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Mental Vacations: A Different Kind of Trip


May 8, 2019 | Published by

While we all need a vacation from time to time, sometimes taking one might not be an option. For many people, the opportunity to get on a plane or get in a car and take a trip is not always possible. You may be too stressed to travel, or work won’t allow the time off.

Many in this country are in that situation, as the United States is the only OCECD country in which paid employee leave is not a requirement of employers. (1) Fortunately, you don’t have to leave the country to relieve stress. Even better, you may not even have to leave your living room.

It may seem corny, but mental vacations can be a powerful and sometimes much needed break from your everyday routine. Mental vacations are small breaks you can take to remove yourself from stressors that may be interrupting your life. They don’t necessarily require you to leave a place or even a situation. Here are some easy ways to take a mental trip:

Get lost in a book

Books have been a form of escapism since fiction has existed. Being transported into another world and focusing on characters and situations that are not directly related to your life is an incredibly effective way of taking your mind off any immediate stress you may have in your life.

Reading during a work break or lunch is a wonderful way to get away for a bit and help shed any job stress. At night, reading before bed is an excellent way to help induce sleep and also improve cognitive function and reduce stress levels. (2)

Do a little reminiscing

Sometimes to get away from stressors of the present, we need to put ourselves in the past. Consider looking through old photos of joyful times to help reduce stress and remind us of people, places, and activities we love. (3)

If you’re the creative type, taking photos can also help you escape stressors. Observation, creativity, moving your body, and the great outdoors are all de-stressors that go together with photography. A new study has found that just looking at still images of nature is enough ‘natural’ stimulus to lower our stress levels. (4) You don’t need an expensive camera with elaborate equipment; even a disposal camera will work.

Put some music on

Different types of music affect different types of people differently, but quiet classical music can benefit our physiological functions, lower our blood pressure, and decrease levels of stress hormones (5). Music can also act as a distraction and take us to an emotionally different place, so listen to whatever works best for you! If you can, try listening with headphones on for a more exclusive escape.

Get moving

Getting outside and going for a walk has numerous health benefits, so it’s not surprising that stress relief is covered as well. Many of us carry stress in our neck and shoulders, so practicing proper walking posture helps to loosen up those muscles. (6) Going for a walk also gives us an opportunity to take a break from stressors we may be encountering at the time. It can be especially useful to get out and walk on your breaks at work if you have the opportunity. Additionally, if you’re prone to stress eating, going for a stroll is a fantastic way to burn those extra calories!

Check out the scenery

If you’re feeling low levels of stress, a recent study revealed that just looking out a window at a natural scene can help reduce your heart rate. Interestingly, when nature scenes were shown on devices with a plasma screen, such as an HD television or tablet, the scene had no effect at all. (7) Make your favorite beverage and get lost in the scenery for a bit. You don’t need to be overlooking a Swiss chalet for this to work.

Since so much of the stress we struggle with has to do with our state of mind, taking small mental vacations may be just what we need to reset some of the stress we accumulate throughout the day. Thankfully they’re easy, inexpensive, and don’t have to take up a lot of time, so go on your next mental vacation today!



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