All of us travel for different reasons. For a change of scenery, to experience a new culture, to escape routine or monotony. Sometimes we also travel when we are nursing a heartbreak, or ploughing through a particularly difficult time in our life. It gives us an opportunity to look at problems and issues with a fresh perspective.
No wonder then that many avid travellers swear by the transformative power of travel. Travel can indeed be like the chicken soup for our weary souls. Like this study which pointed out that the odds of depression and tension were higher among women who took vacations only once in two years compared to women who took vacations twice or more per year. A lot of companies also insist that their employees take regular vacations, and utilise their Leave Travel Assistance (LTA) benefits because they see how it benefits their employees. They come back refreshed, and avoid burnout.
So, what is it about travel that can be so good for our mental health? But before we delve into that, let’s just remember that mental health professionals are the best people to consult when it comes to mental health. However, we can all have mature, informed and nuanced conversations on mental health and be good allies to those around us. Not just on the occasion of World Mental Health Day (October 10, 2022) but every day, making it a habit to focus on our overall wellbeing.
A welcome break from all that stress
Travel helps us beat the stress in the most gorgeous ways ever. By packing our bags, and heading off to destinations that we’ve always dreamt of, we not only give ourselves time to relax, rejuvenate, but also to heal. We may be walking a lot, or catching up on quite a bit of sightseeing whilst on a holiday, but even in doing so, we are taking our minds off the stresses of everyday life. In giving our minds that opportunity to take a break, we help press the relax and reset button for ourselves.
Boosting self-esteem and confidence
Whether we’re travelling to familiar and favourite places or new, unknown destinations, there’s always an element of surprise and a little bit of uncertainty. And it is when things don’t go exactly as planned, we realise the joys of navigating new streets, learning to speak a few words in a foreign language, and discovering our hidden strengths and powers. Even if we are going to a resort, the flight may be delayed, or we may forget something – but in handling these situations, we learn a lesson or two. When we overcome a challenge, or learn how not to do a certain thing, we bolster our self-esteem and confidence.
I should know. I am not good with directions, and always seem to be getting lost. But when I successfully navigated my way back to our hotel from a day out in Glasgow, it felt really good. You may be thinking, it was only Glasgow and not the bazaars in Marrakesh, but well, ask the navigationally challenged!
An act of love and self-care
When we put aside time (and money) for ourselves to take a vacation, and travel, it is an act of love. You may think – what has it got to do with mental health and wellness? The thing is, when we are feeling low, or burdened, taking that time out is empowering. It is an act of self-care. We’re treating ourselves to something that may help us. There is the excitement of travel, the opportunity to focus our minds on what is important or positive, or simply give ourselves a break. All of these things in themselves go a long way in keeping a check on ourselves, how we’re feeling, what we need…
A great tonic for happiness and satisfaction
Travel can act as a great tonic – a regular, little dose of Vitamin H (Happiness) to keep us going. It can be an instant mood enhancer, releasing happy hormones when we need it the most. Perhaps at par with the ‘top of the world’ feeling that one gets after an incredibly good haircut!
We may fall back upon travel to celebrate the big moments in our lives like birthdays, anniversaries or achievements. We may also seek it when we need to ring in something new, something exciting to ruffle up the monotony and routine of our lives.
Creating happy memories
Travel also works for our mental health even when we are done with/back from a trip or a vacation. If the vacation was a happy one, we have created a wealth of good memories to fall back upon. We can go back to our treasure trove of travel memories when we’re having a difficult time. Besides those holiday photographs are a constant reminder of all that there is good and beautiful in life – from crimson sunsets, rugged mountains, bustling bazaars to infinity pools and eating pain au chocolat for breakfast everyday! (Calories don’t add up when you’re on a vacation, right?)
Here’s to happy travels, and being there for friends and family when they are feeling low.