By now you’re probably aware of how important holidays and rest days are for your health, not only will better rest improve your digestion, sleep and state of mind, it allows you time to reconnect to things you enjoy, in turn improving your connection to other people and daily activities.
So why do some holidays leave us feeling drained and unfulfilled? Even with best planning, we can return from a holiday, break away or even just a few days off - feeling no better, and the reasons for this are important to understand because it can help you ensure you don’t fall into the same trap again.
You environment really is the key to your well being. Whilst natural landscapes and open air are vitally important (and if you’ve not read my blog The Natural Healer then I recommend you do so now,) city breaks have refreshing too.
A restorative environment is either a place or situation that allows your mind and body functions to return to normal if they have been over used or under stimulated. In other words, if you have been very stressed, pushed to the limits of your tiredness or had too many demands on your capabilities, there are places you can go that will help you feel better, more refreshed and able to think more clearly
And this idea isn’t new, (you might even be thinking of somewhere you like to go right now) and the first public parks in cities were developed to ‘to give city dwellers a break’. Psychological studies on hospital patient recovery times by Roger Ulrich in 1991 attest to this too, as patients with a window view of nature stayed in hospital for a shorter time and needed less painkillers than those with a window view of a brick wall.
Further studies have concluded that enjoying restorative environments is an automatic, primal response to natural environments and landscapes where the human species first evolved from.
Within the first few seconds of being in a new environment, or mind and body create an emotional response, which will influence all future thoughts and feelings about the place.
So, consider for a moment a time you’ve arrived somewhere new and felt immediately at ease and delighted …… and compare it with a time you’ve been on a holiday where the environment (hotel rooms, cottage, streets) are the similar to where you normally live.
Most people notice a stark contrast between the two, with places that immediately thrilled you leaving you feeling more refreshed.
Also consider for a moment a few days off at home where you remain in the same environment that you’re in day after day, that you already associate with stress and lots of things to do.
Yes, you may relax and switch off a little, but it’s unlikely to improve your energy levels or state of mind.
Essentially, if you’re environment doesn’t change in some way, neither will your thoughts, feelings or emotions.
If you have spent a long time with many demands on you physically and emotionally, and find it increasingly difficult to focus, think clearly or ignore distractions, then you may be experiencing Attentional Fatigue.
For me this is like brain fog and I don’t know what day it is and can’t even string a sentence together!
I’ve found the best way to change this is by paying attention to the Attention Restoration Theory (ART) developed by Kaplan which features four main qualities essential for improving our well being and restoring ourselves.
Whether you’re going away for a holiday, a quick break or just having a few days off for a long weekend, if you can use these four elements as your guidelines or checklist you can and will feel more refreshed and rejuvenated.
Can you bring these elements into everyday life? Of course! Get thinking! Can you:
Sit nearer an open window?
View some art, either a landscape vista or something that intrigues you?
Listen to natural sounds?
Spend 10 minutes doing an activity that purely for enjoyment?
Can you meditate on something/ somewhere you enjoy and change your brain state?
Our feeling of being restored to our true self, restored to our correct energy and concentration levels, depends on an environment that excites and engages us in some way.
It also needs to be different from the kinds of places we associate with stress therefor it's solely up to us to create the change we want to feel.
If you’re finding it hard to cope with stress remember you can try some of our free guided meditations and hypnotherapy tracks online, and you can get a free full body relaxation audio when you join the monthly Newsletter.
Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press
Ulrich, R.S. (1979) 'Visual landscapes and psychological well-being', Landscape Research, vol. 4, no. 1, pp.17-23