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Almost 20 percent of American adults deal with mental illness every year. For some, anxiety, depression, and other serious psychological disorders interfere with daily routines. For others, ongoing stress can lead to a barrage of physical and psychological ailments.
Traditional medication and therapy can be effective, but these approaches to mental health issues don’t always work. Alternative treatments that address the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of the self have been shown to improve well-being on a comprehensive level. As such, traveling is a holistic approach to mental health that can teach you a lot about yourself.
Traveling Gets You Away from Daily Stressors
Major life changes, such as the loss of a loved one, can lead to depression and anxiety. Ongoing mild tensions, such as marital strife or job-related pressure, have also been linked to chronic stress.
So many people are trapped in the daily grind that they may not be aware that they’re stressed. They wake up feeling anxious about their extensive to-do lists. Worry and apprehension pile up as the day goes on. It’s not always easy to remove yourself from the obligations and habits that put a strain on your mental health.
One of the best ways to cut the cord is to travel. Although you may think that you’ll end up just as concerned about your vacation plans as you are about your everyday responsibilities, getting away for even a day or two can significantly reduce your stress levels. A 2013 study revealed that 89 percent of people experience a reduction in stress almost immediately when they travel.
Traveling Rewires Your Brain
The brain is surprisingly flexible. While most brain development occurs in childhood, neural networks are always being reworked to help you adapt. The concept of reorganizing synaptic connections is referred to as neuroplasticity, and it may be vital for combating mental illness.
When you do the same thing every day, certain pathways of communication within the central nervous system are strengthened. The neural connections that you don’t need are pruned off. This suppression in neurogenesis has been associated with depression and chronic stress.
Traveling subjects you to new faces and experiences. You have to think differently to get from one location to another when you’re in an unfamiliar place. The novelty of strange sights, sounds, and tastes can enhance neuroplasticity, making you more adaptable to daily stressors when you return home.
Traveling Makes You Happier
Although you might think that spending money on nice things can make you happy, research shows that investing in experiences may be the key to joy.
Traveling is fulfilling. You might get to use more skills and talents than you do on a daily basis. Plus, interacting with different people fulfills distinct interpersonal needs.
The best part might be that the mood boost begins when you’re planning your trip. Anticipating spending money on travel induces more happiness than looking forward to a large purchase of material goods.
Traveling Helps Reduce Fear
Fear can impact your mental health in several ways. From a scientific perspective, chronic fear can impair your memory, reduce your ability to regulate emotions, and lead to clinical depression or PTSD.
You might know from your own experience that you’re less likely to take action when you’re afraid of something. This can make you feel as though you’re stuck in a rut or unable to move forward in life. Staying within your comfort zone makes you feel safe, but it can also take a toll on your relationships, mood, and energy levels. Limiting your experiences can perpetuate a cycle of isolation and gloom.
Interestingly, fear doesn’t dissipate when you avoid its potential triggers. If venturing to a new country makes you nervous, you’ll retain that anxiety until you face your fear. Stepping outside your comfort zone can help you move past feelings of dread.
Take baby steps if you’re uneasy about traveling. Journey with globetrotting friends and visit areas in which you feel secure. As increase the frequency of your adventures, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to travel even more.
Traveling Increases Your Understanding of Yourself
Self-awareness is an important factor in mental health. It’s tough to improve any situation if you don’t have a keen grasp of the status quo.
When you travel, your observational skills are heightened. You may look more closely at the world around you. You’ll also monitor yourself in ways that you’re not accustomed to. Since you’ll have to make choices throughout your excursion, you may notice what you tend to avoid and what you’re attracted to. You may even see yourself mirrored in your interactions with others.
Traveling forces you to be more mindful than you are when you’re moving on autopilot through the hustle and bustle of daily life. You’ll open your eyes to the experience, and your inner consciousness will also expand. This can lead to a more fulfilling life. You may have epiphanies and revelations that wouldn’t hit you in your cubicle. You might even find a sense of purpose that you never expected to discover.