The joys of vacation! How many times have I heard from friends, family, and colleagues how happy they felt on vacation, how well they slept, how their aches and pains went away, how they ate whatever they wanted without bothersome digestive consequences, and how they felt their vitality increase while away. Have you experienced this or heard this from friends? There are many reasons why you may feel awesome while vacationing; I would like to explore just a couple areas with you.
Let’s first look at how stress and stress hormones impact your sleep, digestion, joints, and overall happiness. When you are chronically stressed with your daily schedule, work, chores, and obligations, you are hanging out in the sympathetic state (fight or flight state) and simply do not create enough of the necessary digestive juices to break down your foods properly. Your body digests best in the parasympathetic state or rest state. When you eat in the sympathetic mode, lack of energy to the digestive system results in poorly digested foods, which leads to gas, bloating, gut inflammation and permeability, and food intolerances. Unfortunately, gut inflammation takes you down the path to systemic inflammation which results in a variety of symptoms, including achy and inflamed joints, headaches, foggy brain, fatigue, and the list goes on! Chronically elevated stress hormones like cortisol also impact your sleep big time! When you go to bed at night, your cortisol levels should be at their lowest so you can easily fall asleep. When morning arrives, your cortisol levels should be at their highest, giving you energy and alertness when you wake up. Chronic stress disrupts the natural rhythm of your cortisol levels, disturbing your sleep. And when you are not sleeping well and have digestive issues and joint pain, you are most likely not at your happiest!
Secondly, I have found that most people are more active on their vacations. They may travel to Europe and walk everywhere, or go to a coastal town and swim, snorkel, and take longs walks on the beach. Usually you don’t sit in front of your laptop from 8 to 5 on a vacation. Humans are designed to move, and movement is so important to the health of your joints, how well you sleep, stress relief, and even how well you digest your foods. When you are active most of the day on a consistent basis, your joint pains are likely to decrease, you sleep better, and you also digest better! I just experienced this in Yosemite. I hiked every day and was asleep by 10:00 pm every night – I could not keep my eyes open later than that! Such deep and restorative sleep! Exercising on a daily basis or every other day is a great habit; but how do we incorporate more movement into our daily routines?
So what can you do to extend that vacation mindset and physical sense of wellbeing? Take a mini vacation every day. Drive a different way to work and see new scenery (the brain loves “new”, it gives you a dopamine rush!), take a walk with co-workers at lunch, read a fun magazine while waiting in the grocery store line, cook a gourmet dinner on Wednesday night just because, light a candle or read several pages from a romance novel before going to sleep, be a tourist in your own city or town on the weekends. Try a new restaurant, buy tickets for a ball game or a concert, visit a new park or hike a trail that you have not yet explored, or just take a day trip to a place that you have never been before. If you live in a city, it is easy to do a lot of your errands by walking instead of driving. You see a lot more when you walk and it becomes part of your daily movement! I walk to my bank, dry cleaners, grocery store, hardware store, nail salon, acupuncture appointments, and even the farmer’s market. If you live in the suburbs, you may be able to bike to do a lot of your errands. At least on Saturdays!
Do you have some more ideas on how to extend your vacation mindset? Please share!