How Travelling Can Improve Mental Health

There are more perks to travel than we could ever count, but have you considered its benefits on your mental health? It’s true — multiple studies have linked the positive effects of travel to improved mental health and well-being.

Last year, the amount of unused vacation days in America’s workforce reached a 40-year high, with workers forfeiting an estimated $52.4 billion in time off benefits. This year doesn’t seem much better, as in a highly competitive environment many employees are worried about their loss of production or, worse yet, their loss of a job. Yet whatever the reason may be, the lack of taking time off can potentially affect someone’s work performance and can contribute to an increased risk in overall physical and mental health. With numerous studies presenting the positive aspects of traveling and the negative impact of not taking time off, here are five good reasons why traveling is good for your mental well-being.

Travel allows you to escape

Think of having writer’s block — sometimes you need to take a break and let your brain breathe. Often, those small pauses can lead you to the biggest breakthroughs. In the same way, a short trip can do wonders by giving you a chance to de-stress and refocus so you can get back to performing your best. It also reminds you that there’s more to life than the little bubble you may feel trapped in. In other words, go out, explore, and fall in love with the world again.

Even if you’re on a vacation, it may not be possible to completely remove yourself from your work. Still, by simply getting out of a workplace environment and into travel mode, you’re already doing wonders towards reducing stress. One common theme from travel experts is to disconnect from your normal routine as much as possible for stress management. But don’t plan on eliminating all of your gadgets, especially your smartphone. Still, you should try not to focus so much on your gadget while traveling, especially if you are missing out on whatever natural beauty is associated with your travel destination. Instead, use other tried and true methods of stress reduction, such as a simple walk, meditation, indulging in a well-deserved spa treatment or just leaving your gadget in your room or a hotel safe for the day.

Travel helps you get to know yourself better

The rise in popularity of wellness trips and retreats underscores the benefits of “checking out.” Having a flexible schedule and stepping away from stress and distractions allows you to push yourself to new limits and reflect on what’s really important. You might find a new hobby, which could lead to a different career path or side hustle, or discover a fresh perspective on a past situation. The possibilities are endless. Travelling also presents opportunities for you to find your independence through unique challenges, spontaneous plans, and increased freedom. The National Institutes of Health say break out of your comfort zone with small steps such as dining solo or staying at a hostel.

Regardless of the mood you’re in before you begin your trip, there’s an excellent chance you’ll be in a far better state of mind upon your return. That’s because travel inherently makes you a happier person! While it helps to visit places like Thailand, known as the Land of Smiles, you’re bound to meet friendly locals most anywhere that will make it easy to reciprocate the friendliness with a wide smile. After all, it’s difficult not to smile when someone is smiling back at you. But it’s not just the people you might meet or your destination that will boost your mood. Simply spending time with your loved one, going for a stroll or detoxing from the connected world can all help make you a happier and more relaxed person. Lastly, just knowing that you have an impending trip will likely put you in a better frame of mind.

Travel challenges your mind

In addition to boosting your creativity, travel can change the way you view your day-to-day routine. We typically find ourselves more alert and connected when we’re hit with the sensory overload that comes with being somewhere new. At Psych Central they point out that this is because sightseeing and exploring different cultures gives our spirits a natural boost. To prove it, a study of a group of teachers found that their work engagement significantly increased after returning from a vacation, while their burnout significantly decreased. The time away helps you refresh and fills you with great stories to share.

If you’re one of the workers who missed paid time off last year in order to stay at work, you are a top candidate to take a break from the bump and grind. Spending long hours in any work environment can breed stress, burnout and perhaps resentment, which can contribute to a decrease in your job productivity. Instead, take some vacation time to clear your mind and relax a little. Additionally, when traveling, you’ll provide yourself some mental stimulation by learning new things such as a foreign language, local customs or an unfamiliar subway map. Think of it this way: if your employer or your colleagues are taking time off, you should be doing it too. There’s an excellent chance you’ll find yourself more creative and productive when you get back.

Travel stimulates your creative juices

Stuck in a mental rut? You might be due for a holiday. A 2018 article in Psychology Today described how travel can improve your mental cognition and lead to increased creativity that will follow you home. You may also be able to apply any knowledge you gain through your travels to future projects, such as information about foreign cultures or local landmarks. To be fair, working from the beach also doesn’t sound too bad at this time of year.

Travel is inherently good for you. We’ve been told this again and again from Mark Twain to Patricia Highsmith to Leslie Marmon Silko. Hell, we’ve been told that travel is transformative since the time of Homer (and probably long before that too). The stories are universal: The journey, the road, set sail, meet people and make them laugh, find love, get your heart broken, experience the wonder, live with the mad ones.

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