Here’s how 10 minutes of mindfulness can help make or break a family vacation

When we dream about summer vacation, we imagine the good stuff: Warm days, cool breezes, with lots of laughter and good vibes. And time off is definitely good for our health, yet it’s not always smooth sailing.

The divide between our expectations and reality can create dust-ups, especially when unpredictable circumstances and temperamental personalities collide to throw us off course.

Maybe the kayak outing is disrupted by storms, or perhaps, mealtime turns chaotic with differing preferences or lack of cooperation. With big groups or families, this may be par for the course. On my recent week off, we had five consecutive days of stormy weather, my husband got strep throat and we had an ER visit due to a health scare with my dad. (He’s fine, thankfully.)

It’s not what I’d anticipated, and I found myself feeling a little jangly.

“Vacations and holidays are challenging, says Dr. Michael Irwin, of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. “I have firsthand knowledge,” as do many of us, he says. Whether it’s tension over where to go, what to do, or who’s cooking – personalities and agendas can collide to create strife.

“Mindfulness has helped incredibly,” Irwin says about his own personal experiences. You can start the day with certain expectations, but when it doesn’t go your way, “it’s like, oh, well, this is what’s happening, and ok, I’ll give up my expectations,” he says.

“A meditation practice brings you back to being aware in the moment,” Irwin explains. When someone ticks you off or says something off-kilter, “instead of responding in a reactive way, it can allow you to go with the flow, which is just being present to what is happening all around you,” he says.

You can notice your thoughts and feelings, but you don’t have to

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