Vacation for your Brain
You’ve been looking forward to your vacation in Mexico for months now and the day has finally arrived. You arrive at the airport at the crack of dawn and pick up a coffee and blueberry muffin as you wait to board your plane. You don’t usually eat breakfast anyway, so you expect that this snack will sustain you through the flight. On the flight you resist the first offer of “pretzels or cookies”, but when the air-hostess comes around for the second time you realize that you are so hungry that you just about inhale a bag pretzels and two cookies… “and a coffee too please” because man was that flight an early one and sleep escaped you last night in the midst of the excitement of a relaxing week away.
You land at the airport and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. You check into your hotel, change into your bathing suit and head out to lunch with your girlfriends before heading down to the beach. It’s a girls’ week away, so of course you all order pink margaritas to celebrate this annual getaway. The next couple of days is a blur of chicken enchiladas, tortilla chips, salsa, beaches, cocktails and ice cream. Exercise… What even is that? You’re on vacation after all, and want to soak up every last moment of this freedom before you return home to reality and responsibility at the end of the week.
Most people view vacation as a time to ditch restraints and overindulge from the moment they pass through security until they return home. They’ve been functioning on autopilot in their regular daily routine and want a break. Can you blame them ? However, research shows that vacations just happen to be the best time to make lasting changes in your life. The reason? Well, when you are in an unfamiliar environment your brain is on high alert and is in a prime state to form neural pathways that are associated with imprinting new behaviors. At home, your brain is functioning in auto-pilot and that is why you’re the bomb-dot-com when it comes to multitasking without really having to give it much thought. In this autopilot mode, your brain struggles more to learn new tricks. However, when you’re on vacation, everything is new and that beautiful brain of yours adapts to forming new neural pathways like it’s no big deal.
My advice for you? Take advantage of this! As you prepare for your vacation, intentionally choose two or three activities that you would like to start implementing in your life. If you start these behaviors while on vacation, your brain will be more likely to create the neural pathways necessary for making these behaviors automatic so that you can implement them with minimal effort when you return home. Examples of these activities may be moving your body daily, consuming mostly whole foods, drinking more water or getting to bed earlier and maximizing on quality sleep. Whatever the changes are, focus on making those activities new lifelong habits while you’re away and voila! In no time these neural pathways will be lighting up like wild-fire and these activities will just be part of how you live your life.
References: Vitti, A, HHC. 2014. Woman Code.