Matt Ritchel, technology reporter for the New York Times, recently authored a column entitled: “Vacation Sabotage: Don’t Let It Happen to You.” After interviewing brain scientists, behavioral scientists, and business executives, Ritchel outlined several things we can do (and not do) to avoid crippling our vacations and diluting their positive impact on our lives. Here are his main points:
Your brain will not be able to slow down instantaneously. So start now to take intentional moments of non-working rest.
Leave Your Context at Home
This is why we go away on vacation, of course. But it isn’t that simple, according to Ritchel. “But these days we are perhaps unaware of just how much of our everyday life we bring along, too. No, not the office or the commuter train, but the phone — that cubicle in your pocket.” Don’t you love that line: “cubicle in your pocket”? Or do you hate it?
So, what to do? “But to the extent that you can, make a point to change your relationship with your device. Maybe leave it in one place and refuse to tote it around all day. One Silicon Valley big shot told me he brings his phone but disables e-mail. Whatever you decide, see your gadget for what it is — a copper wire straight into the life you’re trying to escape.”
Our brains can actually become addicted to activity, so that even if we put away our phones and computers, we still can’t truly relax. We need to go through a kind of withdrawl. Ritchl writes:
First, fight through the withdrawal — not just from your device but also from the constant need to be doing something. (If you find this unpleasant, and chances are you will, it doesn’t mean that your vacation is bad or that you hate your family.)
To help your brain along, researchers have a few thoughts. First, plunge into an absorbing but low-stakes activity — hiking, snorkeling, knitting a two-piece. Novel and unfamiliar tasks help tug our brains out of their ruts.
Perhaps this is why I love hiking on vacation. Not only do I get great exercise. Not only do I get so see beautiful things. But also I am helping my brain to get unplugged.
Ritchl has five other suggestions. I recommend you check out his column and follow them if, like me, you can easily sabotage your vacation.