5 Ways Traveling Helps Your Mental Health

Around most of the world, vaccinations are on the rise,  COVID-19 cases and deaths are declining, and people are starting to resume life as normal, including cautiously traveling again. Before the global pandemic and accompanying travel restrictions, travel was an important leisure activity for many. Science has shown what you probably already know from experience. Travel is good for your mental health.  Even if you aren’t ready for an international excursion, there are lots of mental health benefits to gain from a road trip closer to home.

Getting out of your comfort zone and exploring new places can improve your mental wellbeing. “Travel therapy” is a real thing. Even if you never actually go on the trip, just the act of browsing potential travel destinations and planning can positively impact your mental health. So, if you can’t take a real physical vacation right now, you can still benefit from letting yourself think about one. Here’s how travel can benefit your mental health.

Travel Can Enhance Cognitive Function And Creativity

Research shows us that new activities, especially ones that immerse you in new surroundings, encourage your brain to grow and change, called neuroplasticity. Initially, getting out of your familiar environment can be stressful and frustrating, as anyone who has tried to navigate a new city or use a different currency knows. But your brain actually benefits from getting out of its comfort zone and being challenged. The cognitive flexibility required to figure out the unfamiliar is what stimulates neuroplasticity.

It also enhances “depth and integrativeness of thought,” giving a boost to your creativity. According to Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School who is the author of multiple studies looking at the connection between creativity and international travel, creativity is stimulated when you travel and engage with the local culture.

Planning a Trip Builds Happy Anticipation

Research shows that the excitement and anticipation that comes with planning a trip can increase well-being. Researchers observed that people had better moods after planning a vacation due to the experiences they anticipated having. The same study concluded that just planning a trip can result in a better outlook on your financial situation, overall health, and quality of life. Planning a trip introduces novelty to your brain, which improves cognition, as explained above, and activates reward circuits. One study even showed that the time between planning a trip and taking it can be more enjoyable than the actual excursion.

5 Ways Traveling Helps Your Mental Health

Traveling Can Relieve Stress

Your body and brain benefit from taking breaks and resting. Planning and taking a trip can give you a much-needed break from your routine and the stressors that go with it. Planning and taking a trip offers a way to enter another world, free of the personal and professional challenges that get you stressed.

Travel itself can be a break from stressors piled up at home. You can literally leave them behind for a while and focus on your own happiness. Even when you return, the memories of going away can help keep stress levels down. Science shows that even a short getaway can reduce burnout and work-related stress after you get back to your normal life.

Be careful though. Traveling can also be stressful. “Travel fatigue”  and “travel anxiety” are possibilities.

Traveling Can Enrich Your Life and Boost Confidence

Science shows and we know from personal experience that traveling can give a deeper meaning and purpose to life. It can give you a reason to live beyond your daily responsibilities. It can even help you reinvent yourself. Exploring new places can offer a fresh perspective if you’re recovering from a major transition in your life. During the pandemic, many of our worlds have shrunk, in both geography and relationships. By traveling and interacting with the world around us, we can discover new interests, form new relationships, and broaden our worlds again.

One of the most important lessons you can learn by traveling is that you are capable and competent. Travel teaches you confidence and boosts your problem-solving skills because you learn that you can handle new challenges and figure out unknown situations. Travel shows you that you can navigate an unfamiliar place, make new friends, and overcome difficult situations. It forces you to learn and adapt to change and uncertainty — something we all could probably stand to get a little better at.

Travel Is an Education 

Many people believe that traveling is the best form of education there is. A lot of the real education in life happens outside of a school. In fact, schools know this and have started including travel as part of their study plans. When you travel, you can learn about geography, culture, history, language, food, art, architecture, fashion — just about everything. Learning (and traveling) keeps your brain stimulated and healthier as you age. When you learn, your brain grows new neurons and it can help prevent cognitive decline. Travel can also inspire awe and wonder which also boost happiness and mental health.

Conclusion

While the pandemic is not over yet and some travel restrictions are still in place, you can improve your mental health with the anticipation and excitement of planning a trip. You can begin researching new destinations to explore and proceed to plan the all details to make the trip when the time is right. You can even start getting any new gear you might need, like rolling luggage that fits perfectly in the overhead compartment of a plane or surf and paddleboard rack mounts for your vehicle for an adventurous road trip. Whether you discover a nearby city you’ve never been to, explore a local hiking trail, or plan an overseas excursion, your mental health will benefit.

Contributing Author

Rebecca Grey is a passionate writer and guest blogger. Writing helps her to
improve her knowledge, skills, and understanding of the specific topic.
She loves writing and sharing her knowledge mostly about the travel industry.
She believes traveling is the key to a peaceful life and wants to share her
belief with the world. Apart from writing, Rebecca loves traveling and reading.

7 Comments

  1. It’s so interesting that just thinking and planning a trip can help your mental health! I’ve had moments lately when I’ve really felt the urge for an adventure! I’m not ready to travel yet, but I love the idea that I can just imagine it! And all these other ways that actual travel can benefit us are awesome.

    I can hardly believe that in a matter of months we will all begin to have more mobility. And even these references to COVID-19 will become a part of history.

    • I thought that was very neat too! My mother and her partner travelled non-stop before COVID, and he kept planning trips even while they couldn’t travel. I think he knew! 🙂

  2. I’ve never heard of this before Debbie, but it makes sense when you think of the vibration of energy we occupy when planning a trip. We are definitely going to plan a few trips for our future adventures, so thanks for this reminder of what a positive thing this is.

  3. This is such an interesting take of travel planning Debbie. Makes sense on so many levels. For now though we are in another lockdown of sorts…so traveling is only a dream. But soon enough 🙂 Hope floats eternal!

    • Zeenat, that’s it – just dreaming and thinking of travel have benefits. We can all do that. 🙂

  4. My favorite part of travel is reliving the happy memories and experiences. And yes, travel definitely broadens the mind, taking us away from ourselves and into our surroundings, the lives of different cultures and people. I love this post! And yes, really miss all the travel. I think this past year has been the longest we’ve stayed home! Thank you Debbie and Rebecca!

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