As our lives become more and more plugged-in, with constant access to our email and texts, it’s getting harder to feel like we’re ever “getting away from it all,” even when we’re on vacation.
According to a new study done by the University of Michigan, the amount of time people spend using wireless when they’re on vacation (40 percent) is now even greater that when they are at home (25 percent).
Which means that as we lie on the beautiful beach, or sit on the quiet porch, it’s really hard to resist reaching for our smart phone to check our email. And if the sunset is beautiful, we feel compelled to text a photo to friends and family who aren’t with us, rather than simply relaxing and enjoying that beautiful sunset.
Then we get home and wonder what happened to our vacation.
According to leading psychologists, our brains have become so used to checking email and to instantaneously Googling, these compulsions are literally wired into our brains.
But the good news is this: Recent neuroscience studies show that stopping to meditate for periods of just one minute throughout the day can rewire our brains to resist compulsions and be fully engaged in the present moment.
A practice of just a few minutes a day can help us unplug in a plugged-in world. We can literally practice being on vacation before we go on vacation.
In his book The Now Effect: How a Mindful Moment Can Change the Rest of Your Life, author Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. teaches a one-minute practice that can be sprinkled throughout the day as a way to “break out of autopilot, shift your attention to what you’re really intending to focus on in the moment, or maybe what’s actually important in that moment, and change your day.”
The acronoym for this practice is STOP. You can try it out at different times during your day. You can even try it now:
Stop what you are doing for a moment, and put yourself in a comfortable, relaxed position;
Take a Breath, noticing both the in-breath and out-breath, becoming aware of breathing;
Observe your body, then your feelings, then your thoughts, how your mind is — busy or calm, not judging it as good or bad or right or wrong, just taking a few seconds to be aware of it as it is;
Proceed with what is really most important to you right now, asking yourself, “What’s most important right now? What am I intending to be doing in this next moment?”
(Elisha Goldstein offers a simple, guided walk-through of this meditation on YouTube).
The STOP practice is surprisingly revealing, teaching us much about ourselves, both physically and emotionally, as it trains our brains to pause and be more intentional.
“While this practice may provide a side effect of helping you cool down and relax, that’s actually not its true purpose,” the author notes. “The purpose of STOP is to connect you with the wisdom that lies within you.”
And it can also, once and for all, put the “vacation” back into vacation.