5 Ways to Have the Most Relaxing Holiday Ever!Sunrise from holiday home The Woonona Ryder

Holidays are getting shorter! This is reiterated to me every few weeks by Airbnb emails. Advising that guests looking for accommodation in Wollongong are wanting stays of 1 night or less. Not sure what 'less' means but I do know that one of the biggest holiday letting trends last year was 1 night stays. With holidays getting shorter and time away being invaded by emails, calls and text messages our time off is rarely disconnected. This trend aligns with our stress levels, with a third of Australians reporting that their levels of stress, anxiety and depression are increasing.

Given that our holidays are few and far between we need to make the most of them. Recharging as much as possible in the short time we have off. Having worked in the holiday letting industry as a professional holiday letting manager I have noticed a few things that allow people to completely relax.

So below is the formula for the most relaxing holiday ever;

Spanning ocean view from holiday home The Weaver Beach House

1. Choose a holiday home with an ocean view

Studies have found that simply having a sea view can have a huge impact on your well being, generating feelings of calm and meditation.  Staring at the rhythmic ebb and flow of the ocean changes our brain waves.   “This deep biological connection has been shown to trigger an immediate response in our brains when we’re near water. The mere sight and sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals. That promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and induce relaxation. Thanks to science, we’re now able to connect the dots to the full range of emotional benefits being on, in, or near the water can bring.” According to Wallace Nicholas author of Blue Mind.

But we all know that holiday accommodation with a view usually comes with a higher price tag, but if you are on a budget fear not.  Spending some time on the beach, near a lake, river or even a water feature can have the same benefits.

The forest surrounds of holiday home The Beach and Bush Getaway

2. Try Forest Bathing - nudity not required

When the 1980's corporate culture of overwork was killing Japanese workers.  The problem became so widespread the government commissioned a study to resolve the issue. One of the findings was the benefits of 'Forest Bathing' (from the Japanese, Shinrin-Yoku).  No nudity or soap required you simply go into a forest and move slowly through it engaging all of your senses. This is not intended as a brisk bush walk that you can tick off the holiday to-do list.  But rather a sensory experience which allows you to mindfully be in the environment.

The Illawarra offers a double dose of therapy with the sea and the forest escarpment so close to each other.  There is a range of bushwalks with ocean views or that lead to a waterfall or stream. Making Wollongong the ultimate de-stress destination.

It's as simple as finding a forest that is easy to navigate and walking through slowly directing your focus on what you see, hear, smell and feel. Stop halfway through and sit down for 20 minutes and observe the landscape and its movement. Much of the research from Japan suggests that ‘phytoncides’ (organic compounds with antibacterial properties) released by trees.  Could explain the health-boosting properties of forest bathing.  Just being still in a beautiful space has benefits for your stress levels, lowering blood pressure, allowing you to take deep breaths and disconnect. Leave your phone behind!

Enjoy being disconnected at holiday home The Peace House

3. Digital Detox for a truly connected Holiday

The invention of the smartphone has brought with it a 24/7 connection to work and social media. The average smartphone user checks their phone 63 or more times a day and reports elevated levels of stress and anxiety if they don't have or check their phone. As a holiday letting manager, my phone sometimes feels like a bomb that will go off it I don't respond to emails or phone calls so I understand the stress intimately.

The reality is that a couple of hours without your phone is not going to kill you. It was only from the year 2000 onwards that the mobile became a mass-market item. Before then if you wanted to call someone you would need to be at home or the office and call them at home or the office or god forbid to use a payphone. Below are the easiest ways to do a detox;

- Set a time frame that your phone, computer and IPad will be switched off. Use the clock on the oven, microwave or watch. Start with an hour and work your way up

- During that time turn devices off and put them in a place is that out of sight

- If you feel like you need to make a phone call, send an email or look something up - imagine doing this in an analogue way. For example, having to walk to the phone box, go to the post office to send a fax or go to the library or information centre to look something up. If you wouldn't be prepared to do one of these you can likely differ the task for later.

Alfresco dining at holiday home The Lake House

4. Go outside and stay out there

It is recommended that children spend at least 3 hours a day outside this enriches their learning, helps them socially, relieves anxiety, is good for regulating their weight and has benefits for creativity. The average kid spends about four hours a week outside (mostly during school recess and lunch breaks). The benefits of being outdoors don't apply just to children, with the average adult spending less than 2 hours a week outside. The good news for adults is that just 2 hours a week outside will improve our health and mood. While on holidays the opportunities to be outside are plentiful especially on the beautiful Wollongong beaches and the in the escarpment forest.

Try the following to easily boost your outdoor time while on holiday;

1. Start the day with a walk around the block.  It's always fascinating to see what property is like in other parts of the world and it’s an easy 20-30 minutes clocked up without having to pack anything or get in the car

2. Have breakfast, lunch and dinner outside. Most holiday rentals come complete with a kitchen and outdoor setting so take your food outside. With three meals eaten on the deck, garden or poolside that's an easy hour a day spent in the sunshine and fresh air

3. Lay in the garden with a book or for a snooze. Although a soft bed or cozy couch are appealing there is something dreamy and deeply relaxing about spreading a blanket on the lawn.  Spending the afternoon watching the clouds float by as you read or before a snooze

4. Make visiting the beach, forest or park the first activity of the day and save the movies, museums or indoor activities for later

5. Don't let the rain stop you from getting outside, what better time to get wet, muddy and enjoy water play than on holidays. Most holiday homes come equipped with a washing machine and either a clothesline or dryer so use them to full advantage

6. Hire bikes and check out local cycle paths, Wollongong has a path that runs along the coast with lots of beaches, bays and cafes for pit stops

Blissful sleep at holiday home The Retro Retreat

5. Sleep-in and take Naps

The scapegoat of our busy lives has been sleeping with the average person getting just 6.5 hours of sleep a night when on average most adults need 8 hours. Although holidays seem like the ideal time to stay up a bit later or binge on a Netflix series your most restful break will come just by getting enough sleep. According to the journal Science an extra hour of sleep can do more for your daily happiness than a $60,000 pay rise. Sleeping in is generally a holiday staple but throw in a few early bedtimes and a couple of naps and you are on your way to greater happiness. 

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