Why you should keep a restaurant diary and choose a theme song
Exploring new places can enlighten you to different ways of eating, moving, and regenerating. It can even make you feel like better a version of yourself—one that’s braver, more curious and creative. In fact, just six days of relaxing away from home can trigger genetic changes which dampen stress, boost the immune system, and lower levels of proteins linked to dementia and depression, says a study published in Translational Psychiatry.
But while the health benefits of travel are real, they can also be fleeting: Research suggests that your positive post-getaway feelings might fade after just one day back at the office.
The upside: There are science-tested ways to prolong your vacation mindset when you return, says Jaime L. Kurtz, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at James Madison University and author of the new book The Happy Traveler.
Follow these strategies to truly maximize the benefits of your next trip.
1. Make a vacation resolution.
Whether it’s meditating or switching up your workouts, traveling is the ideal time to permanently adopt one good habit, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., professor in the department of psychology at the University of California at Riverside and author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want.
That's because you're taken out of your usual environment, which is full of triggers that cause your brain to go on autopilot. But when you're on vacation, you can use your new surroundings to help reinforce positive behavior. For instance, if you'd like to start meditating every morning, change your alarm ringtone to a more soothing sound; when you wake up, meditate for five minutes before getting out of bed. Once you get home, keep the alarm ringtone and your new routine going.
2. Keep a restaurant diary.
Say you’re in Lake Como, Italy and are blown away by a squid ink pasta. When you find a meal or a restaurant you love, jot a quick note to yourself describing the ambiance (what music was playing; what the tableware looked like) and the dish’s ingredients, flavors, and presentation. Pair this with a photograph so you can recreate both the dish and the environment at home. To avoid taking yourself out of the moment, put your phone away after you’ve gotten the shot, says Lyubomirsky.
3. Meet locals—and stay in touch.
Before your trip, research running or other fitness groups or cooking classes. Doing something the locals do helps you get a sense of the authentic lifestyle, says Lyubomirksy. “And keep up the connections with the people you met or worked out with long-term.” One way to do this is by following each other’s training on an app like Strava, which research has shown can be a powerful motivational tool.
4. Find a theme song.
Choose a specific artist, album, or song that you’ll play throughout your trip. That way, you’ll always associate that music with a sense of place. Once you return, re-play that song for an anytime mini-retreat. Psychologists call the ability for music to stimulate memories the “reminiscence bump.” It may work particularly well on vacation because this is an especially important and exciting time, when you are experiencing new things. Get playlist inspiration here.
5. Purchase meaningful mementos.
To boost an item’s sentimental value, don’t wait until you’re at home to enjoy it. Buy perfume or an accessory (like traditional wool slippers in Mongolia or an alpaca fur hat made from a local mill in Prince Edward Island) to wear throughout your travels. When you get home and put it on again, you’ll be instantly transported. Science shows that scent is particularly good at making you feel nostalgic since smells are processed through the amygdala and hippocampus, brain regions that are tied to emotion and memory.
6. Incorporate local design trends.
If you fall in love with a certain cultural aspect of your vacation destination, translate it into your daily life back home. For example, if you’re taken by the cozy Danish hygge lifestyle, upgrade your living room with blankets, candles, and books to create your own cozy environment, suggests Toronto-based interior designer Karen Sealy.
7. Remember the right way.
Kurtz says that reminiscing about a trip, even long after it’s over, can bring you deep happiness in the present. She suggests creating a digital photo book that can be printed; it’s a modern update of a scrapbook, and you’ll reap the feel-good benefits while you’re making it, she says. When you see friends post-trip, make a point of showing them the book and recount a funny anecdote or two. A study from Cornell University suggests that people increase their satisfaction levels from talking about experiences.
Travel is a lens through which we see the world—but it’s also paramount to health and wellness. Furthermore partnered with TUMI to bring you a series of articles helping you maximize experiences in intriguing destinations and reap both physical and mental benefits. Get ready to find adventure in exciting new ways.