Are You Lazy For Taking a Vacation? The Answer Might Surprise You
Taking a vacation isn’t just fun, it can significantly shift your overall well being.
Imagine: You’re struggling mentally with burnout, teetering on the edge of anxiety and depression. You consult your therapist who prescribes a new treatment to alleviate your symptoms—a 10-day trip to Italy.
Does this remedy sound a little too good to be true, if not totally outlandish? Maybe. But research is starting to emerge on the role that travel can play in our lives, particularly how it can benefit people’s overall well being because of its positive effects on mental health.
Called “travel therapy,” the idea of using tourism as medicine is definitely not mainstream, but it can be a legitimate way to drastically improve your mindset. Here’s what you should know about the recent research on travel therapy and the many ways that travel can benefit your well being both inside and out.
What Is Travel Therapy?
Travel therapy is essentially traveling for the specific benefit to one’s overall health. Taking a vacation isn’t just something fun to do, but it can be extremely helpful for your overall well being, according to new research.
A just-published cross-disciplinary paper from Edith Cowan University proposes that traveling can improve both physical and mental health. According to a team of researchers, which included tourism, public health and marketing experts, traveling could potentially become a treatment for conditions like dementia or depression because of the ways it provides new experiences and cognitive stimulation.
While this paper focused mainly on dementia, it is the first of its kind to look at the connection between mental health and traveling. More research is needed to fully understand the role that travel can play in regards to mental wellness but the idea is promising, especially due to all of the known benefits of taking a vacation.
Much like how exercise, music and art have become therapeutic practices, travel and tourism could potentially become prescribed to people who are battling mental health conditions as a way to improve their well being.
How Traveling Can Improve Your Mental Health
Even if you’re not taking a trip for the sole purpose of working through mental health challenges, traveling will still improve your mental well being in various ways. Here are the key reasons why taking a vacation can restore you physically and mentally.
By giving you a literal break
So many of us save up those vacation days and never get around to using them. If this sounds like you, it’s time to take some time off. Traveling gives you the chance to actually take a break from your responsibilities, particularly your work. Put in the time, tell your team and actually stop checking your email for the time that you’re out of office. Allowing yourself a real break can give you the mental space you need to check in with yourself, nourish your soul and then come back to your job feeling refreshed and renewed.
By providing new experiences
One of the most significant benefits of travel is how it shakes us out of our everyday routines and gives us the chance to experience new places, things and people. Having novel experiences is one of the key ways to improve not only cognitive function but also our relationships with other people. The brain thrives on newness so going to a different place and eating different foods while seeing new sights is a literal feast for our senses.
By encouraging walking and movement
Typically, when you’re on vacation you tend to move your body more than when you’re in the office or doing your day job. You walk around museums and gardens, take walking tours, do sports or activities—there are a number of ways people stay active while traveling that they may not do as much in their everyday lives.
Getting in some movement daily is beneficial for both physical and mental health, allowing your body to release feel-good endorphins.
By allowing you to spend more time outdoors
Similarly, traveling usually creates more opportunities to be in nature, whether you’re hiking, doing outdoor sports or walking on the beach. For a lot of us, taking trips are the times when we are most aligned with the natural world since many people spend much of the day in offices or working indoor jobs. Being outdoors has a number of health and wellness benefits, improving mood and fostering a sense of oneness and connection with the natural world.
By creating opportunities for connection with other people
Social connections are crucial for human happiness and wellbeing. Whether you’re traveling solo or with others, you’re more likely to be social on vacation than you are when you’re stuck in the grind of your life. If you vacation with other people, you’ll eat meals together, do activities together and have new experiences together. If you’re traveling alone, you’ll likely meet people in cafes or on tours, giving you a chance to connect with others who you wouldn’t have otherwise met.
By enabling empathy and new perspectives on life
Finally, an important aspect of travel is the way it opens people up to new ways of living. When you visit a foreign country you get to see how people who are different from you lead their lives, what they find joy in and what they struggle with. Traveling can open up new perspectives and possibilities for what’s available to us in the world. It can also help reaffirm how grateful we are for the lives we have. Being able to see a different part of the world can encourage empathy and create a perspective that we wouldn’t otherwise have had. It widens our worldview in so many important ways.
Book That Trip
If you’re still looking for a sign that you should book a vacation, let this be it. Traveling isn’t a frivolous endeavor nor is it something that you need to “earn.” Seeing the world can be an eye-opening (and heart-opening) experience that adds value to your life. Not only that, but taking a trip can benefit your mental and physical health in all the ways described above.
Even if you only have the time and resources for a couple days off, know that you deserve to take a break from the demands of your life to experience something different. The idea of travel therapy may be new conceptually but anyone who’s ever taken a vacation inherently knows the value of doing so.