As the number of reported mental health cases rises in the UK, statistics have shown that the average employee only uses three quarters of their annual leave. But did you know that taking a holiday once a year can provide a number of benefits your mental health.
Numerous of studies have found taking time off work to travel not only recharges your batteries, but also boosts your health, state of mind and overall well-being.
This doesn’t include business trips, but holidays where you can relax and switch off from the stresses of everyday life. Going on holiday doesn’t necessarily mean hopping on a plane to some exotic island. A trip that benefits your mental health can be anywhere that is a change of scenery, where you can detach yourself from your daily routine. Just one trip away each year can help change your outlook on life for the better — here’re some interesting ways travelling boosts your health and well-being all backed by science.
Planning a trip increases your sense of happiness
At the University of Surrey, researches found that people are at their happiest when they have an approaching holiday. This is a result of having something to look forward to, but during this time we also experience a greater sense of joy about our lives as a whole. Another study from Cornell University showed that people get more happiness from anticipating a travel experience than from anticipating the possession of something they are going to buy or acquire.
Exposure to different environments boosts your immune system
As well as mental health, travelling can benefit your immune system. Although getting a little stomach bug on holiday results in a less enjoyable travel experience, it actually benefits you more than know. Due to your body being exposed to new environments, your body produces antibodies against harmful pathogens. People who travel often don’t get ill as often as those who don’t do any travelling, this is because your body adapts to thousands of new bacteria, which in turn makes it much stronger. With your body and mind working in sync, a stronger body with aid your mental health.
Travelling is the ultimate stress reliever
While this may not be case if you’re taking children, travelling is generally great at alleviating stress. Stress is a ‘silent killer’, it raises blood pressure and is harmful to mental health due to stress hormones clouding your judgement and affecting the release of happy hormones. Travelling not only takes you away from daily stressful situations that can overwhelm you, but it also allows you to switch off a bit. When you’re on holiday you’re not looking at the clock, worrying about work, rushing around after the kids or dealing with chores. You’re suddenly doing everything at a relaxed pace, which in turn allows your mind to relax.
Travelling sharpens the mind
When you’re introduced to new experiences and environments, your brain becomes challenged and builds resilience at a cellular level, this means degenerative diseases can be potentially delayed. With new experiences and environments, your cognitive stimulation increases due to exposure, this increase has been proven to improve both memory and concentration, especially in individuals with degenerative diseases such as dementia.
New environments increase creativity
For writers, it’s common for them to travel in hopes of finding inspiration and motivation, it turns out this actually works. This is because the brain’s neural pathways are influenced by environments and experiences, which has lead to multiple studies showing that travel can spark synapses in the brain to enhance creativity. This is important to mental health as new experiences push you out of your comfort zone, you create new situations and new ways for your brain to deal with them. This type of thinking is remembered in your everyday life, linking to building more of a creative approach to them and a better tolerance of stressful situations in general.
It helps shift perspective
Seeing new places helps your perspectives, not only for the world but also yourself. Travelling often brings you up against situations you wouldn’t face in everyday life, this give you the opportunity to live outside your comfort zone. This might be uncomfortable for you to begin with, but it allows you to transform how you see things and possibly allow more things into your comfort zone. When you step outside your comfort zone, it lets you slowly build your confidence, the way you look at situations and how you approach life in general.
To sum up, travelling can help you live a longer and more satisfied life. So try booking yourself a trip away, whether it’s for a long weekend or a fortnight, and see how different you feel afterwards.