Want a way to enhance your travel experience & make those memories last longer?
Mindfulness can do just that. It is an amazing practice, an element of Buddhist traditions, that when simply put means “focusing on the present moment”. It can help you enjoy an experience to the fullest, particularly important when travelling. You don’t want to miss out on making those precious memories! You can also deepen your awareness, calm the mind, relax the body, reduce pain, anxiety, stress, depression, boost your immune system and possibly even help discover your true self.
Many of us have wandering minds and I’m no stranger to that! I would always be in one place and my mind would already be thinking about the next place and what else I needed to do instead of focusing on the present moment and truly enjoying that special time and all it has to offer. Since starting mindfulness in the last two years, I have found it so incredibly beneficial not just for everyday life but also for remembering and enjoying special moments when travelling. More on that later…
The key is to try and focus only on the present moment by not paying too much attention to your thoughts about the past or future. There are a number of ways to do this and we will go through them in more detail:
1. Deep breathing
2. Take time by yourself
3. Use all 5 senses – Touch, Sight, Taste, Hear & Smell
4. I’m adding a 6th one – Feel, how do you feel in this moment?
5. Ask yourself questions about the present moment
6. Start small
7. Body scanning
8. Environment scanning
9. Ultimately, meditation
10. Use an app
Getting Started: Sit quietly and start with deep breaths that reach right down into your belly. You can have your eyes open or closed, whichever you prefer or depending on your situation. Ask yourself what is happening for you right now? Is your breathing slow or fast? Are you tired? Are you hungry? How do you feel?
You can take some time by yourself wherever you may be to focus on the present moment, when you’re walking the dog, driving your car to work, at the supermarket or even home just taking a shower.
Start small, just a few minutes at a time. If distracting thoughts pop into your head, that’s ok, accept them, don’t respond to them, let them drift away and bring your attention back to the breath and back to the present moment.
Body scanning is another great way to stay focused on the moment. Start at your toes and while deep breathing, make your way through your entire body focusing on each part of the body. You may find you have a tingling sensation while doing this. If your mind strays, bring it back to the moment right up until you reach the top of your head.
Now apply mindfulness to travel: In your current destination whether it’s at the beach, on a clifftop or a mountain peak… Ask yourself, what can you see right now? Scan your environment… What tiny details can you notice? How does the sand feel between your toes? How does a snowflake feel falling on your face? How does it make you feel? Happy or sad? Are you hot or cold? How does the air smell? How does the air feel against your face? What sounds can you hear? What are you touching?
Focus on your senses and details of what you can see, hear, taste, touch, smell & feel (both physically & mentally). Focusing on each element one at a time will help keep your mind from straying and keep it on the present moment.
You will find that in doing this, your memory of this place will be far paramount compared to others. You will also feel like you are truly enjoying and experiencing that destination. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes one of your favourite travel memories.
Here are some examples: I use this practice when I absolutely love a destination and want to enjoy it to the max and make that memory last.
Example 1: Mt Cook I was so awe-inspired by the glacier at Mt Cook, New Zealand that I asked my husband for a few minutes to sit by myself and take it all in. He was the one who originally introduced me to Mindfulness so luckily he was happily obliging and took the kids off for some exploring. It was my birthday & I didn’t want to forget this moment in this incredible place. So I sat & looked at specific areas, trying to take in all the little details while deep breathing. The “icebergs” breaking apart on the icy blue coloured water, the size of the snow covered peaks and the glacier sitting about halfway up the mountain, the freezing cold air against my face. We were even lucky enough to experience a mini avalanche, hearing the crash of the ice & snow from afar just added to the atmosphere.
Example 2: Jervis Bay Another moment I didn’t want to forget was at Jervis Bay, Australia. Such a picturesque location in a totally different way to Mt Cook. I took a moment to sit on the beach and breathe in the salty fresh air, I felt the super white soft sand fall between my fingers, I stared at the mesmerising aqua water lapping at the shore and watched the kids building a sandcastle. I asked myself how do I feel? I was happy in this moment and didn’t want to forget it. Thanks to mindfulness I haven’t!
Meditation: When you’re ready to go a little deeper into developing your mindfulness, consider mindful meditation.
To do this, sit quietly with your eyes closed and focus on your breath, or on a word or a phrase that you repeat quietly. This can be a mantra such as “calm” or “positive” or “grateful”. These words work wonders for me. Allow your thoughts to come and go, but try not to follow them. When your mind starts to wander, gently lead it back to your breathing, or to the word or phrase you’ve chosen.
Before you know it, you could be sitting by a busy city street and can delve into your meditative state and not even be bothered by the hectic surrounds, just embracing it. This is a great idea when you may find yourself travelling in a place that you feel uncomfortable or anxious.
You can practise mindful meditation by yourself, but to begin with it’s a great idea to use a handy app you can keep on your phone when travelling or Smart TV when home. I highly recommend the award-winning Calm app that can guide you through a meditation. There are a variety of meditations to choose from to keep you interested. You will be amazed at the sense of peace you find. If you do find your mind wandering, don’t worry! It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. It just means you have a normal human mind! Practicing mindfulness comes with time so be patient and don’t have grand expectations. Gradually you will be able to go for longer & longer & you will become better & better.
Practicing mindfulness can also help you cope with everyday life and deal with tough or stressful times. It can help you concentrate, relax and be more productive. Whether you are a stressed out mum or worker or a teenager with too much on their plate, mindfulness can benefit everyone. Speaking from first-hand experience, mindfulness has been a life saviour for me and I hope this inspires you to practice mindfulness & not only remember those travel experiences better but also find your own peace & sanctuary in our hectic world. I promise you, it’s SO worth it!