and outings) has the ability to reduce stress and improve mood. (Don’t you feel better simply looking at a beautiful landscape or revisiting a joyful moment?)
- Opportunity for self-discovery, time to cultivate the things you love, and time to simply be outside and unplug.
Without sounding contrarian, I don’t completely agree with Robinson (though, admittedly, I haven’t read the entirety of his book), and with good reason. Vacations, like with gardens or even a home cooked meal, don’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. While 2 weeks off is ideal, mini-vacations are equally as valuable — especially when pursued with an ounce of mindfulness.
In fact, mindset is key. To successfully leave thoughts of work, and the lists of lists that have lives of their own from tackling every waking (and sleeping) thought, it’s first critical to unplug. So, before stepping out your door, pack your bags and unpack your mind. (Robinson did teach me that – I love the visual appeal of unpacking ones mind before stepping away.)
These photos are testimony, a wee 24 hour getaway that felt like the most wonderful exhale. We didn’t go far. Just a couple hours away to visit friends. They gave us beds, but it was the stars that put us to sleep, and when we woke it was to the sound of geese moving by overhead. Best of all, we were out of cell range, or at least far enough away we could pretend there was no reception even when those tell-tale bars popped up where there were none moments before.
If you’re lucky, someone else (other than you) may even cook for you, putting together foods you may not have considered and giving you license to eat potatoes even if you think you need fewer carbs in your life — because they taste absolutely wonderful when made in the company of friends. Happiness in a bowl.
Isn’t also true that the time you take to look more closely at flowers is its own therapy and the best type of medicine for heart and mind?
It also might be that somewhere around the corner while out on a hike you find an alpine lake perfect for swimming. Best of all, it can all happen within a scant 24 hours and when you return home, at the end of the day, you feel as if you’re a new person filled with perspective and uplifted after a fabulous weekend with friends and family — and potatoes.
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