Updated: Apr 28
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes mental health as “a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Clearly mental health is integral to have a fulfilling life.
Mental illnesses can range from less common conditions, like bipolar disorder, to more common ones like depression and anxiety. The NHS in the UK reports that 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children experience mental illness during their lifetime. What’s more, it has been argued that mental illness can lead to physical illness. However, the significance of mental health is still mistakenly overlooked in many societies. Mental health is as important as physical health and requires nurturing and active maintenance.
Travel is a great way to maintain mental wellbeing and, by extension, it contributes to a happier and more fulfilling life. So, here are 9 reasons why travel is good for your mental health.
1. Travel gives you opportunities to try new things and meet new people, helping you combat monotony. Travel connects people and provides opportunities to learn about new and different cultures, which can help increase your empathy towards others. It can also help improve your overall tolerance, reduce biases and even decrease frustration.
2. Activities, like walking, hiking, and skiing, in scenic areas can help you become more hopeful. A 2020 study found that people who were consciously aware of the vistas and objects around them on a walk reported being more hopeful and upbeat than other walkers. What could be better than enjoying the wonderful scenery of a new destination on a hiking route or while skiing down a beautiful slope?
3. Travel is great for relieving stress and improving your general outlook on life. According to a 2013 study with people aged 25 to 70+, 80% of respondents said travel improves their general mood and outlook on life with 75% of respondents also saying travel helps them reduce stress
4. Travel helps your brain function better and boosts creativity. Immersing yourself in new cultures increases your mind’s ability to move between different ideas, think more deeply, and integrate thoughts. “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought,” says Adam Galinsky, a professor and author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel.
5. Time away from work can increase your energy and productivity at work. A Harvard Business Review study of over 400 travellers found that 94% of respondents had as much or more energy after coming back from a good trip. So, book that holiday and crush your work goals when you return!
6. Taking a trip helps you do good, which helps you feel good. Some evidence suggests that helping others can promote physiological changes in the brain linked with happiness. Spending money during your holidays in restaurants, attractions and even locally made souvenirs, helps support the 330 million people who rely on the sector for their livelihoods. You can also help by volunteering with a reputable local organisation!
7. A wellness trip can contribute to stronger mental health. On a wellness retreat focused on practices like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, you can learn skills that you can bring home to help you keep up a regular wellness routine. This routine will be key in maintaining stronger mental health. Can’t you just imagine yourself learning centuries-old yoga practices on an idyllic beach?
8. Doing something you enjoy makes you happy. Pull out that bucket list and see what you still need to check off. By doing something you enjoy, you perform necessary self-care and contribute to your own happiness.
9. Travelling with loved ones helps meet your needs for love and belonging. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs identifies love and belonging as key psychological human needs. Sharing your amazing travel adventures with loved ones helps enhance your connection with them while intensifying feelings of love, belonging, and fulfilment. Think of a family holiday on a beautiful island or a trip eating all sorts of delicious food with your best friend
Now that you know the benefits, where are you going next? Your mental health requires it.
Written by Tiffany Misrahi, VP Policy & Lethabo-Thabo Royds, Content Programme Co-Ordinator, World Travel & Tourism Council