Ask anyone who has been bitten by the travel bug how they feel when they explore new places. They’ll all tell you that travelling leads to bliss. And travel-lovers aren’t the only ones to swear by the benefits of exploring; scientific evidence also supports the anecdotes. A study published in the journal Tourism Analysis concluded that frequent travellers are more satisfied with their lives than those who don’t travel periodically. The study assessed 500 people from Taiwan.
The researchers show how important travelling is for people’s emotional wellbeing. Whether it’s a two-week vacation or a weekend getaway, when people leave their everyday life behind and immerse themselves into a new culture and landscape, they feel happier and refreshed. Travelling benefits both their personal and professional life.
Travel is also helpful in maintaining mental health because it contributes to a more fulfilling life. Read on to find out how travelling can help you stay mentally healthy.
The relationship between travel and happiness
Chun Chu Chen, an assistant professor at Washington State University, along with experts from the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign and Texas A&M University, conducted the mentioned research. During the study, they surveyed 500 people over the course of two weeks. The participants answered 17 questions about how important travel is for them, how much attention they pay to vacation plans, how frequently they talk about their trips, how often they travel, and how satisfied they are with their current lives.
The research concluded that frequent travel has a positive effect on mental health and that the quality of the vacation has more to do with the satisfaction people feel rather than the frequency of the trips.
Travel is a stress buster
Daily demands and stress can distract you from what you factually find exciting and meaningful in life. So, when you take a break from your daily activities, it rejuvenates, recharges, and relaxes your mind. The best way to bust stress is to pack your bags and cross one of the destinations you’ve always dreamt of visiting on your bucket list. Exploring a place on another continent promotes happiness and can help you forget about your stressful life. Travelling lowers cortisol levels and makes you feel more content and calmer. When you immerse into a new environment, you also have the opportunity to reflect on your interests and goals and analyse things from a new perspective. A study revealed that 80% of Americans experienced significant drops in stress after a day or two of travelling to a new country like the UK because it exposes them to a new mindset and culture.
Even if you’re always busy when you travel, you are calmer and more relaxed than when at home. You may have the misconception that travel has this effect; you should engage in the activity together with someone. But travelling alone also has its perks because it allows you to gain insight into your interests and preferences. And only because you start the trip alone, doesn’t mean you’ll be on your own the entire vacation. Tourists in London use escorts as travel guides, so why not follow their example if you visit the capital of England?
Travel boosts happiness and mood
When away from home you can spend time in whatever way you find it more pleasant. The obvious benefit of being on a vacation is that you can eat cheesy pizza for breakfast, drink coffee in the afternoon and enjoy some ‘you’ time. Travelling allows you to step away from the daily stress you experience and stimulate and rewire your mind. A study by Cornell University revealed that you experience the benefits of travelling during your trip and after you return home. Even the anticipation of planning and going on a vacation can boost your mood and make you happier. Another study from the University of Surrey supported the affirmation that people are happiest when they plan vacations because the activity makes them feel positive about their overall life, health, and situation.
Travel enhances creativity
Adam Galinsky, a professor at Colombia Business School, states that visiting a new place and immersing in a foreign culture can boost cognitive flexibility. It can also improve integrativeness and depth of thought, and therefore enhance your creativity. Travel can stimulate creativity, especially when you engage with the local culture and environment of the place you visit. Merely visiting a country doesn’t enhance creativity. Extended exploring also improves productivity and problem-solving skills, increasing your chances of getting promoted at work.
However, travelling can also turn stressful when you try to plan and create a structure for your vacation instead of enjoying your time in the place you visit.
Travel makes you mentally resilient
Visiting a place that excites and intimidates you at the same time can toughen you up emotionally and mentally. You may have always dreamt of visiting a place like Australia or Iceland, but you couldn’t see yourself planning a solo trip to either of these destinations. But if you take it slowly and first plan solo trips to places you feel more comfortable about, you’ll no longer see Australia and Iceland as unapproachable destinations. You’ll love to travel far away from home. Also, facing an unfamiliar environment among new people forces you to adapt to a new lifestyle and get out of your comfort zone. Travel can teach you patience and to surrender control. Each unique experience teaches you to accept situations more calmly and not attach to belongings. The more challenges you face during your holidays, the better you’ll learn to overcome them and become more mentally resilient in your day-to-day life.
Now that you know that travelling can benefit your mental health, where are you going next? What destination will you pick to improve your mental health?
Alicia Saville did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She is interested in mental health and well-being.