Bodies In Balance COLUMNS

Prioritize your Health…Take a Vacation!

SUMMER IS an ideal time to vacation, the days are long, the weather pleasant, kids are out of school, and our dispositions are generally upbeat and energetic. A vacation can be anything from taking time off to stay home, flying to the Caribbean, or hiking deep into untouched land; spending time on vacation can honestly contribute to a positive effect on your health. Many other cultures have figured this out, allowing for weeks of vacation time, and really taking them. Sadly our American work ethic is lacking in this priority. So if your vacation time has racked up read on, get inspired, and start planning!!

Refocus. As we progress through a typical day we are constantly thinking ahead, what to wear, how to get through the to do list, what to make for dinner; it is a rare event that we sit and enjoy a moment in this day. Vacation, however, allows for a better concentration on the moment. Enjoying a sunset, listening to the sounds of birds, or smelling the delicious scents of a street vendors cuisine; those simple moments are so much a part of what we focus on in a typical vacation day. This refocusing allows the right ‘in the moment’ side of the brain full pleasure while insisting that the overworked left side relax and take a load off.

Relax. Certainly we can all relate to being more relaxed when on vacation. The phone call are fewer, the expectations little to none, the plan more flexible. This allows for the body to recharge the adrenals, bet- ter preparing them to act and react in the future. There are more chances to walk on the beach, hike a mountain, rent a bike for the day, move the body in ways that may not be as familiar or routine. Breathing deeply, when relaxed the body naturally breaths slower and deeper exercising more lung capacity and therefore supplying the body with even more oxygen. All aspects of relaxation rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit.

Rejuvenate. Where you go, who you see, what you choose to do on vacation replenishes the spirit. Whether that is family, friends, mountains, tropics or foreign adventure there is an enrichment that is a key component of vacationing. There are lessons you learn about yourself and others that are gathered in no other way then in the unique elements of your vacation. For families and couples this is often a chance to bond more deeply, sharing laughter, adventure, romance or passion. Conversations are richer and the concentrated time with others is often irreplaceable. Even those you meet on vacation are unforgettable… they excite us about the human spirit.

Refresh. Although routine is one of my favorites health tips, and something I highly encourage people to follow in their typical lives, when on vacation the tides turn. It is a chance to get out of those ruts no matter how good or bad. This is enlivening to the brain turning on new pathways, firing neurons and enhancing blood flow in places that may have been dark and unused. This forces you to think in new ways, opening the mind to new possibilities…ah how refreshing.

Remember. I find when on vacation I have the most terrific dreams, and memo- ries. Not only can we get more in touch with our deeper selves, we can establish new things to remember. There are new photos to hang on the fridge, and new stories to tell at work. People around you feel lifted by the experiences you’ve had and you have a new outlook on life. Not to say the novelty of a vacation sticks around long, and that old habits and routines don’t return…but the memories are forever.

Repeat. A good vacation doesn’t have to be exotic (although one of those every decade or less doesn’t hurt) to be important to your health and overall well-being. It just takes a little forethought and planning to prioritize this very pleasurable celebration of life. Vacation may not be a priority for all you readers, but I am here to say it is a necessity…so practice often.

Spin the globe, or get out your road maps and pick your destination to embrace this essential prescription for health!

Do something you love, be with someone you love, eat your vegetables, drink clean water, bBreathe deeply and move your body everyday.

By Tracy Erfling

Dr. Tracy Erfling is a naturopath physician in the Lower Columbia Region. Questions?