Travel lovers rejoice. As of Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised requirements for airline passengers to test negative for COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States. After more than two years of stay-at-home orders and other travel restrictions, the majority of Americans are ready to get out and explore, according to Tripadvisor’s annual travel forecasts. And that actually might not be a bad idea, because research has found that satisfying our love of group travel has a surprising number of benefits to our mental — and perhaps even physical — health.
This is not just because taking time away from work and the responsibilities of daily life helps us de-stress. Our brains seem to be happier when we take them to new, faraway places — although it’s best to check the CDC’s COVID-19 travel recommendations by destination before booking any flights to check travel restrictions.
How does travel benefit us? Here are five ways your upcoming trip may contribute to your overall health and well-being.
1. Traveling makes you happier
People who travel regularly (defined as trips within 75 miles of their home) reported being 7 percent happier than those who travel rarely or not at all, according to research on Taiwanese residents published in January 2021 in the journal. Tourism Analysis.
Even before the pandemic, researchers had identified a link between travel and happiness. They tracked the location of 132 adults for several months. Results published in May 2020 in natural neuroscience, noted that people who spent time in different places reported more positive feelings than those who did not venture out as much. About half of the subjects also had MRI scans near the end of the study, and the scans showed a strong association between visits to diverse venues and activity in the hippocampus and striatum, the two parts of the brain that process novelty and reward.
Just looking forward to a trip may increase happiness. Results from a study published in the journal psychology It found that consumers felt more positive emotions when they expected to spend money on an upcoming experience (“do”) than on possession (“have”).
2. Traveling may reduce the risk of depression
You’ve likely heard that you “should” take your paid time off, but you’ve probably wondered if there’s evidence to support that—and there is. Posted in Wisconsin Medical Journal It found that among 1,500 women, it was noted that those who took more frequent vacations had less stress and depression.
Recent research supports these findings. In a study published in January 2019 in The Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and HealthAnd the Experts noted positive results among a group of 3,380 workers and women between the ages of 45 and 52. They found that 10 extra days of paid leave reduced the likelihood of developing depression by 29 percent for American women (there was no association among men).
“Travel can help treat depression because it gets people out of the trouble of their daily lives,” says Heidi McBean, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Flower Mound, Texas. “It can also be a wonderful reminder of our humanity, and seeing the pain of others in the world as a whole can be a wonderful bonding when it comes to compassion for oneself and others.”
3. Travel makes you more creative
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, travel can be helpful to get back on track. Adam Galinsky, a sociologist at Columbia University in New York City who studies the relationship between travel and creativity, has found a positive correlation between the two. Adapting to different cultures, as often happens naturally and necessarily while traveling, can be powerful enough to foster creativity.
Galinsky Cowrote study, which was published in Personality and Social Psychology BulletinHe found that living abroad can facilitate a process called multicultural learning, which allows you to solve problems in new ways, increase your awareness of your surroundings, and reduce inertia — all of which, the researchers discovered, contribute to creativity.
New experiences may push you to be more creative, as you may have to think differently to navigate new situations, says Saba Haroni Laurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Los Angeles. “The novelty of travel, including people, cultures, customs, and places, can broaden the traveler’s perspective, increase positivity and allow for creativity. Travel also provides us with a distance between ourselves and a problem or situation, which can then give us the possibility of a new perspective.”
Recent research supports this view. A study was published in frontiers in psychology In 2021 Assign 274 workers to self-report their creativity before and after vacation. The researchers noted that while workers reported less creativity on the first day after they returned to work (while trying to tackle the backlog tasks), they generally felt more creative after two weeks of vacation when dealing with new tasks.
4. Travel can strengthen your relationships
If you feel closer to your loved one after the vacation, you are not imagining things. There is some research that suggests that travel can bring you two closer. “Couples who travel together report greater satisfaction, experience better communication, and have longer-lasting relationships. This also appears to hold true for friendships and families. More time spent on leisure activities, which is more accessible when traveling, strengthens our relationships,” explains Laurie. .
Researchers reported in the journal Wisconsin Medical Journal. And couples who vacation together are more cohesive and resilient as one, with lasting effects after they return home. Researchers after studying 112 pairs observed for a study from December 2019 in the Travel Research Journal.
5. Travel relieves stress
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but long-term, chronic stress can negatively affect your mental and physical health, according to the American Psychological Association.
Even a short vacation can reduce your overall stress, according to a study of 40 German Mediterranean managers published in July 2018 in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The small study concluded that a solo stay of four days in a health hotel had a significant, positive, and immediate effect on stress and well-being (and suggests that short vacations can be as effective as longer vacations).
Other research suggests that even looking forward to a planned vacation may ease the effects of stress. Fifty-four workers completed the surveys and wore heart rate monitors in the weeks before and after vacation. The results indicated that they were less affected by stress in their daily lives the closer they approached their anticipated vacation, according to a study published in August 2020 in the journal. Psychology and health.
The stress-relieving effects of a well-timed vacation may be due in part to how you increase your connection to the present moment, says Elizabeth Garkin, Ph.D., and licensed therapist, which means that travel can share similarities with practicing mindfulness. in Dania Beach, Florida. Stressed individuals usually have a lot on their mind and are unable to connect with the present. But when people travel, they are in a completely new environment, an environment out of the ordinary.” This can lead them to be more aware of what is going on around them, and may lead to greater communication with the people around them, their surroundings, and the moments in which they live, she says.
After two years of stays, now might be a good time to dust off your old passport, plan a weekend getaway or a day trip to a new place. As COVID-19 restrictions ease somewhat in the United States, summer vacation may be exactly what the doctor orders, and for good reason. Research shows that taking time off has multiple potential benefits for your mental health. Not only does some research suggest that it can increase happiness and help prevent depression, but it can also help you recover from burnout, increase your creativity, and broaden your horizons—literally, of course, but cognitively as well.
Before you consume those days off, be sure to take a look at the CDC’s guide to COVID-19 travel recommendations by destination to help keep you and your family safe.