Have you ever found yourself daydreaming about white sandy beaches while stuck in traffic or wishing you could trade your cubicle for a cozy cabin? If so, you’re in good company: A survey conducted by OnePoll found that, on average, we spend over 113 hours each year (nearly five full days!) dreaming about our next vacation.
Who can blame us? After all, the benefits of vacations are well-documented, with studies showing that taking a holiday can lower our risk of depression, help us better manage stress, and even boost our productivity at work.
Life won’t always be a day at the beach, but you don’t have to stray far from home to give yourself a much-needed break. Here’s how to cultivate a “vacation mindset” in your everyday life to feel refreshed and ready to seize any and every day (no plane ticket required):
1. Let Your Mind Wander
We have two kinds of attention: The first, directed attention, is activated by mentally draining tasks that require focus, like driving or doing our taxes. At work, we’re almost always using our directed attention—answering emails, bouncing from meeting to meeting, responding to customer requests, and so on. Part of what makes vacations so restorative is that downtime allows us to shift into the second type, involuntary attention, which happens when something captures our focus without any effort, such as spending time in nature.
Try this: Carve out time each week for easy-to-do activities that stimulate your involuntary attention, such as going for a walk outside at lunch, meditating between meetings, or spending a Sunday looking at art.
2. Lighten Up
When we’re on vacation, we’re free to prioritize our own enjoyment and tap into a childlike sense of fun—which can be difficult to do in the midst of our busy lives. This playfulness serves a purpose: It prompts us to think more creatively, relieves stress, and strengthens our connection with others.
Try this: Smile! It may sound silly, but sharing a smile is enough to trigger your body’s feel-good neurochemicals and may even help you live longer.
3. Treat Yourself
Taking care of yourself is not a vacation-only indulgence or a luxury. It’s a necessity, with a wealth of research proving that your mental and emotional well-being is just as important as your physical health. Yet self-care is often the first thing to go when life gets busy.
Try this: Seek out opportunities to be good to yourself in small ways, whether it’s cozy slippers waiting by your bed in the morning, savoring a home-cooked meal, or even taking the time to finally clean out that junk drawer.
4. Take a (Tech) Break
Electronic devices allow us to stay constantly connected to our jobs, the news, and our numerous social networks—but this convenience comes at a price. When we spend all our free time focused on (or distracted by) technology, we don’t spend enough time interacting with the people and places right in front of us.
Try this: Make disconnecting from technology a regular habit. Consider giving up screen time or social media one or two days per week, or try reserving an hour every weeknight before bed for “quiet time” to work on a project or a hobby that does not rely on a device.
Kara Baskin is a Boston-based journalist and well-being expert. For over 15 years, she has been helping consumers live healthier, more fulfilling lives, writing for outlets such as The Boston Globe, Time, and Women’s Health. Kara has also collaborated on several books on women’s health and resilience. Find her on Twitter @kcbaskin