Traveling boosts mental health in many ways and allows you to not only stretch out your comfort zones, but be more creative and expand your skills and capacities. It’s a widely known fact that travel helps you relax and is good for your immune system. Now, psychologists discovered it boosts mental health and found many more blessings that come with every trip you take. There’s no doubt traveling can shape your character, help you discover and rediscover truths about yourself. Find out how the very act of exploring the world not only feels right, but actually helps boost your mental health.
Gain perspective. Literally.
Visiting another location is an eye-opener. You dive into interesting history and culture, you communicate and learn to be more open-minded. What is interesting is that geographic distance leads to improved problem solving. Experimental studies have shown that when people are told the creative generation problem solving task was developed in an overseas country, they come up with a higher number of possible solutions to the problem.
Johan Lehrer (American author, journalist, blogger and speaker who writes on the topics of psychology, neuroscience) explains that because the source of the problem is far away, we feel less constrained by our local assumptions. Our thinking gets more expansive and less limited. We think more abstractly and fluidly and are far less tied to stereotypical assumptions.
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Traveling also serves as a reprieve for the mind and it actually expands it as we travel.
Sarah Jensen (a travel consultant) says that traveling allows the mind to expand and literally see the world in a new and different way. When we try new things when traveling we develop more fluid and expansive self-concepts. That means we discover or rediscover the truths – trying new things leads to thoughts that if we are capable to do one thing, we can try out other things, too. What we’re essentially doing is getting rid of our limiting beliefs- the subconscious layer of thoughts that is preventing us from acheiving our goals. They were formed somewhere along the line when we were told or thought that something is impossible or that we don’t have the capacity to achieve it. Traveling to Third World Countries is especially effective in clearing them. The moment you see how people are capable of achieving so much with so little resources, you become empowered and perceive first world problems the way they should be perceived- as miniscule.
In a way it is also about surprising ourselves. Traveling also works as a great therapeutic tool – we develop new skills and capacities. From navigation skills, to overcoming our lifelong fears. This form of behavioural exposition is widely practiced in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Although every form of professional therapies should be performed under a specialists eye, the very act of confronting our fears works miracles. When we travel we get more accustomed to doing new and unfamiliar things. Had those opportunities come up at home, we would be more likely to automatically go into avoidant coping mode and simply say rebuff them.
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Traveling also calls for flexibility
Even if you plan your trip to a T, there’s always an unpredictable component in the nature of exploration. Changes and detours must be acknowledged and accommodated. Travel trains you in quick adaptation- and that is a way virtue that goes a long way in life.
Traveling also means exploring your own interests as you learn more about the things that amaze, thrill or simply make you laugh. All combined, it gives you a strong sense of self – you know what you like and you are expressing your authentic self by doing it! It can give you a sense that you’re heading in the right direction in your life pursuing your values and goals.
Seeing things in a “proper perspective” is another valuable benefit of traveling.
As mentioned before, when we view others in similar or worse situations, we tend to realise that our problems are no longer as daunting as we thought. That itself helps in reducing any stress or depression that may have haunted us. Surprisingly enough even language barriers, where communicating your needs could be challenging can, in actual fact, be beneficiary. We must learn to be patient and…again, more creative. A quality that vacationing enforces.
The experiences of meeting all kinds of people demonstrate that we aren’t as different from each other as we may presume. Despite the fact, that sometimes tasks as trivial as ordering water may seem impossible. It turns out whether a little bit different, or a lot different, English-speaking or not, expensive or inexpensive, the world is populated by people who want pretty much the same things. And those simple things can be rediscovered only far away from home, office and the everyday hedonistic treadmill.
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Travel disrupts your assumptions and habitual patterns, it broadens the mind and encourages growth. It is a basic human desire. We’re a migratory species and it’s time to realise that pleasure is not the only consolation of travel. Getting away – and it doesn’t even matter where you’re going – is an essential habit of effective thinking. We travel because we need to – distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. And even when we get back home – it is still the same. It is something in our mind that has been changed. Trust me – it changes everything.
With all the new evidence which proves that jumping on a plane will not only make you smarter, but more open-minded and creative, it seems there’s no time to waste before you sail away. But before you do, you might want to check out Radek’s recent post on respecting cultural differences and staying open-minded. Make sure to also read about the simple ways to stretch out your comfort zone.