If you’ve ever felt guilty or been criticized for taking a trip (pandemic excluded), here’s good news. Travel has health benefits. In fact, most travelers instinctively know this. But here are 7 positive effects of travel on your brain that underscore why traveling is good for you. Keep them handy when you’re in doubt or to enlighten critics.
CONTENTS – In this article you will learn about why traveling is good for you, including:
- What Happens to Your Brain When You Travel
- 1. Calms Your “Monkey Mind”
- 2. Positive Effect on Depression
- 3. Increased Brain Connections
- 4. Improved Pattern Recognition
- 5. Upswing in Your Creativity
- 6. Benefits of Travel on Your Working Memory
- 7. You’ll Experience a Healthy Challenge
- Tips When Traveling for Your Mental Health
- Final Thoughts on Travel’s Effect on Your Brain
What Happens to Your Brain When You Travel?
With the end of the COVID-19 pandemic in sight, more destinations are beginning to open up once more to tourists and other travelers. And even if you weren’t previously planning on going on a trip, it might be a good idea to do so.
As more and more researchers are finding out, there is reason to believe that traveling is better for you than was previously believed.
Not only is travel a means to creating a wider range of experiences and memories, but it is also a way to help your brain rebuild itself and heal from stress and trauma.
Travel can even be an effective part of aftercare for people with psychiatric issues like substance use disorder. Some Boston rehabilitation centers already recommend travel as part of continuing patient care in cases for helping individuals with trauma, depression, and anxiety.
Below are some of the incredible things that happen to your brain when you travel.
1. No More “Monkey Mind” As Your Brain Calms
Modern living has created an unnatural amount of stress in our lives.
While some stress can be useful for keeping us alert during emergencies, the way most working peoples’ lives are structured often creates daily stresses that will begin to negatively affect the brain over time.
Unfortunately, there is evidence to show that constant, unmanageable stress can eventually lead to serious anxiety disorders, which can seriously interfere with daily life.
“Monkey Mind” is that inner critic that chatters on, leaving you feeling:
- Generally unsettled
- Scattered and confused
- “Worked up” about things
- Feeling restless.
What’s more, stress makes it difficult for your brain to properly make connections and grow new cells, effectively shrinking it over time.
Fortunately, traveling for leisure has been shown to reduce and even eliminate stress in most people, allowing the brain to heal. While a few people do experience some stress from traveling, much of this can be mitigated with proper planning.
2. Positive Effect on Depression
Does travel help depression? Unfortunately, traveling isn’t going to cure chronic depression, so you should reach out to a professional if you are suffering.
But travel does have a positive, albeit temporary, effect on your outlook.
That’s because it gives your brain something to look forward to, focus on, and elevates your mood. This is one of the great psychological benefits of travel.
Few would argue that anticipating a trip is one of the best feelings! As a result, your brain benefits from the psychological boost, and gives you more reason to feel hopeful.
3. Your Brain Starts Building More New Connections
Healthier brains are often characterized by having a wealth of connections. More connections are associated with:
- Better memory
- Positive mood
- Overall brain function
Connections between brain cells are created with novel or challenging (but not frustrating) experiences, and this formation tends to slow down or even revert when we find ourselves in a rut.
While traveling is not the only way to create fresh experiences, it is one of the easiest ways to make it happen. Travel creates a wealth of surmountable and novel challenges that can delight your brain, causing the creation of more connections.
4. Your Brain Becomes Better at Pattern Recognition
The creation of new neural connections and brain cells doesn’t just happen in one place in your brain but throughout it.
This allows your brain to be better at picking out things it didn’t notice before. It also allows it to make realizations that previously eluded it.
This can be extremely beneficial for some people with mental health issues, as their conditions may prevent certain patterns of healthy thinking.
This makes a great case as to why traveling is good for your mental health.
5. You Might Find Yourself Being More Creative
The creation of new connections in your brain also benefits your subconscious mind, which is where our creativity tends to live.
While you can rely on discipline and pressure to coax creativity out of you, forcing it doesn’t always work. Often, making that leap requires you to disconnect from what you’re currently doing.
Travel can give the brain both the novelty and the respite it needs to come up with intuitive leaps and creative thinking it may not have otherwise. This is another great example of how traveling changes your brain.
6. Your Working Memory May Improve
Did you know travel has benefits for you weeks or months after your trip is over?
Like the RAM in your computer, your brain’s working memory influences how efficiently you process information and complete tasks.
But it tends to deteriorate when you’re stressed out. This often causes tasks to take much longer than they would otherwise, and affects your ability to focus.
If you’ve got a big project lined up with a schedule that’s a bit tight, you might be better off taking a weekend trip to decompress.It seems counterintuitive, but going on a vacation beforehand can be one of the best things you can do for your brain.
It’s like a mental reboot that will refresh your brain’s working memory and allow you to do a better job when you return to work.
7. Your Brain Gets a Healthy Challenge
Keeping your brain healthy isn’t just about removing stress, it is also about giving it challenges it can overcome.
Challenges stimulate your brain’s cells into making connections–and it may even allow some types of brain cells to regenerate.
However, you don’t want the challenge to be too difficult. (Frustration increases stress and prevents all the other things we’ve mentioned so far from happening.)
Traveling, whether for business or leisure, creates the opportunity for your brain to encounter some meaningful challenges. This, in turn, allows your brain to expand in a very literal way.
Tips When Traveling for Mental Health
Now that you know why traveling Is good for you, consider these tips to get the most benefits from traveling for mental health.
- Go Somewhere That Interests You – This can uplift your mood and make you far less anxious than going somewhere you don’t want to be.
- Try to Travel Regularly – Travel is one of those things that you can’t really have too much of.
- Make Sure to Plan Ahead – Planning ahead can greatly reduce your avoidable stress related to travel.
- Document Your Trips – You’ll learn more and have cherished memories to look back to, which may improve happiness and your capacity for gratitude.
- Stick to Your Wellness Routine – While you can adjust some things in your wellness routine, you will want to continue with any prescribed medication, psychotherapy, and supplemental wellness activities — within reason.
Final Thoughts on Why Traveling Is Good For Your Brain
We all know that travel can be good for us. Thanks to new developments in neuroscience, we’re close to understanding exactly how travel changes your brain. It’s especially good news for those of us with…travel on the brain. Happy travels!
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