How to Change Daily Bad Habits While Travelling: Slowing Down
I suppose we could start by agreeing that there is no perfect answer to the question How to change daily bad habits? But from my experience, I can say that there is a pretty effective way to letting go of some, at least during holidays.
It comes with a lot of fun and it actually helps us enjoy and understand better new places and people. Starting from this, we can apply the same strategy when back at home for a long-term change in our lifestyle.
The Problem: Not Living in the Present Moment
If you’re interested in bringing mindfulness into your life or you’re already practicing it, then you’re familiar with the importance of living in the present moment as much as you can. However, as an aspiring practitioner, you most probably have no clue where to start from. As a beginner, every time your practice fails, you face the same old issues — lack of concentration, restlessness, disappointment, negative thoughts, etc.
There’s nothing to be scared of or angry about. Everybody experiences these feelings.
At home, it’s pretty tough to cope with a daily ritual, mostly because our practice follows a certain routine. It can become annoying at some point. It’s not at all easy to find a witty way to practice mindfulness every day.
Unless, of course, you join a group practice and then you feel held accountable to show up. Because a mindful lifestyle is more about creating new patterns. That is, repeating a lot the same exercises and/or meditations than about being entertained.
Time For A Mindful Holiday
But we can do it differently when travelling and actually enjoy lots of new, exciting experiences, too. All we need to do is become aware of the daily bad habits we aim to change and approach them with curiosity from a positive angle.
Why is it different from our practice at home? Because staying in the present means paying attention to everything that surrounds us or happens to us at a certain moment, our sensations and feelings included.
When we’re away from home, almost everything looks different and seems interesting, so it’s easier for us to remain focused. Instead of becoming bored by seeing the same details every time, while traveling we can actually fancy the practice.
The Solution: Turn Your Daily Bad Habits Into Great Experiences
Bad Habit: Fast Eating
I used to have a big problem with eating mindfully – I used to rush finishing every meal, in order to return as soon as possible to what I was doing before — working, watching a movie, having a conversation, reading — you name it. Sometimes I would even eat while working or talking to someone else on the phone. I didn’t actually enjoy the food, I hardly even noticed its taste.
I noticed my problem but couldn’t get rid of this bad habit because I constantly lived under the pressure of time: not enough for everything I wanted/had to do. The good part was understanding the trigger: stressing about time. So, I decided to correct this fast eating habit during a 3 weeks holiday in Sri Lanka. With nothing urgent on my agenda, there was no time pressure. And it worked!
Reasons to Give It A Go
- The most important thing I noticed during my first slow meal was the food’s incredible taste. Of course, Asian cuisine is a real wonder for an European who’s not quite familiar with the local herbs and spices. But the interesting fact was that even though I was visiting the country for the second year in a row, I couldn’t remember that kind of details from my first trip. I only knew that I had really liked their food the first time, too, but nothing more than that.
My experiment started by chewing every bite for about 15 seconds and trying to guess the ingredients. This playful approach helped me to trick my mind into switching from everything else to the food. I sometimes talked to the locals asking them about the recipe, checking if I was right. At first, I was mostly wrong, but then I started to actually taste each flavour individually. Seeing the improvement in my relationship with food was amazing. Which brings us to the second reason why I suggest giving it a try during your travels:
- Talking to chefs and waiters helped me understand better the local cuisine and get the best out of the spices I brought home. I brought diversity to my meals — a big improvement for a vegetarian living in a not so vegetarian country like Romania.
- There’s another particularly important reason to slow down your eating: quality of digestion. Until I started eating slowly I wasn’t aware of its impact on my digestion and the effect it had on my physical wellbeing. During the holidays we potentially eat things that are new to our digestive system, and that may put a strain on it. Mindfully chewing the food it significantly improve its flow – very important for an active traveller. An added benefit of slow eating is that is less likely to gain weight, since we actually eat less when not rushing.
Bad Habit: Fast Walking
Another daily bad habit I had was walking fast, even when not in a rush. Speeding all the time comes with lack of attention to the surroundings. If I accidentally ran into friends, I didn’t notice them; some of them even labelled me as unpleasant and impolite. It took me a lot of effort to change their perception. Or to assure the people I cared about that I was not being angry at them.
So, during the same holiday, I took another challenge. I was to walk slowly, pay attention to the things and people around me and notice these details with my mental voice. It worked wonders!
Reasons to Take the Challenge
- The main reason I recommend slowing down while on holiday is the impressive quantity of small yet interesting things one misses when rushing. The counting starts with the blissful feeling of your feet on the ground, sand, grass, rocks or whatever else you walk on. It is really good to feel physically grounded because your emotional state improves as well as a result.
- It continues with the safety reasons. Maybe back home you know every single imperfection on the pavement and it’s not at all exciting to notice it every time. But while traveling it’s quite mandatory to pay attention to it, unless you are ok with falling straight into a street hole, as it happened to me in Athens, for example.
- Last but not least, every new place has its own secrets, that no famous guide or travel website will tell you about. Maybe a small boutique, an underground bistro, a nice underrated coffee shop, a local exhibition, a jazz club, a market. Usually these kinds of places don’t have big windows, flashy outdoor advertising. Which makes it difficult to find them unless you pay attention to each and every single spot while wandering the streets. They will provide you the most authentic experiences, beyond any vacation rating you read on other travellers’ reviews.
Meanwhile, if you’re at home with no holiday plans, you can try a similar awareness exercise based on senses. It could be really exciting!
SparkYourBloom Today and Everyday!