tisdag 18 november 2014

Sticking to your habits during travel increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease

Have you felt bad about skipping your mobility exercises, reading, meditation or other daily habits when travelling?

I have - but you shouldn't. Sometimes, I have even avoided travelling just to make sure my good habits are intact. During my last three years as a portfolio manager I actually all but completely cut out company and client visits if they were outside Sweden.

Imagine that, the European hedge fund manager of the decade cowering in Sweden just to keep his routines intact! If that 's not counterproductive, I don't know what is.

Even worse, on some vacations I vowed to stick to my good daily practices, only to become miserable. Failure meant breaking my vow to myself and thus feeling useless. Success meant the purpose of the vacation evaporated; exploring, relaxing and recharging turned into ordinary weekday drudgery instead.

I do recommend you implement a detailed daily agenda, with specific time slots for activities like reading, writing, walking and learning, i.e., formalize your daily routines, your habits. It can help you juggle parallel endeavors and not least avoid prolonging your relax slots. Good habits certainly are productive and should be built into your life.

But, you have to allow for following your flow and break your habits. Yes, even the good ones.

I recently implemented a detailed daily routine to keep track of my time and make sure I spend it intelligibly. However, I am vigilantly checking myself, so I don't end up in the same unproductive cul-de-sac as I did with travelling.

The point of travelling is to break your routine; to put you in a situation where you can't rely on habits. You wake up in a room with other colors, other furniture, you can't get your food from your refrigerator because you don't have those nearby. You don't know where the shops are (not exactly anyway) and you might not even know the language. You have to observe and think before every little thing you do.

The good thing with travel is that it shakes up your routine and puts you in the now. Take that opportunity to be mindful, to open your mind, to explore new things, even if it's just having wine with your breakfast or ordering coffee in Portuguese.

Break your habits willfully and ruminate over if there is anything you can leave out when you get back. Don't feel bad for ten, twenty or even fifty days of missed routines in a year. You still have well over 300 days to be a productivity robot on. It's much more important for your overall efficiency and quality of life, to introduce novelty or follow your flow every now and then.

Change trains your brain's plasticity, capacity for learning and slows down your retrospective perception of time. Your life will feel longer and more meaningful, not to mention you will actually be smarter and postpone certain age-related brain diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia.

So go ahead and book that trip - and remember to leave your yoga mat at home, You'll enjoy yourself more, and as a bonus become healthier and smarter too.

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