After a historic low in 2014, Americans are starting to take vacations again. In a time of increasing global uncertainty, that’s a trend we want to encourage. If the prospect of amazing tours and activities in a wide, fascinating world isn’t enough to nudge those vacationers to explore, it might be time to remind everyone just how good travelling can be for our mental health.
Travel Boosts Creativity
Staying in one place for our whole lives can be stifling to creativity and can cost us the well-being boosts that creativity provides. On the other hand, 2010 research from Northwestern University found that traveling abroad helps encourage idea flexibility. Multicultural experiences provided the most benefit, especially for those who had previously lived abroad.
A 2015 study from the same team found that multicultural engagement, immersion and adaptation were the biggest factors in creative growth, so tours that explore local culture are a great start.
Travel Keeps You Sharper, Longer
In 2013, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies set out to see how travel affects people as they age. Not only did respondants report positive effects across the board, they were also more motivated as they learned about longer-term effects.
Upon learning that the mental stimulation caused by planning and taking vacation can help improve brain function and reaction time, and can help prevent degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, nearly three-quarters of them were more motivated to travel. Twenty percent were “a lot” more motivated.
Travel Is A Great Mood Booster
That same Transamerica study found that people who travel find it improves their mood (86 percent), outlook and stress levels (73 percent).
Travelers are more satisfied physically, emotionally, and financially than non-travelers. Travelers are significantly more likely than non-travelers to feel satisfied about their overall mood and outlook and physical well-being, and retiree travelers are notably more likely than retiree non-travelers to feel satisfied with their ability to get things done.
Meanwhile, a 2014 study found that anticipating purchases makes people happy, but that waiting for an experience was far more rewarding than waiting for possessions. So even the thought of future travel has its benefits.
Travel Causes Long-Term, Positive Changes to Your Personality
Neuroscience backs up the benefits of travel, as Feel Guide explains:
A fascinating study by Julia Zimmermann and Franz Neyer, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that extended travel resulted in significant changes in the brains and personalities of those who traveled for at least 4-8 months. The researchers found those who returned after extended getaways showed an increase in three psychological dimensions: 1) Openness to Experience, 2) Agreeableness (i.e. a desire and commitment to get along with others), and 3) Emotional Stability. The control group of test subjects who were not longterm travelers showed zero change in these three metrics.
The longer the getaway, the more pronounced the effect.
Travel Can Be Great For Anxiety
Traveling with anxiety can be a challenge, but lots of people with anxiety are doing it. There’s a cottage industry of bloggers who travel with anxiety, and with good reason: it’s a healthy choice.
Let one self-proclaimed anxious traveler explain why she does it:
This may sound crazy, but I swear it’s true: the further I push myself out of my comfort zone, the bigger my comfort zone gets. I used to be scared of talking to people. Now I’m just happy they speak English. I used to be scared of [using] public bathrooms. Not after experiencing Chinese public toilets! My fears will only hold me back from traveling if I let them. All any of us have to do in order to travel is want it enough – everything else will fall into place. When I see a travel opportunity I take it, because my anxiety is wrong – I am an adventurer.
In this age of anxiety, it’s more important than ever to remind people that travel is a good, healthy choice — even if it means going outside their comfort zone.