How to increase your emotional wellbeing on holiday

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From making memories to bonding with friends and family, there are simple ways to get the most emotional health benefits from your holidays

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Holidays are a time to relax, switch off and enjoy time with family and friends.

We often think about how to give ourselves a physical rest to ‘recharge our batteries’. But most of us rarely consider how to rest emotionally – by connecting better with ourselves and our loved ones during our precious time off.

Being emotionally healthy means we’re better placed to accept and manage our full range of feelings. Research suggests building emotional resilience also helps sustain our overall health and wellbeing.

Even if you’re not getting away and just having a holiday at home, this is still an opportunity to make your holiday time count emotionally as well as physically.

1. Give yourself permission to rest

In today’s hyper-connected world, it can be hard to switch off and relax. Giving yourself permission to stop and unwind is vital.

You might find you’re tempted to plan lots of activities into your schedule and pack in everything you don’t usually have time for.

But ‘it’s important to allow yourself time to rest,’ says Lina Anderhell, Livi registered psychologist. ‘Recovery should be a part of the holiday, even if that’s hard with children or family. You might have to be pretty strict and plan times when you can let everyone know you need some me-time to rest and recover.’

Holidays exist for a reason and Anderhell recommends asking yourself what is important to you and exploring your own emotional needs as a starting point.

2. Figure out what you need from this break

Tapping into your emotions and being in tune with how you’re feeling is important in understanding what you need from a break. This can help to ‘guide our behaviours,’ says Anderhell. ‘If we feel drained or exhausted, it’s a signal we need to take time for recovery. If we feel anxious, it’s a prompt that we need to deal with something.’

Anderhell notes that how we improve our wellbeing and take time to recover is an individual thing. ‘The common misconception is that recovery has to be a passive thing, lying on the sofa,’ she says.

But while getting enough sleep and rest is important, Anderhell suggests there are different kinds of active recovery that can be beneficial for our emotional wellbeing.

  • Low-intensity workouts such as Pilates
  • Walking/hiking
  • Being outside in nature
  • Doing work in the garden
  • Socialising with friends
  • Yoga and meditation

What you do for work can also be a factor in what you decide to do while on holiday. If you read a lot in your job, you might find that sitting and reading is not what you want to do, but exercise and getting outdoors could work better for you.

3. Be present for what you’re doing

Practising mindfulness is one way to help reduce stress and anxiety. Being more mindful can also help us be more present for friends and family, by increasing our focus on the moment (if you’re unfamiliar with it, the Headspace App is a simple way to learn mindfulness).

While on holiday, Anderhell says that simple things we can do include putting away our phone, turning off our computer and making sure we have out-of-office replies to work emails to help us stay more present.

‘Actively try to be present when you’re hanging out with friends or family and not be distracted by other feelings or thoughts,’ she says. ‘One thing is to notice when you feel distracted and to shift the focus back to what you want or who you want to focus on,’ she says.

4. Set aside time for meaningful bonding with friends and family

Research has found there are five ways to improve our wellbeing: connect, be active, take notice, learn, and give.

Connection and social relationships are critical to promote your wellbeing. Spending meaningful time with friends and family while on holiday is a great way to improve your emotional health.

Try to create opportunities for having quality time together such as planning meals, cooking and eating together and playing games.

5. Make an effort to make memories

Lasting memories are created when we engage our senses. Breaking your routine and sharing experiences is a chance to create good memories and increase your positivity ratio. This refers to the total amount of positive feelings compared to negative that you experience.

Here are some ideas:

  • Explore: All our senses are triggered when we experience something or somewhere new. You could travel to different places, spend a day out at a special event or historic landmark.

  • Create something together: Working together as a team, using your imagination and engaging your senses by making something are great ways to create memories. It might be a new recipe, a scrapbook, or building a snowman or den in the garden.

  • Be active and get outside: Relaxation that’s passive doesn’t create memorable occasions. It’s why sitting on the sofa scrolling through our phone is not something we hold as a cherished memory. Cycling, outdoor games, hikes and sport activities are fun, easy to do, budget-friendly and memorable.

  • Learn something new: Learning new things isn’t left in the classroom. Doing this with friends and family is a fun way to strengthen connections and gain a sense of accomplishment.

6. Use respectful dialogue to deal with conflicts

‘Conflict with families or partners can be common during holiday times,’ notes Anderhell.

One way of minimizing conflicts is to talk to the people you are going to spend holiday with beforehand, so that you have the same expectations and that everyone gets to do a little of what they wish for, she advises.

However, Anderhell says it’s not always possible or healthy to avoid an argument. This is especially the case if there is a conflict or problem that prevents you from enjoying yourself.

In order to deal with conflict in a healthy way, use positive communication and respectful dialogue. Anderhell suggests:

  • Plan to have a conversation at a reasonable time for everybody involved.
  • Don’t blame and point fingers.
  • Use statements such as: ‘I feel…’ or ‘I need…’ that express your needs and emotions.

This helps to defuse heated arguments by expressing things from your perspective, rather than blaming the other person. It opens up the conversation for everybody to share their feelings and come to a resolution.

7. Tap into your creativity

When you’re on holiday and your mind is more relaxed it might be easier to get creative, think outside the box and to tackle things in new ways.

So, holiday time can be a chance to explore different combinations of ideas and test out different solutions. If you’re facing a particular problem, try keeping a journal or drawing about it, or talking it through on a long walk with a partner or friend – when your mind is relaxed you may find a creative solution that you couldn’t think of in your everyday life, because of the stress you were under.

Your downtime could be the perfect opportunity to make plans, set new goals, jot down notes, develop a creative project, and form new ideas. Getting creative on holiday in this way can also help you feel more motivated to get back to work after it.

This article has been reviewed by Lina Anderhell, Livi registered psychologist.

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