We talk all the time about the holidays we want to go on. Trips through South-East Asia, a tour of North America or Europe On A Shoestring.
But, what about the holidays that we need to go on?
We are more aware than ever of the importance of taking care of our minds, as well as our bodies, and sometimes this requires some active rest. And, a weekend away can be all you need to interrupt the stress-inducing rhythms of daily life.
What does it mean to rest?
Sleep is of course the most important and easiest way to relax. Why is it so important? Because your brain literally washes itself clean as you sleep. But there is also the time spent between work and sleep, where rest takes on a variety of forms.
Dr. Matthew Edlund, author of The Power of Rest, says that the human body works best when it experiences a balance of intense activity followed by equally “intense” rest.
“The body is always active, always learning,” Dr Edlund says. “The ‘eureka’ moment of genius often follows weeks or years of unconscious activity.”
For the sake of your own moment of genius, consider these different forms of relaxing holidays:
The greatest benefit of a yoga retreat is that it has the possibility to jump-start you into a regular practice of yoga and gives you enough time to not just unwind and relax, but open your mind to the philosophy associated with the practice.
From this foundation, you can explore a range of yoga classes close to home that cross a variety of disciplines and practices.
In comparison to yoga, a meditation retreat allows you to work intensely on your mental health.
Meditation is also an active and deliberate form of rest, as it requires you to focus and train your brain to limit distracting and negative thoughts.
Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of REST: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, highlights how we place too much emphasis on the time we dedicate to improving through our work, and forget that we can improve through rest.
“This is how we’ve come to believe that world-class performance comes after 10,000 hours of practice,” says Pang. “But that’s wrong. It comes after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, 12,500 hours of deliberate rest, and 30,000 hours of sleep.”
A silent retreat means that you don’t necessarily have to work at your own mindfulness. Instead, it can be a passive form of rest, where your thoughts don’t have to take form into solid sentences but can instead float by your minds-eye.
It doesn’t matter whether you are an introvert or extrovert, the challenge of remaining quiet for an entire weekend is hard for anybody but it has the surprising effect of helping you to focus more of your time on fewer thoughts.
Here, it’s all about being pampered. Daily massages, skin treatments and salt-water soaks can be more beneficial to your mental health than a month of green smoothies could ever be.
Soaks in a spa improve your cardiovascular health (the pressure of having your body submerged forces your heart to work harder), lower your blood pressure and through relaxing your muscles your sleep improves. Pampering of any sort that promotes the relaxation of your body will ultimately help the relaxation of your mind.
There are few things in life that can beat the pleasure of a week at the beach and one of the best things to do while at the beach? Read. A 2009 study by Sussex University researchers showed that reading may reduce stress by as much as 68 per cent.
Couple this with the relaxing effects of serotonin (a key hormone for relaxation), which is released almost as soon as you get to the beach, and you will return to work with a hazy happiness pasted across your face like you have just reached nirvana.
Hiking is obviously an active form of exercise. It works almost every part of your body, helps improve your fitness and promotes weight loss. But through this active form of exercise you also gain a passive form of rest.
Almost anyone will tell you that your circadian rhythms will seem to reset and feel regulated by the early nights and early rises. Your sleep will be improved by the work you do during the day and the engagement you have with the environment will promote the release of serotonin.
Plus, Australia has more hiking trails than you can count, so check out our top hikes for Spring.