I read the following startling statistics in a recent article by Benjamin P. Hardy:
“In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article showing that the average person has between 12,000 and 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.”
This means that, if on average, I entertain 50,000 thoughts today that 40,000 would be negative and 47,500 would be no different than what I thought yesterday.
One of the main reasons for the repetitive nature of our thoughts is our environment.
Most days we wake in the same bed, dress in the same clothes, take the same routine to work or school or the gym, eat similar food, you get the idea.
We do these things because of our brain, which is hard-wired to create patterns that provide us with a sense of security. Our brain is not altruistic in nature. Rather, it’s very selfish if left to its own designs, selfish and lazy.
It wants to create repetition in our day so it can work less.
As reported by Charles Duhigg, New York Times Bestselling-author of the The Power of Habit:
“Making decisions uses emotional and mental energy, making your mind flex it muscles. Its goal is to move decision-making to an automatic reflex as quickly as possible, allowing for the action to become a low maintenance function.”
“In fact, [as] the brain starts working less and less,” says Duhigg. “The brain can almost completely shut down. … And this is a real advantage, because it means you have all of this mental activity you can devote to something else.”
This tendency of ours to get trapped in the tedium is precisely what makes travel such a powerful change agent for personal development.
With travel, we’re no longer waking in the same bed, eating the same food (hopefully). Similarly, there’s no commute to work or school or the gym.
There’s only us and a completely different environment that we’re forced to interact with.
It’s startling to our brain, which is why everything seems heightened in the moment of travel. The sights, the smells, the tastes — everything is amplified in it a new state.
Unfortunately, often what we seek in travel is to either A) drown out the “grind” of daily life (i.e. “I just want to sit by the pool with an endless supply Piña colada”) or B) cram our brains so full with superhuman trip itineraries that we end up needing a vacation from our vacation once back home.
What if, instead of taking a break from our 47,500 thoughts, we made a break from them, accelerating out of unhelpful thought patterns and embracing new ideas that have the potential to forever change our life trajectory?
Here are just a few ideas, to get us started:
1. Vacation Meditation
There are a huge number of benefits to meditation, including the reduction of stress, a healthier emotional state, better control of our anxieties, a longer and happier life, you name it.
Finding time each morning of your vacation to meditate will place you in a more open state of mind. If done correctly (there’s no wrong way to meditate as long as you’re trying), then you’ll be more aware of thoughts and sensations that could lead you places you’ve never considered back home.
2. Vacation Journaling
A lot of people lose their routine when they go on vacation. Even some of the world’s best journalers fall prey, either deciding to leave their journal back home (no space in my carry-on) or bringing it and then promptly forgetting it the minute the itinerary heats up.
Instead of bringing your written thoughts along, try buying a travel-sized pocket journal, consecrated specifically for new thoughts and ideas. Use it to capture the “essence” of your vacation: the sights, the sounds, the emotions.
It’s a healthy way to make a break from your everyday while also conveniently capturing your fresh mind state in its own volume for easy future reference.
3. Itinerary Slashing
Vacations can be stressful. There are trains, planes, or boats to catch, sights to see, dishes to not miss, people to spend quality time with.
Often, we fill our vacation days to overflowing, leaving zero time to think and reflect.
We convince ourselves we’re getting “the most for our money” by packing in so much, but really we’re doing little more for our long-term happiness than if we’d stayed at home in our comfortable and tedious routine.
To be changed by travel, you have to be willing to change. This takes dedicated time and energy which must be built into your itinerary.
How’s this most easily accounted for? By slashing your itinerary in half.
That’s right. Do half as much as planned on this next trip and you’ll double the sense of satisfaction you have at the end.
Ready to take off?
Summer is a great season for vacations, especially family vacations. I’ve no idea where you’re off to next, but give the three ideas above a go and I guarantee you’ll end up places you’ve only dreamed of up to this point.
Enjoy the journey!
Are you interested in discovering a more creative and happier version of you; of engaging with the world around you instead of reacting to it?
I’ve developed a new cheat sheet with 23 ideas to get you started today.