BY DR LYDIA THURTON
I’m on vacation and I feel guilty about it. I know everyone needs time off. I encourage my patients to make rest and relaxation a priority. But it’s not always so easy to practice what you preach. It seems intuitive that taking time off is good for you. But is it really?
Research has shown that there is a “vacation effect” that takes place inside your cells. A relaxing vacation can provide some of the same benefits as meditation. When in vacation-mode your body expresses different genes. Your cells start acting differently and activating different parts of your DNA. Isn’t that amazing! The way your body interprets stress responses actually changes on a cellular level.
More opportunity for sleep is a big benefit of time off. Sleep improves something called executive functioning. Executive functioning is responsible for regulating your behaviour, decision making and preventing you from acting impulsively. If you feel like you have trouble controlling your behaviour in order to achieve your goals, you may need more rest and relaxation.
Research has shown that, planning a vacation is actually the happiest part of time off. Preparing for a trip boosts your mood eight weeks before you leave. Planning trips as a family is a great way to bond. Even road trips to explore Ontario can be something to look forward to.
Using this tidbit of information, consider planning more small getaways. Plan two one-week vacations, instead of taking two weeks off in a row. And if you are taking a big international trip start planning early and enjoy the time to consider the sights and people you want to see. Humans need to feel hopeful for the future and set goals that make them feel good in order to be balanced and enjoy life.
Coming home after a vacation is often stressful. And the effects of being away don’t last much beyond the day you return. This is why I feel like self-care is really something that has to be built into your everyday life. Happiness has to be found in small moments in daily activities. Meditation and mindfulness are important mental vacations we all need.
The “vacation effect” is reduced to basically zero if there are disagreements with travel companions or illness. Talk to your naturopath before taking a big trip, we have tips to help you sleep on flights, adjust to time changes and keep your digestion healthy so you don’t spend your trip on the toilet. Choose travel companions wisely, if aggravated, try to implement your mindfulness practice.