If you’ve been looking for a good excuse to book your next vacation, your search is over! There is actual scientific evidence that taking vacations improves your health.
Here are 5 reasons why you should travel for better health:
- 1. Even just planning a trip will make you feel happier, and mental health matters!
A 2002 study by researchers at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom found that people are at their happiest when they are anticipating an upcoming trip. People who were planning a trip experienced more joy and even felt better about both their health and their economic situation.
People perceive their overall quality of life to be better when they are looking forward to the next adventure. And as if that were not enough evidence to get you started in planning a trip, a 2014 Cornell University study found that looking forward to a travel experience caused more joy than anticipating the purchase of something special. We are happier when we have new experiences than when we acquire more “stuff”, according to another Cornell study in 2010.
And how often should you plan a trip? Diamond Resorts International did a study in 2014 and found that over 75% of people reported feeling happier when they planned a trip at least once every year.
What if you actually go on a trip after all that planning?
- 2. Traveling helps your mental health
Women who go on vacations more often experience less depression than women who stay home. A 2005 study by the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin found that women who vacation less often than once every two years are more likely to be depressed and stressed than women who vacation at least twice a year. This benefit would undoubtedly be similar for men.
The American Psychological Association conducted a survey in 2013 about stress in America and found that vacations help reduce stress and negative emotions because they take us away from the usual sources of our stress, such as the activities and environments that trigger us the most. So it’s not always about where we go, but more about the escape that helps.
At any rate, our health is better when our stress is lower. One study found that even three days after a vacation, people who had traveled were in a better mood, felt more well-rested, and had less anxiety. These effects even lasted to some extent for weeks after they returned home.
The vacation doesn’t even have to be very long. One study showed that a four-day long weekend helped people feel better for as long as 45 days. Those who traveled somewhere on that break reported more well-being and less perceived stress, and they scored better on recovery and strain.
Clearly, we have established that travel helps your mental well-being. But what about your physical health?
- 3. Traveling decreases your risk of heart disease
The Framingham Heart Study is a long-running study which found that both men and women who traveled at least once a year were less likely to suffer a heart attack or develop heart disease. The theory is that regular travelers are less stress or anxious, or that at least taking a break from the usual stress has great benefits.
- 4. Your immune system is stronger if you travel
Travelers are exposed to different environments (and therefore different viruses, dirt, gut bacteria, etc.) which cause your body to create stronger antibodies. Research shows that this gives your immune system a boost. So travel more, and get sick less!
- 5. Traveling helps you live longer
It doesn’t matter whether you travel short distances or trek the globe, research shows that life expectancy is longer for travelers. Research indicates that the stress reduction from travel actually helps increase brain health. That in turn leads to living both better and longer. Part of the brain health benefit comes from the fact that your brain makes new pathways and connections as you see and experience new things. That’s great for the added benefit of increased creativity as well as brain health.
So you see, there’s no need to feel that your desire to travel is frivolous. It’s actually great way to take care of yourself. Travelers experience a better quality of life and even live longer. Clearly, most of these benefits are related to lowering your stress, which we know is a good idea for so many reasons. There you have it, our permission to take a break. Now, get started planning your next vacation – remember, even the dreaming and planning will help you feel better!