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Matthew Edlund, M.D. Headshot

How to Truly Unplug and Recharge While on Vacation

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When was the last time you took a vacation and came back really rested? If my patients are any indication, it's an uncommon event. Yet rest is renewal. It's how our bodies literally rebuild and remake themselves. (And the process is fast. Some researchers report you essentially get a new heart in three days.) Rest can make us feel younger, look younger and become much healthier. So for your next vacation consider these ideas:

1. Get enough sleep. Americans usually overcome part of their chronic sleep debt when they take a vacation, but what are you left with at the end of one? For most of us, it's memories. Memories are powerfully summarized and remade during sleep, which is also when we grow more brain cells (more on this later.) So try to give enough time to sleep -- that way you'll really remember some of the best times you ever had.

2. Really enjoy food. Food is more than fuel and materials, it's also love, pleasure, celebration and adventure. Try dining rather than feeding, enjoying food socially as well as physically, emphasizing both new tastes and new fellow diners. Meals often become wonderful memories, and food and rest are together necessary to rebuild your body.

3. Alternate physical and mental activities. Brain cell growth occurs through combining physical activity and proper rest. If you walk, hike, bike, stroll, you help grow new brain cells during sleep. One of the easiest ways to do this is to go FAR -- following a pattern of Food, Activity, Rest, a simple, easy daily rhythm used by many of the longest lived people on earth.

4. Get outside. Studies prove that moving in nature, especially when surrounded by greenery and water, markedly and quickly improves mood. Nature is high, wide, vast and deep, and moments spent in nature can make us feel better physically, mentally and spiritually.

5. Emphasize experiences. You don't want to treat a vacation like it's a job. Take time to look and discover the unexpected. Let serendipity take its eventful course. A great advantage of travel and vacations is to experience the new.

6. Take time for people. When in Paris you may want to see the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, but what about the people you meet? Language barriers exist, but people find astonishing ways to get around them and enjoy refreshing perspectives. I often talk to people nearing the end of their lives. Their most powerful and enjoyable memories frequently involve relationships and vacations.

7. Make your days musical. Ever wonder why people enjoy music so much? It's because music is in our genes. Try to make your vacation days, then all your days, rhythmic. FAR is one easy way to do this, as is to alternate physical with mental activities. Every human enjoyment, whether it's conversation, hiking, dining or dancing, has its own rhythm.

8. Figure out your desired level of adventure and go for it. You may not want to rocket out of your comfort zone, but a nice stroll out of it may be just the thing. Vacations are new experiences. Try to think up experiences you consider imaginative and self-expanding, and attempt at least one for each vacation you take. You want to learn and experience new things, and remember them a long time.

Rest Up. Rest is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle. Rest renews, rebuilds and rewires our brains and bodies, which can make us look better, feel younger, become healthier and obtain the peak experiences and memories of a lifetime.

Don't you want to get that kind of rest on your next vacation?

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