Research shows that holidays are good for your health. It begs the question: When was the last time you had a holiday?

Holidays help health - when was the last time you had a holiday?
Thor on a sailing boat on the Norfolk Broads in the UK

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Going on holiday feels great, right? Even the buildup beforehand gives you a boost because you know your holiday is coming. The excitement, packing all your stuff, even printing out the itinerary — it all adds to the experience.

But did you know that as well as giving you a boost, holidays are actually important for your health? That’s right! So here is some advice to support your health and having that holiday, even if in the current context you can’t do what you’d usually do.

How a holiday can benefit your health

Numerous research shows that holidays can benefit your physical, mental and social health.

Take this study from the year 2000, the objective was to determine the impact of holidays on middle-aged men at high risk of coronary heart disease. It concludes: “The frequency of annual vacations by middle-aged men at high risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) is associated with a reduced risk of all-cause mortality and, more specifically, mortality attributed to CHD”.

A separate study from 2009 found that “participating in active and social leisure activities or taking a vacation are important in reducing lawyers’ depression…”

Finally, a 2014 Gallup study revealed that “people who ‘always make time for regular trips’ had a 68.4 score on the Gallup-Heathway’s Well-Being Index, in comparison to a 51.4 well-being score for those who didn’t travel frequently.”

The bottom line? Holidays are helpful for your health.

But I often fall ill when I go on holiday

With all the obstacles of Covid and various lockdown restriction it’s easy to get stuck and see only obstacles. This is one that we do actually hear quite often. As we outlined in our blog back in August 2020 (here), this is usually due to stress and by the way, we share tips on how to reduce the likelihood of this happening. If you’re dismissing your summer holiday this year because it’s just all too complicated and you always fall ill anyway, don’t. 

Check out the tips for reducing the likelihood of falling ill and even if you do indeed fall ill when you go on holiday, the health benefits far outweigh the cons, not only in the short and medium term but also long term.

COVID restrictions are making having a foreign holiday less desirable

At present (August 2021), going on holiday is significantly more complex than it’s perhaps ever been because of COVID-19 restrictions.

At the time of writing, the UK Government’s three-tier “traffic light system” for international travel. This means that people must read the often confusing rules in detail before travelling and in many cases quarantine for 10 days on their return, which costs about £2,000 per person. Most countries have a similar level of complexity to navigate.

In addition to the inflated cost of holidaying, the additional risk that you might catch COVID-19 while travelling makes international travel seem even less desirable.

As a result, holidaying abroad is not at the top of many people’s wish lists at the moment. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t have a holiday this year. In fact, this could be a great opportunity to try something new.

So what’s the answer if you’re hankering for a holiday, but don’t want to potentially expose yourself to COVID-19 or spend a fortune in quarantine costs? Focus on the ISOPs!

Focus on the ISOPs

In our blog (here) from last December, we introduced the concept of ISOPs. 

As the definition outlines, ISOPs are opportunities that only become possible because there is an issue. In other words, an issue-opportunity, or ‘ISOP’ for short.

How can you apply this to not being able to have your usual summer holiday? Well, in a number of ways, actually!

1. Use it as an opportunity to try something new

Let’s say you have your usual go-to summer holiday. The relaxation and enjoyment such a trip affords is fantastic. But what’s to say you wouldn’t get a different but equally satisfying feeling of enjoyment from say a sailing holiday on the Norfolk Broads? Or plan a food festival at home for every day of your holiday? Or watch all the movies with your favourite actor?

How will you ever know if there’s something you like more than your usual summer holiday if you don’t try something different? 

Thor, went on a sailing trip on the Norfolk Broads (yes, that’s them in the photo) and loved it. If you’re interested in sailing by the way, check out Hunter’s Yard in Norfolk where you can rent these beautiful 1930s sailing yachts.

Sailing or not, the point is to get curious about something that you’d normally not consider.  That’s why one of the biggest ISOPs relating to holidaying during the COVID pandemic is to switch things up a little and try somewhere or something new.

2. Use it as an opportunity to strengthen your resilience

When you try something new, you train your inner crocodile in the process. This is the oldest part of your brain and you can read more about it here. This is because your inner crocodile always considers anything new as a threat (you can read why here). By training it to see that new doesn’t necessarily mean bad, you strengthen your resilience. 

A key aspect of resilience is to be more comfortable with stepping outside of your comfort zone. When we try things we’ve not tried before, it’s understandable to be a bit apprehensive as well as excited. The more you experiment with those new or uncertain situations through your choices, in this case, your holiday, you strengthen your ability to handle new or uncertain situations in other areas of your life. 

A lovely example of this has been provided by James (who helps Thor with the blogs). He has four young children, all girls aged 8, 6, 4 and 1. Before the pandemic, they used to constantly bug him to take them bike-riding on the town plaza. James would often try to get out of this, simply because he thought the experience wouldn’t be fun for him. Actually, after going with his daughters a few times, he realised there were other like-minded fathers there. So by stepping outside of his comfort zone and trying something new, James has made some new friends.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

3. Use it as an opportunity to strengthen your agility

Finally, remember that even if you’ve planned an alternative holiday, it’s not set in stone. So rather than treating the plan as fixed, why not think of it as an experiment. If you find after a few days, you and yours are not enjoying yourselves, don’t be afraid to change your plans.

In 1931, Alfred Korzybski coined the phrase ‘the map is not the territory‘. This is one of the primary principles of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) and has been advocated by people such as Alan Watts.

Remember, plans are like maps, they are a representation of what you expect and want. So while you might use an AA Road Atlas when planning a route, your actual journey depends on what you discover along the way. In other words, your plans change based on your experience.

Recognising that a plan isn’t the reality is a key aspect of being agile. When we are agile, we don’t get too attached to our plans, we use them as a reference, like a tool to help us get to where we want to go and then make choices and decisions based on the reality we encounter. 

Our invitation to you today…

Given how striking the statistics are relating to the health benefits of holidays, our invitation to you today is to look at this summer as an ISOP, an opportunity to try something different. Experiment with going outside of your comfort zone and make it an adventure.

Who knows, you may find yourself enjoying knitting like Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley. He’s been knitting while sat in the stands in Tokyo and even made himself a little pouch for his gold medal:

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A post shared by Tom Daley (@madewithlovebytomdaley)

What could you do and experiment with? Have a think and make the most of this (hopefully) unique opportunity to have a different kind of summer holiday. Your health will thank you for it!  

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Go gently, hold steady, stay the course.
All the best, Thor