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The sneaky trick for getting meditation to stick

Fitcations—where you spend your vacation hiking, cycling, or bending yourself into a pretzel rather than just lounging by the pool—have gained traction in the past few years, with some resorts touting private vegan chefs or sunrise yoga sessions.

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Meditation is often on the menu at these fancy health and wellness retreats, but you don’t need to pay for a private instructor at an exclusive resort to reap the benefits of meditation. In fact, you probably already have a pretty powerful meditation tool already in your pocket. I’ve listened to Headspace meditations on planes, trains, and many a hotel room while traveling. So, why should you consider starting a meditation practice on vacation?

For one thing, it’s often easier to start a new habit when your routine is already altered. “We find that habit change is easiest when people move ... or undergo some other life transition that changes the contexts in which they live (e.g., start a new job, get married),” said Wendy Wood, Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at University of Southern California, in an interview with author and habits expert Gretchen Rubin. “This is perhaps why people often report that they started a new, healthy behavior when on vacation. Away from familiar cues to bad habits, people are freed to act in new ways.” In other words, when you’re on vacation you can’t use dirty laundry or a nagging dog as an excuse. On vacation, you likely have fewer obligations and can comfortably carve out 10 minutes to meditate. If you’re someone who figures you’ll start meditating when you really need a mental break, know this: it’s easier to meditate when you’ve built up a practice rather than trying to do so when you’re already feeling stressed or distracted.

Researchers from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, the University of California, San Francisco, and Harvard Medical School studied the benefits of meditating on vacation and found that study participants who started meditating on vacation had fewer symptoms of depression and experienced decreased amounts of stress when compared with non-meditating counterparts who’d also vacationed. Those who’d already started meditating and continued meditating while on vacation also had a better stress response than non-meditating vacationers. Once you start meditating on vacation, you can continue it at home and keep those feel-good vacation feelings going.

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