Learning how to travel mindfully is the first step to making the most of your travels and enriching your whole experience, and the good news is that anyone can do it. Holidays are an ideal opportunity for us to recharge our batteries, reduce our stress levels and relax. When we travel, we are able to shed any “labels” that might define us in our everyday life giving us a sense of freedom. With the hectic lifestyles that many of us live, our vacation time is precious and it is imperative that we find every means possible to savor our travel time which is where Mindfulness becomes important.
HOW TO TRAVEL MINDFULLY AND ENRICH YOUR TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
What Is Mindfulness
“Mindfulness is awareness of the present moment, not the past or present but the here and now”
By focusing your awareness on the present moment you are able to acknowledge your thoughts, feelings and body sensations in a calm manner.
What Are The Benefits of Mindfulness
Since the 1970’s, mindfulness has been researched, developed and put into modern day practice with staggeringly positive effect. One of the ways that I have personally witnessed the action of Mindfulness is within the Hospice where I work as an Aromatherapist.
Our palliative patients have benefited immensely from a Mindfulness Program and seen a decrease in their stress, anxiety, pain, loneliness and fear levels and an increase in their quality of life.
How Does Mindfulness Alter Your Brain Function
Consider for a moment one day in a typical person’s week. From the minute the alarm goes off, they get out of bed, wash, have breakfast, make lunch, maybe take the kids to school, and continue to their workplace. This is only the beginning of the day, yet if they were questioned about what they had seen, eaten or experienced during that time, my guess is that their answers would be pretty sketchy. This is because the reality for most people, myself included, is that we spend an alarming amount of time functioning on autopilot mode.
Your brain is constantly leaping ahead, darting in different directions thinking about things that happened yesterday or things which are yet to happen.
Mindfulness focuses your mind and helps you to live in the present moment.
No matter how long the length of your trip, you want to pay attention to everything happening in the present, so here are some ways that you can use mindfulness techniques when you are travelling.
How To Use Mindfulness To Enrich Your Travel Experience
1. Leave any preconceptions at home
You have planned and booked your holiday and your expectations are high.
The hotel looks classy, the location drool worthy and your time away is going to be amazing. The photos you take, set against the azure blue skies, will be enviable and the flight time only 6 hours.
But when your flight is delayed the doubts creep in and your brain is suddenly hit with thoughts at both conscious and subconscious levels, changing your ideas and preconceptions. You begin telling yourself that the holiday will fall short of your expectations, your hotel won’t be as luxurious as it looks in the pictures, and so on ….
These are just thoughts and not representative of the present, or of things in front of you right now.
Start using mindfulness techniques to bring your mind and body into the present moment, enabling you to view the situation in front of you objectively. This way you can consider the here and now instead of being hampered by past memories, pre-conceived ideas and “what ifs”.
When you arrive at your destination, bring your mind and body into the present moment and view what is in front of you objectively. Appreciate things for what they are, not what they are supposed to be like as this is not reality only thoughts.
2. Do not be hampered by frustration, anxiety or annoyances
Travelling can often beset with problems such as flight delays, traffic jams, missing luggage or lost credit cards. This can happen to any of us at some stage. If these things occurred when we were at home they might annoy or upset us dragging our emotions down.
Use mindfulness to avoid reacting to these situations and spoiling your travel experience. Realign your prospective and view the problem in the present moment to soften your emotions and reactions. By viewing the event objectively, you can recognize your thoughts and emotions for what they are then let them go. You do not have to let these thoughts consume you and spoil your day.
3. Be observant of your new enviroment
Part of the joy of travelling is seeing somewhere new, experiencing first hand how other people live, their culture, surroundings, food and language. These things are “new” to us and we notice them more than we would if they were familiar. When we are in familiar surroundings at home, these things cease to be noticed as we experience them on a daily basis. Thus the magic of them is lost to us. We stop “seeing” them.
To get the most out of your travel experience and notice all the new things around you, cultivate your mindfulness practice so you witness first hand cultural differences, gestures, driving laws, accents and surroundings. Give significant attention to the newness of everything around you and let your memories be fresh, precise and vivid. Travel mindfully and don’t miss out on any of these new experiences. Be aware of them and appreciate them.
4. Notice the small things
When we are rushing around, thinking about different things and being distracted we are rarely present in the moment, meaning we miss out on seeing things that are in front of us and accepting them for what they truly are. We need to slow down, switch out of auto-pilot mode and into “present” mode.
When you travel mindfully you see things as they unfold in front of you, noticing sights, sounds, smells and colours and having increased recall of them later.
Continually question yourself about what you are seeing and you will be astounded at what you notice and stop missing out on experiencing. Place yourself in the moment and present and really look at things intently. What colour is the sky? Is it clear blue or are there clouds dotted about. What shape are those clouds? Imagine you are writing in a book and describing what you see in detail.
You will start to notice the small things when you focus by asking questions of yourself. What herbs can you taste in the pizza, what does the shape of the tree remind you of, what effect does the rain have on the landscape, what colours can you spot in the flowers, where does the cobbled street take you. While all fleeting moments, they come together and tell a story which make precious memories for you to reminisce about for years to come.
How To Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a “practice” and does not happen miraculously overnight. There is no right or wrong way to practice just the right method that gives results for you personally. So how do you start and what do you do?
The simplest way to begin is to sit in a straight-backed chair, close your eyes and focus on your breathing as you inhale and exhale. Just observe each breath without expecting anything special to happen. Your mind may dart in different directions and you will think of different things. When thoughts intrude, acknowledge them, let them float off and guide your awareness back to your body without criticising yourself. Mindfulness is not about avoiding thoughts but about acknowledging their presence and the fact that they are transient. Just allow yourself to be, and the mood to be as it is.
Start off with 5 minutes but repeat the practice every day. You may have more success on one day compared to another but the more you practice the easier it will become and the more mindful you will be. Try and commit to a daily practice even if its only 2 minutes and work your way up. Throughout your day prompt yourself to be mindful of your surroundings and elevate your perception.
The proof will be how automatic you implement the practice each day and are able to be present in the moment.
So stop worrying about what has happened in the past, being afraid of what will happen in the future and concentrate on NOW, every precious moment and enhance both your travel experience and ultimately your life. Travel mindfully every day!
Do you travel mindfully? Is mindfulness something you practice?
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