Over the summer we know that a lot of you will be taking a break from the everyday and going on vacation (that's a holiday to us Brits).
Travel is such a rich area for mindfulness. It's driven partly by curiosity, an interest in what's out there, and partly the essential need to take time out from routine. In a sense it's a bit like the practice of meditation. It's not for nothing that we call it the Headspace Journey.
But we all know that as well as all those positive new sensations, travel offers challenges. At home we invest a great deal of time and effort putting together a routine and an environment that works for us, and when we travel that's all replaced by the unfamiliar. Then there are the practical aspects of travel to consider. Whenever we leave home on vacation we're subject to forces that are outside our control, whether that's having to take our shoes off at security, turbulence on the flight, lost luggage or a missed connection. Small things like this can pile up and start to feel overwhelming.
In this context mindfulness can be so helpful. Those essential qualities of curiosity, patience and empathy can help us turn around the difficulties that travel throws into our path. And on the positive side, we think you get more from your trip if you can be in the moment, experiencing it as it happens, rather than being lost in thought.
So here are a few tips we've put together to help you be a more mindful traveller.
1. Enjoy the journey, not just the destination. A big part of travel, is, well, travel. That means going through airports, waiting in line, sitting on planes or trains. Rather than resisting these experiences, try to see them as opportunities for awareness.
2. Don't let your expectations overpower your experience. Meditation teaches us to approach life with a mind of curiosity, even if things don't turn out as you expect the experience can still be a very rich and interesting one.
3. When you're travelling it's easy to become impatient with other people and see them as getting in your way. But remember that they may have the same feeling toward you. Ultimately it's about sharing the space.
4. Be patient with yourself. For instance, if you have very set ideas about relaxing on holiday, and you don't feel relaxed, you may start to feel frustrated. Try noting these thoughts without judgement, allowing them to pass. Relaxation, if it's going to arrive, will come in its own time.
5. Step away from your smartphone. You don't have to deny yourself technology completely, but even just turning your phone off for a few hours each day can help you to be more fully present for the people around you.
6. Focus on your five senses. If you find your head is becoming very busy, try to bring yourself back into the physical experience of your environment. Look at the colours, the shapes, sounds and smells that are all around you, they're a big part of what you're there for and this can be enough to intervene in a very busy mind.
7. Remember that the change of gear can be a shock. Particularly if your life at home is very busy, it may take your mind a while to slow down to the pace of your holiday. This is completely normal, and again, is just question of adjusting your expectations.
8. Your holiday is not just for you. A lot people can feel guilty about taking time out for themselves - there's so much work to do at home. But remember that by giving yourself space to unwind, you'll return better equipped to face the challenges of work. So it's not all about you, even if it kind of is all about you.
9. Maintain your meditation practice while you're away. And if you don't already have one, a vacation is a great time to start. You can download Headspace for your mobile device, and do Take10 in just 10 minutes a day. You'll have an even better vacation if you're really present for all of it.
10. Buddy up. Meditate with a friend or family member while you're away. You might even find that people who wouldn't consider meditation at home, are willing to try it on vacation.
If you'd like more advice on staying mindful on holiday, look out for the Mindful Traveller on the Headspace Facebook page and on Twitter. All Summer long this patient little dude will be doing his best to be mindful through the trials and tribulations of travel. Whenever you see him, look out for recommendations from myself, podcasts, and guest blog posts.
And remember, if there's someone you know who's feeling a bit stressed about their vacation, share this post with them. It might help them to have a more mindful Summer break.
This is a blog series produced in partnership with Headspace, a project designed to demystify meditation. With scientifically proven techniques that are easy-to-earn and fun-to-do, Headspace can be used every day to experience a healthier and happier mind.
You can try it on for size with the free Take10 program by visiting headspace.com