I am lucky enough to have married a girl from Hawaii. Every three years or so, we fly down there to visit her parents for Christmas and New Year's, and this past winter was one of those times. On this trip, I tried an experiment: While in Hawaii, I spent those two glorious weeks without checking my portfolio. Until then, I'd never gone so much as half a day without checking those stock prices.

How did I ever survive?

What if the market closed for five years?
Warren Buffett recommends picking companies as if the market would be closed for the next several years. In other words, companies you'd be willing to buy even if you knew you could never sell.

Witness chicken producer Sanderson Farms (NASDAQ:SAFM), which has been doing well despite the avian-flu scare last year (and it is up from lows caused by that thanks to no sign of avian flu here in the States, yet), and homebuilder Toll Brothers (NYSE:TOL). Sanderson Farms has returned nearly 29% per year for the past five years. Toll Brothers has returned 15% per year for the past 10 years, even accounting for its downturn this year from the deflating housing bubble and subprime woes. It was difficult, but when you have faith in a company's operations, it's possible not to worry about the stock price even under dire circumstances.

Let others follow the leads of the breathless talking heads who want you to jump in and out of your investments based on the latest news. For instance, according to the Motley Fool CAPS tracking of Jim Cramer, he was down on network equipment maker CIENA (NASDAQ:CIEN) about a year and a half ago. After it had risen 15% in less than a week, he changed his mind and started to like the pick in early March 2006. It fell 12% through mid-August last year, whereupon he turned to disliking it again. It stayed fairly flat, rising only 3% by early last May, just in time for him to like it during a 2% rise over the following three weeks. At the end of May, he expressed his dislike, but the stock ignored that and rose 24% through early July, mostly because of a third straight quarter of profits, higher-than-expected revenue, and raised sales guidance. His latest call on July 6 was to like it, but the stock has traded mostly level since then, down about 3%.

This kind of in-and-out on a stock reminds me of the billboards around Times Square -- on, off, on, off. Too much!

Ignoring the razzle-dazzle
I like to sleep at night knowing I'm invested in stable, growing companies along the lines of retailer Target (NYSE:TGT) and office-supplies seller Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) -- two sturdy businesses that shouldn't leave shareholders awake at night with the hype of buy, sell, buy, sell.

Plain and simple, finding good companies and holding through all the daily and monthly fluctuations is the secret to building wealth. Target has rewarded investors with 16% annual returns as it grew revenue by 9% and net income by nearly 19% over the past 10 years. Staples has returned 13% annually over the same time frame alongside revenue and net income growth of 16% and 25%, respectively. Both of these market-beating returns were made despite many market swoons along the way.

Of course, I'm not promoting that you buy stock in a company and then just forget about it altogether. After all, we don't want to end up owning the next Enron. "Buy and hold" doesn't mean "buy and forget" -- it just means avoiding the temptation to overanalyze our stocks or react to the daily hype. Not only will this more relaxed approach let us take advantage of the growth of our companies, but it will also lead to lower frictional costs -- commissions and taxes -- that cut into our returns. It might even help reduce our blood pressure.

Relaxed investing
Fool co-founders David and Tom Gardner take a relaxed path to investing, and advise Motley Fool Stock Advisor members to do so as well. When they recommend companies in Stock Advisor, they do so with a holding period of at least three to five years. While the brothers stay aware of their company's news as it happens, they don't jump at every event. They keep their eyes on the long-term prize.

For instance, map data-provider Navteq (NYSE:NVT) has been recommended twice -- in the summer of 2006 and just last month. Despite a hair-raising 46% drop in the month after the original recommendation thanks to a less-than-stellar earnings report, the two picks have returned 59% and 33%, respectively. By being relaxed and focusing on the long-term prospects of the company, the Gardners were not spooked by the large drops and have watched the price recover each time.

Relaxed, Hawaiian-style investing like that has let the brothers beat the S&P 500 index by more than 37 points on average since the newsletter's inception. You can try Stock Advisor for 30 days -- for free. You may never want to move back to the frenetic mainland.

This article was originally published on Feb. 17, 2007. It has been updated.

Fool contributor Jim Mueller enjoyed his two weeks of relaxation, but he wasn't so sure he would survive his experiment. He owns shares of Sanderson Farms and Navteq, but not any other company mentioned. Navteq is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Take a relaxing moment to read the Fool's disclosure policy.