Why Your Vacation Won't Save You (But Your Creativity Will)

10/11/2011 12:14 pm ET | Updated Dec 11, 2011
  • Ben Michaelis, Ph.D. Clinical psychologist; Author, 'Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy'; Co-founder, Downtown Clinicians Collective

Well, it was a good run... summer has unofficially been over for just about a month and now you are starting to think about your vacation.

Whether you are ignoring a boring document to think about some ice cold, bright red concoction poured into an awkwardly-shaped glass while you feel the sand between your toes, or you find that you are avoiding your inbox because you are being carried away by visions of hot chocolate in the lodge, I've got bad -- and perhaps surprising -- news for you: Your vacation ain't your solution, and it might just be more of your problem.

True, vacations can be nice. I'll give you that, but don't they feel unreasonably short? Your vacations may or may not be long enough, but they certainly feel brief, probably because you are not even there half the time. If that's a bit confusing, ignore the text that just came in, (you're not that into him anyway) and I'll explain.

If you are spending your time at work dreaming of being on vacation then you are not really at work. You are absent -- gone from the present moment. And if your mind is not with your body now, what makes you think that it will be when you are pulling the slot machines at The Tropicana? Because the surroundings are cheerier? Because your boss isn't there giving you the stink eye? Think again.

If you are constantly living in the "then," it is extremely difficult to suddenly shift into and stay in the "now." When you go on vacation, in all likelihood, you probably spend the first few days unwinding, but the rest of the time you are thinking about what's coming next: work, babysitters, Harold -- whoever he is. If you are not psychologically there when you are on vacation, it's not much of a break, no matter how white the sand or how cold the beer.

So what should you do? Is there no hope for living in the "now?" Should you join an Ashram and meditate all day long? I don't know about you, but I have bills to pay, and as lovely as spiritual enlightenment is, Verizon doesn't accept it as payment (I asked the guy at the store... just before he called security).

Salvation lies in creation. Every single solitary person has something to create -- something to say. This is a fundamental need that I call the creative imperative. The beauty of the creative process is that it blends the part of you that wants to get things done (the working you) with the part of you that wants to bang on the drums all night and day (the playing you). Using creativity to express yourself is centering. It brings you into the now.

Living your creative imperative does not mean that you need to quit your job, invest in a beret and start painting in the hopes that someone that will buy your work. Creating, even just a little bit every day, can help you to lead a clearer and more fulfilling life that is centered in the "now," instead of the "then." Bringing creative expression into your life leads to much richer experiences with friends, colleagues and yes, even bosses; it gets you into the habit of being where you are. Plus, what you make can be shared with the world.

So, go for it. Try incorporating a little creative expression: crafting, knitting, writing, painting, sketching, photographing, building or singing into your daily life. Who knows, it might even make that document you've been ignoring more tolerable, because you'll actually be there when you read it.