It’s one thing to know that traveling is fun and enjoyable; it’s another to think about the positive changes it can have on our minds, thoughts and even our mental health. Whether it’s simply breaking you out of your usual routine or helping you to expand your mind, travel can have real, lasting effects on your mood and thoughts. It might even positively affect your personality, helping you to grow and develop in new and interesting ways.
Taking a Break
Maybe you love your job, and get excited every morning when it comes time to go to work. Maybe you’re counting the days, hours and milliseconds until you can leave. Regardless of this, everyone needs a break sometime or other. Working too hard for too long might cause you to lose perspective even for a job you truly enjoy. And this isn’t just office work I’m talking about. Working from home, or a full time occupation as a parent, also requires a level of effort and focus from your thoughts which can take their toll. By making a point to head off and go traveling, you are taking yourself away from your usual routine. This can give you more energy your work after you return.
Traveling is a great mood enhancer. You are choosing where you go, what you do, and who you speak to, every day. This may seem like an obvious point, but think about the benefits you can get from a week or a month of feeling happiness as your primary emotion. Besides the experiences of the travel itself, you can find the time leading up to the journey to also be a mood enhancer. Apparently, the anticipation of travel can make you actively happy. This means that just booking your flight or tour can lift your spirits significantly, even if you have a while to wait.
Above and beyond the importance of breaking your routine, traveling helps to break any cycles of stress you might be trapped in. If your daily life is unmanageably stressful, it may prove to be very important to take a step back. Aside from the concerns surrounding catching the right flight and not losing your passport, traveling is generally a stress-free activity. You are prioritizing fun, relaxation and enjoyment above anything else. This could even help you to gain perspective on your daily life. You could turn your thoughts to whether your stress levels are too high, and whether you should be looking to make some changes on your return.
Think about what makes a person creative. The ability to paint, or write poetry? Or is it something broader than that – the ability to come up with new ideas? Traveling can spark these new ideas. All of the new sights, sounds and smells you encounter can open your mind and help it to become more flexible as you process information so different from the norm. Beyond this, creativity also means making connections between different thoughts in new ways. The more ideas you are able to comprehend, the better you can grow your capacity for creativity!
Greater Capacity for Compassion
This might seem like a benefit for other people, not yourself. However, compassion means that you are able to understand the lives and feelings of others. This is hugely important to your emotional capacity and your growth as a person. Meeting new people will help you to grow your depth and breadth of understanding for those different to yourself. You can also end up feeling more gratitude for your own life.
Increases Emotional Stability
When we are faced with changes to an otherwise steady schedule, it can be a little upsetting. This can be a particular problem if we are very used to everything being the same, all the time. Traveling, however, is made up of nothing but change and new things. And although it is generally a relaxing and enjoyable experience, there will often be a few challenges you meet along the way. And even the challenges will probably be things you have never quite dealt with! All of these things will help you to learn how to deal with change. It will no longer be something to afraid of, but something to be managed and dealt with, even sometimes enjoyed. Changing jobs, for example, might be very upsetting and stressful. You’ll have to get to know everyone all over again, learn about your new work environment and the new rules. If you’ve introduced yourself to total strangers, explored a city where you don’t speak the language, or adapted to a completely foreign culture, however, these new challenges may suddenly seem much smaller.
(…and disclaimer.) I am not a psychologist. Not even slightly. I have experienced the positive effects of travel in all the ways laid out above, and have seen its effects on others. However, if you are at all concerned about your mental health or think that you could be suffering from depression, you should seek help from a professional. Even while you travel, you could make sure to pay attention to your mood and level of anxiety. Keeping track of these things can help you to judge whether there are any serious issues at play, and you will have time and space to think about them. Staying calm and relaxed will not only help your mind, but can also help you to manage any issues that arise during your trip.