Guest post by Henry Moore of FitWellTraveler.
The verdict is in: travel, scientists say, is good for your health. Mentally, physically, emotionally, you name it. Taking some time off from work and engaging in some much-needed shirking of your professional responsibilities is nothing but positive for both your mental and physical well-being. The positives of travel on our mental health are well documented, as are the perils of working too hard without a much-needed break.
The Trouble with Working Too Hard
It’s built into our cultural views: working hard is a good thing. In most cases, it’s true. Hard work can lead to personal fulfillment, financial security, and a strong identity as a role model and pillar of professional admiration. With that said, there’s a fine line between hard work and overwork.
An article from Harvard Health entitled “Only the overworked die young” cites a study showing that strokes are more likely in those who are overworked. Several other studies and articles make it clear that, in no uncertain terms, overwork can kill. While we don’t always have the professional clout to demand lesser hours or the flexibility to change to a job that is less taxing on our time, we must do whatever we can to allay the effects of long hours.
Exercise, having hobbies, and socializing responsibly are three ways that can help us cope with work-related stress. But one activity that always provides great mental health value is travel.
Choosing a Travel Destination
Those looking to maximize the relaxation factor of their vacation should consider trips that revolve around mother nature. Stephen Kaplan and Janet Talbot document the psychological benefits of interaction with the outdoors. The reasons for seeking interaction with nature are many, but Mind, Body, Green explains how anybody can harness the power of nature to relieve their stress.
Consider a vacation that revolves around the outdoors – as most vacations tend to do – and which kind of outdoor experience you find most appealing. Hiking and camping in a mountainous environment may be more appealing than a week spent on a palm-shaded tropical beach, or vice versa.
Considerations to Maximize Mental Health Perks
While traveling solo may be the only option for singles, the benefits of traveling with a partner are unique. One report cited by the U.S. Travel Association found that traveling with a romantic partner tends to have a positive effect on the relationship. Understanding how travel benefits our mental well-being helps us understand why this is true.
SAGE Journals documents how a vacation increases our sense of happiness, even before we arrive at our destination. This is true for both singles and couples, but the value of shared experience is greater than the value of an object, according to one Cornell study. Romantic partners often tend to buy gifts, hoping that this will help facilitate a happier relationship. But, as the study confirms, engaging in a shared vacation can do much more to strengthen romantic bonds as opposed to spending that money on an object.
If you feel you have a mental health disorder, consider the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s tips for staying mentally healthy while traveling. Even though vacation and the new experiences it often involves allow us new perspective, clarity, and relaxation, certain facets of travel can be overwhelming and should not be treated flippantly.
One aspect of healthy travel means taking care of domestic responsibilities before departing.
Be sure to secure your home thoroughly before heading out and let a neighbor know you’ll be gone. Also, leave your dog or other pet with a trusted friend or hire a pet sitter. This will keep your dog company while minimizing any sense of stress or guilt you may feel from being away from your pet.
Project Time Off is a great resource for those who suspect they may be suffering from the symptoms of overworking. It highlights cities that tend to be home to overworked populations and offers suggestions and tips to maximize the chill-factor of any trip. Once we understand that overwork poses a potentially lethal risk to our health, our next step should be deciding which destination is worth the money, and how quickly we can begin packing our bags.
About the Author
Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. He believes travel can change you, and good health preserves you. He combines both in his work on FitWellTraveler.