Why Travel is Good for Your Mental Health

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Why Travel is Good for Your Mental Health

For some, travel is all about seeing new places and meeting new faces; for others, it’s about taking a well-earned break from the hustle and bustle of modern life. The truth is, travel offers these things and so much more. Whether you spend three days or three months away, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that travel can keep our minds happy and healthy. Here are just some of the ways that travel is good for our mental wellbeing.
 

It Broadens Our Perspective

Travelling pushes us out of our comfort zones, and these new experiences can do us the world of good. Interacting with cultures that are different from your own gives you a much broader perspective on life. ‘Travel makes one modest,’ said the French novelist Gustav Flaubert. ‘You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.’

One 2013 study found that international travel also strengthens the ‘openness’ and ‘agreeableness’ elements of your personality (two of the ‘Big Five’ traits that are used to broadly identify personality types in psychology tests). The former includes an appreciation for art, adventure and variety of experience; the latter is associated with friendliness and compassion.
 

It’s a Great Stress-Buster

We face stress in our personal and professional lives every day, but routine can distract us from what we really value. If you’re struggling to focus or feel motivated, a change of scene can be really restorative. New surroundings allow us to forget about heavy workloads; travel takes us away from any pressures in our lives, and gives us the chance to reset. By having some distance from these things, you’ll find that they become more manageable when you get back.

In fact, just planning a getaway can lift your mood. A 2002 study carried out by the University of Surrey discovered that people are at their happiest when they have a holiday booked. Participants who were going away felt better about their economic situation, family and health too. 
 

It Strengthens Relationships

Relationships are a big part of travel, whether you’re alone or with someone else; it teaches us how to communicate with strangers from all walks of life, which is only ever a good thing. But if you’re travelling with a partner, the experience can actually make your relationship stronger too. And when you feel loved, you feel good!

According to a survey by the U.S. Travel Association, travel helps couples to communicate better – both away from and in the home. In the report, two-thirds of participants believed that at least one key aspect of their relationship had improved by going away together. Of the couples surveyed, those that travel were also found to be better communicators within their relationship, compared to those who never went on holiday.

Away from home, you can talk about the things that really matter to you both; you can have fun, laugh and enjoy new experiences together. And when you’ve got practical things to sort out, like getting from A to B in a completely new city, working it out together can bring you closer.


 

It Boosts Creativity

When we visit anywhere new, we’re forced to think about how to navigate new neighbourhoods and deal with different transportation systems; we’ve got to get our heads around new languages and customs, and quickly learn to understand a new culture. These changes stimulate neuroplasticity (the forming of new neural connections in the brain), which is directly linked to creativity. New experiences don’t just shape our outlook; they spark different synapses in the brain too.

Travel also increases our cognitive flexibility (the ability to mentally jump between two or more ideas, or think about more than one thing at a time), and improves our depth of thought. These things support creative thinking, but they also make us more inquisitive.
 

It Builds Confidence & Makes Us More Resilient

It’s normal to feel both excited and petrified about travelling (especially if you haven’t been away much before), but throwing yourself into the unknown builds confidence and resilience. You risk running into all sorts of mishaps when you’re away; learning how to deal with these can make you feel more comfortable when faced with challenges in the future.
 

It’s a Long-Term Source of Happiness

When you return home, you’ll be left with new memories, and these can give you a sustained feeling of happiness. Whether you’re looking back over your holiday photos or just thinking about the best meal you had there, you’ll get a little lift every time you think about your travels. After all, it’s the memories that inspire us to book our next holiday!

Whether you take a weekend break or explore the world, travel has become an important part of our lives. It can be a whirlwind experience, and we tend not to think about the effects it’s having on us at the time. But this is all part of it; these new experiences shape us in ways that nothing else can, and it’s only in retrospect that we notice just how good travel can be for our mental health.