Have you recently caught yourself daydreaming about your next big trip? You’re not alone. For many individuals and families, summer vacations are top of mind this time of the year. A 2022 survey by The Vacationer found that more than 80% of American adult participants intended to travel last summer. Wherever the destination and whatever the motivation—from visiting family or friends, exploring a new area, or simply relaxing—one thing is clear. There are significant mental health benefits to traveling.
- Increased happiness and creativity. Taking a break from your regular routine, especially if you’re in a rut, can be a great mood booster. The new experiences, social interactions, and self-discovery that come with travel foster positive feelings. Your creativity will only strengthen when you distance yourself from your problems and adapt to new environments.
- Decreased stress. If you’re feeling a lot of pressure at work or in daily life, traveling allows you to let go of that stress and relax your body and mind. After some time away from work-related activities, you may return to your job reenergized and able to perform at a higher level.
- Depression prevention. It’s no surprise that those who travel frequently are also less likely to feel depressed, given the connection to increased happiness and decreased stress. Travel can also help you sleep better, thereby alleviating symptoms of depression. Keep in mind, however, that travel is not a substitute for therapy or prescribed medication if you’re already dealing with depression.
- Improved relationships. Time with family and friends during vacations can strengthen those important relationships. Couples who vacation together are likely to be more cohesive as a unit and continue to function better at home post-vacation. It’s a great opportunity for partners to reconnect and build companionship.
- A feeling of gratitude. I’ve talked before about the power of gratitude and how it can improve physical and mental health. Eye-opening encounters with different people and places create memories you can cherish forever. Travel also helps you recognize things you might otherwise take for granted, such as a good home to come back to.
What if a vacation isn’t possible?
There are many things that can get in the way of a traditional vacation. We saw an extreme example of that with travel restrictions during the COVID pandemic. It can also be difficult to get away simply because of work, finances, or other obstacles in life.
Vacations aren’t possible for everybody. If that’s the case for you, these mental health benefits are still within reach. Maybe you can spend a weekend with friends or family out of town. Or plan a day exploring a great park or museum nearby. Find a way to disconnect from your regular routine in a way that works for you. If a vacation isn’t possible now, even the act of planning one for the future has similar mental health benefits.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.