The 5-Minute Vacation
How to escape your office--without notifying the boss
1. Turn off your phone and leave the office for your lunch break
"Our bodies are designed to deal with stress intermittently, not 24 hours a day," says David Posen, M.D., the author of The Little Book of Stress Relief. "Removing the source of stress, even for a short time, allows your body to recover, restore, and relax." Brooks Gump, Ph.D., who found that taking more vacations cuts heart-attack risk, says we need to grab chances to be safe from stressors. "And that may mean going out to lunch and not telling anyone where you go."
2. Load vacation photos onto your work computer
Many vacation researchers practice this trick themselves. "Viewing pictures of a restful scene allows you to recapture the feelings associated with the image," says Posen. Make them your screen saver or upload them to a free site like Flickr or Picasa for less frequent revisiting.
3. Talk about your trip with coworkers, and relive it with the people who went with you
Psychologists call this "rehearsal"--the more (and sooner) you talk about an experience, the better it lodges in your memory, says George Loewenstein, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. "You may think it's cheesy to give a slideshow," he says, "but the benefit of boring your friends and neighbors is that you're more likely to retain the experience yourself."
4. Go back outside
Chances are, you spent much of your trip outdoors. Keep it up when you return home. Columbia University researchers found that exposure to the negative air ions created when air molecules are exposed to sunlight, radiation, moving air, and water generated feelings of alertness, mental clarity, and elevated mood. Tip: Those ions exist outside your office, too.
5. Re-create the sounds that lulled you on vacation
The steady, calming sound of waves, for instance: "The natural rhythm of the waves' ebb and flow helps slow the mind and relax the body," says Alan Keck, Psy.D., a psychologist with a private practice in Altamonte Springs, Florida, whose specialties include clinical hypnosis. Slip on your earphones and download a 15-minute nature-sound mp3 for $2 at soundsleeping.com.
6. Breathe deeply, as you did on vacation
(And as you probably don't, hunched over your keyboard). Close your eyes, place both feet on the floor, and breathe deeply through your nose for 5 to 10 minutes. This is an example of body-focused meditation. "Deep breaths stretch out muscles in your chest and diaphragm and alert your mind that you're ready to relax," says Peg Baim, clinical director of the training center at the Bensen-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.
7. Keep a vacation scent in an office drawer like that resort soap you swiped, the sunscreen you used at the beach, a sachetof Provençal herbs, or an envelope you stashed with pine needles. "Scent becomes strongly connected to whatever you felt when you first came into contact with it," says Rachel Herz, Ph.D., author of The Scent of Desire. The parts of the brain that regulate emotion, memory, and smell are close neighbors; they'll transport you back even when the vacation seems far off.
Originally published at www.menshealth.com.