What makes holidays relaxing?

In my country we all have holidays. Our laws demand it. I think holidays are something that we all recognise we need, in order to keep living and functioning well. Taking a break is Biblical.

Part of our physiology as human beings is that we are wired to need to ‘relax’. But what constitutes a relaxing holidays? And how can we intentionally have one – wherever we are, and whatever we are doing? Is that possible?

Here’s my two cents.

Holiday with people

Before the introverts and anti-socials among you raise a clamour, let me say this: I am an introvert. I relish being by myself. Sometimes I can only truly relax by myself. I’m not mandating that we all need to go and spend 24 hours 7 days for a week with people in order to have a holiday. But we need some time with people. Even if it’s just for an hour or two a day with one or two people.


Being with people broadens your mind. Even if they are people you normally live with (ie. family). Being ‘on holidays’ (whatever that looks like), you get to observe them out of the usual routine. You have the opportunity to see different sides of them, in different situations. You have the chance to witness their preferences, goals, loves, desires, way of doing life – and in doing so, re-think yours.

Being with people forces you to relinquish control. You have to reach an agreement with them, acknowledge another viewpoint. If you’re lucky you may get the chance to simply ‘follow’ rather than have to make decisions. Yet even if you still do have to decide things, the burden is not entirely on you, as it so often is during our individual lives. This, I think, is relaxing. (It can of course, also be difficult, but perhaps only if you come burdened with your own agenda).

Reduce your world

I think partly why ‘going away’ is such a popular choice for holidays is because it reduces your world. It becomes less complicated when you are in a strange or different place. Your options are more limited, simply because your knowledge is. You can’t do everything. Your social circle is also smaller, and there’s not an unlimited amount of people you ‘could’ see or catch-up with. Living out of suitcase also means less decisions: less clothes, less hobbies, less food in your pantry.

This situation can of course be replicated without leaving your house. Choose only two hobbies, a few sets of clothes, turn off your wi-fi, create a ‘food box’ for the week. Less decisions are relaxing.

Remove personal goals

When you go away on holidays, your thinking is suddenly reduced from ‘long term’ to ‘short term’. You see your week or two stretched out before you, and don’t tend to skip beyond that. This is a great relaxant.

Laying aside your personal goals at the beginning of your holiday has a similar effect. Choosing not to pursue concrete objectives like: I must read this book, I must organise this, I must do exercise, I must practice the piano twice a day – is difficult. But it is a huge ‘free-er’. Without deadlines, without personal agendas to pursue ruthlessly or round-about-ly, without those niggling thoughts of “I ought to…” we find ourselves more free to give of our time liberally to others.

This relaxes us.

Don’t plan to come back or to stay away

Or, if you haven’t left the house, don’t plan to spend another holiday like that again and don’t plan never to. Let’s release our expectations. It’s hard to genuinely enjoy what is in front of us if we are thinking “Oh I’d like to do this again later” or “next time we come here we should…” or even worse, “quick I’ll only get this chance once!”

If we come with no expectations and no thought of the future, we can choose to enjoy all experiences, even the tiny ones. Everything becomes an unsought blessing.

A genuine ‘holding on to our lives loosely’ can only happen in Christ, I think. It is only in Him we can be satisfied with “if this is the only time” and yet hopeful that “nothing good will perish forever”.

Are our holidays relaxing?

It’s a good question. Hopefully we’ve all had at least one relaxing holiday in our lives. If so, what made it like that? Was it the reasons above, or other reasons? Should we plan to make our holidays relaxing? I think we have nothing to lose, and everything to gain – if we do so out of love.




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