How vacations ruin good habits and how to get over it

Vacations are terrible for longevity. Sure, they help you unwind, but boy, do they ever mess with your longevity habits. The long flights, exhaustion and constant exposure to temptations drain your willpower. Your bad habits start to creep back in while the good ones disintegrate.

It’s normal; you’re on vacation, a time to be glutinous and lazy. It’s a break from work, so it can also be one from willpower. Try as you might to hold on to your good habits; many of them will fall prey to the fallacy of consumerism.

Why habits fall apart 

Habits disintegrate on vacation for two reasons: constant exposure to temptation and lack of routine. During regular work-life, evening and morning routines are our cues for good habits. On vacation, everything you do becomes a choice.

You must choose: what to eat, when to eat, when to sleep, what to do, etc. All these choices – typically made automatically by your environment – lead to decision fatigued. The more options you have, the harder it is to decide between them, and the less energy you have for each choice.

One critical thing you can do to avoid decision fatigue while on vacation is make active decisions. Actively decide whether or not you will maintain a habit during your holidays or take a break from it. To make these decisions, you might first determine which habits are negotiable and which ones are non-negotiable.

Negotiable habits are things you would like to do but can live without. These can typically be skipped while you are on vacation. Negotiable habits can include: meditating, learning a language, journaling, reading before bed, avoiding sugar and so on. These habits generally make you feel good but might be hard to schedule.

Meanwhile, the non-negotiable ones are the things you feel you have to get done daily, such as brushing your teeth and showering. These are general examples; if you are deadset on learning a language, then the habits associated with that could be non-negotiable. 

The earlier you decide which category each of your habits falls into, the less stressed you will be about completing them. You will know which ones you will do and which ones you can skip.

Some of your non-negotiables will likely be missed during your vacation. But this can be minimized by planning them into your daily schedule. The best time to schedule anything while on holiday is either first thing in the morning or last thing before going to bed. These periods tend to be the most predictable part of the day. 

While we are on the topic of minimizing decisions if you can make them only once – do it. Making decisions for the trip will prevent you from making redundant decisions and help you save energy for what is more important – like which flavour of ice cream you want.

How to get back to normal

It is much easier to stop a healthy habit than start one. If you are anything like me, it’s likely that once your trip is over, you will have lost several good habits and picked up a few kilos. Again, this is normal and, to a degree, expected. The key is not letting the bad habits from vacation spill over into your ordinary life. 

The first step to getting back to normal is an inventory. Take note of your habits – the good and the bad – and decide which ones you want to develop, keep, or change. Luckily, much of this will be automatic when you return to a familiar environment. But if you feel like you have a lot of work to do, take your time.

Longevity is a lifestyle, not a diet. Therefore, you must take a lifestyle approach to integrate your habits back into your life. Suppose you lived a very disciplined life pre-vacation, and you return wanting to binge-watch Netflix and take naps. In that case, you will probably become frustrated and give up on your habits if you try to slip back into your regimented lifestyle.

Instead, look at your “habits to change” list and attack them one at a time. You have the benefit of having once had all of them, so you know how you to develop them. But take it slow; even if you did all of them before your trip, you could quickly get frustrated if you try to get back into your routine too quickly. 

Don’t stress. Do what you can while on vacation but enjoy your time off. Take the opportunity to discover something new and appreciate your time however you spend it. There will be plenty of time to get back on the path to longevity afterwards. 

For help getting back on track with your longevity habits, subscribe to my Newsletter below. Let me know how a holiday affected your habits in the comment section.

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