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Why Dopamine Travel Might Be the Answer to Your Burnout

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91% of adults reported high or extreme levels of stress in 2023, so taking extra steps to look after our well-being is increasingly important. And, with the wellness tourism sector labelled as the fastest-growing, it’s clear that we’re turning to our holidays for the answer.

While yoga or meditation may spring to mind when you envisage a “wellness retreat”, a new type of wellness trend is rapidly on the rise, and experts have coined it dopamine travel.

To explore the trend, AttractionTickets spoke with psychologist Dr Jo Gee (PhD) to uncover why we’re all going to be hitting the theme parks and slopes in pursuit of wellness this year.

What is dopamine travel? 

Dr Jo Gee explains: “The change of scenery and adventurous nature of an active holiday can lead to an all encompassing change in the dominant neurotransmitters in our brain, triggering releases of dopamine as well as serotonin and adrenaline. It’s this effect of certain holidays that has coined a new travel trend: dopamine travel.

“We often see that a complete distraction from everyday life through holidays that promotes meaning or growth has been proven to increase feelings of well-being, as well as increases in performance and general activity level. The effects of these positive benefits have been reported to last up to eight weeks post-holiday. This is particularly present for outdoor trips such as mountaineering or skiing, where a sense of accomplishment can lead to long lasting increases in self-esteem and confidence.”

Just as the “dopamine dressing” trend encourages clothing in bright, bold colours, our surroundings can also play a vital role. Oliver Brendon, CEO of AttractionTickets, adds: “The dopamine travel trend is centred around immersing yourself in vibrant landscapes, which is why brightly coloured theme parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort make such popular destinations. Plus, you’re set for a big dose of dopamine while riding popular roller coasters such as the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Jurassic World VelociCoaster at Universal Islands of Adventure.

“For more mindful moments, surrounding yourself in nature can create a sense of adventure and escapism, unlike traditional wellness retreats. Consider choosing experiences like swimming with sea life or the tranquil lazy river at Discovery Cove.”

How long should a holiday be?

Dr Jo Gee says: “We often see that the impact on well-being from a holiday peaks on the eighth day. With this in mind, we recommend holidays be a minimum of eight days to ensure we gain maximum benefit.”

But it’s not just the holiday itself that can give us a boost. Jo explains the importance of having a trip planned: “The anticipation prior to a holiday can also help to boost feelings of joy and happiness and can actually reap more benefits in brain activity than the adventure holiday itself, so make sure to plan your holidays in advance.”

What are the signs of burnout to look out for? 

Dr Jo Gee shares nine common and lesser-known signs to look out for that indicate burnout:

Physical symptoms 

  • Headaches

  • Stomach aches

  • Fatigue

Emotional symptoms 

  • Feelings of failure

  • Helplessness

  • Decreased sense of satisfaction

Behavioural symptoms 

  • Avoidance

  • Procrastination

  • Withdrawal from work and social situations

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