Think of the last really great vacation you took.
You’re probably smiling and your eyes have that dreamy, far-away look. Ah, if only every day could be vacation and we could always be just that happy.
Well, what if I told you that you could? No, this is not a get-rich quick scheme that will allow you to quit your job and spend the rest of your days jet-setting around the globe.
It’s a plan to help you figure out what it is about being on vacation that makes you so happy and how to pull that into your life on a regular basis, even when it’s the middle of winter and you’re working full time and not flush with tons of extra cash. It’s possible.
We try to be so good every day, don’t we? We choose the salad instead of the steak, the water over the cocktail, and the gym when all we want is the couch. But making all these good decisions is exhausting—there’s only so much will power a person can use before they start to get grumpy. That’s why we love a vacation; it gives us the unspoken permission to say “yes” to what we really want.
You need your healthy habits, certainly, but indulging for absolutely no reason at all once in a while is a good thing. Maybe you make Tuesday your vacation day, and every Tuesday you let yourself have dessert, watch a guilty pleasure reality show, get a luxurious spa treatment or skip the gym. You’ll look forward to that treat and the act of letting loose a bit will do wonders for your soul.
2. Seek the Strange
One reason you love traveling is because you get to experience new things, which is an exhilarating, fascinating and beautiful thing—it kind of makes you feel like a wide-eyed kid again. And when you work so damn hard to be a grownup all the time, it’s nice to feel a bit of that childlike wonder.
I know what you’re thinking: there’s nothing new for me where I live…but you know that’s a pack of lies. No matter how small your town or how familiar your city, you can always find something new, whether it’s a restaurant, a neighborhood or a local landmark you’ve never actually seen up-close.
And if you really think you’ve seen it all, then hop in the car or on a train and head to someplace new nearby. Even just walking around the main street of a neighboring town can be enough to revitalize your spirits sometimes. Falling into ruts is a result of doing and seeing the same ol’, same ol’ every day, so even if you can’t afford to fly to Paris next weekend, see something new.
3. Be Spontaneous
Vacations are fabulous because we often have no hard-and-fast plans—no responsibilities and no timetable, so we can do what we like, when we like without clearing it with anyone. Your workaday routine is probably not at all like that. It’s work, to yoga, to errands, to picking up the kids, to chores, to doctors’ appointments and all of it is timed out with military precision.
If you want that fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants excitement you get while you’re on holiday, you’ve got to shake up the schedule sometimes. Can the grocery store and house cleaning wait till tomorrow so that you and your better half can take an impromptu day trip somewhere pretty? Or if that sounds like too much, start out small and ditch your Tuesday night sitcoms for a jazz club. It’s hard to break out of our routines, but you usually feel better when you do.
4. Log Off
Turn off the phone, step away from the computer and put your hands up. Seriously, do it. Escape the never-ending stream of electronic communications that threaten to take over your life. On vacation, it’s easy to disconnect…well, easier at least. And when we do, after the initial shock wears off, we generally feel more relaxed and able to really enjoy what we’re doing. In fact, it’s strangely freeing.
I realize that it’s wildly unrealistic to expect you to turn off your phone for long periods of time when you’re not on vacation, but you can absolutely do it for short spurts, and even those will make a difference. If possible, try to shut off your mobile devices for an hour or two every day while you eat dinner with family or catch up with friends after work.
Experience being in the moment without distractions or other demands pulling you away—it’s refreshing.
These little tips won’t replace an actual vacation, but they will help you sustain your spirit between trips.
In order to be healthy, happy human beings, we all need to truly get away from our routines now and then. But when you can’t get away, you can at least find small ways to bring a little holiday happiness into your daily life.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Phillip Pessar/Flickr