Holidays are about switching off from your daily life and resting and recuperating. However, they can also be an opportunity to switch on and wake up to the present moment.

Automatic pilot

Most of us spend much of our lives on automatic pilot. Have you ever had the experience of arriving at work, having driven several miles, and with little to no recollection of the journey? This ability to automatize things we do regularly can be useful, but over-used, it can mean that we’re sleep-walking through our lives.

Like many people, I love going abroad on holiday because I enjoy the differences from my daily life. I love seeing new things, trying new food, hearing (and maybe speaking) a different language. These kinds of experiences are a great way of ‘waking up’ because they anchor us far more firmly into the present moment. We can’t help but ‘be here now’ as everything is too different from our usual lives for us to sink back into going round and round like a train on a child’s railway track.

How to stay present without going on holiday.

However, we don’t actually need to go abroad, or even go on holiday, to have this experience. We simply need to stay in the present.

It has been said that depression is being stuck in the past, going over and over things we can’t change, and anxiety is being stuck in the future, paying interest on trouble we haven’t borrowed yet. It’s an over-simplification of course, and maybe a bit trite, but nonetheless, focusing as much as possible on where we are and what is happening right now can be very helpful in dealing with both depression and anxiety.

If possible, get outside and consciously focus on what you can see, hear, smell around you. If you’re in a very familiar place, try and look at it through the eyes of someone who comes from somewhere very different. What do you notice? When thoughts about the future or the past arise, notice them, and then go back to seeing how that leaf is a completely different colour on each side.

The more you do this, the easier it gets to be able to detach from the negative or anxiety-provoking thoughts. You start to realise that there is a part of you that can observe these thoughts arising, but which isn’t the thought itself. And that is how you can start to wake up and ultimately free yourself.