Travel can do wonders for everyone if done regularly and with awareness – obviously not in the clinical sense (before I get in trouble with various counsels) but from a therapeutic perspective. What I mean here is that you’re not just booking a holiday because you’re so overwhelmed/stressed out that you need to run away and escape to 30 degree heat and room service. I’m talking about planning your entire year around your time away rather than the usual way we do it, around work. Some people already do this and I’m pretty sure they‘re happier for it. You see, this is where your values come into play. What’s most important to you? You can’t just say health and then burn yourself to the ground before you take time for yourself.
Travelling, particularly if you are in a foreign country, can sometimes put you out of your comfort zone, and so you often have to adapt to those differences. This challenge strengthens the ‘openness’ dimension of your personality, according to a 2013 paper by Zimmerman and Neyer. The paper adds that this adaptation makes you less emotionally reactive to day-to-day changes, improving emotional stability, while meeting new people can also help with agreeableness, depending on the size of your existing social network.
Here are 5 reasons that you should use Travel as Therapy and prioritise it for your self-care:
1. Sail away from the Grey
The Facts: The sun has an effect on our mood and emotional well-being. Research shows that too little exposure to sunlight can lead to so-called seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a type of winter depression. Sunlight also helps our bodies to form vitamin D underneath the skin. This vitamin helps us to build and maintain teeth and bones and helps the body to absorb calcium.
Coaching: When you swap the grey for yellow you immediately start to feel better. Even the anticipation of an upcoming trip can start the feelings you’re going to have once you reach your destination. By allowing yourself regular intervals of sun and warmth, you’ll not only reap the benefits noted above, but you’ll also be able to appreciate time and self care much more which helps to keep you motivated and focussed. The clean air you breathe will also help to re-boot your immune system which in turn helps you to feel physically and emotionally better.
2. Escape from Routine
The Facts: The effects of travel aren’t felt only during and after your trip. People are at their happiest when they have a holiday planned, a study by the University of Surrey found, and are also more positive about their health, economic situation and general quality of life.
A study by Cornell University also found that we get more happiness from anticipating a travel experience in comparison to anticipating buying a new possession. It turns out that money can buy you happiness, but just not in the way we expected!
Coaching: It’s essential for you to be able to reset yourself from your everyday. Even just not having to do the housework can be the difference of the rest you need versus never booking that trip. By having less to do, you are able to consider your life more. You’re able to appreciate your family and friends and even work (as it’s essentially enabled you to do the trip) and lets you understand your needs better.
3. Quiet Time
The Facts: When you feel like you are stuck in a rut, taking a holiday and having a change of scenery, even if it is just a couple of hours down the road, can work wonders, and it has been scientifically proven that travel provides a number of benefits to your mental health. Just one trip away could help change your outlook on life for the better.
Coaching: Often times, no matter how many yoga classes you attend, how serious you are about meditation, you still need to literally find more quiet. Being away from every usual distraction in your life can make your relaxation practices all the more powerful. You’ll be able to literally do your sun salutations to the sun and you’ll be able to enter a meditative state with so much more ease and won’t need a timer because you’ve let yourself just be. As you won’t have your usual every day activities to pursue whilst away, you’ll also find you’re more efficient with your relaxation tools, leaving you enough time for activities with friends and family that you may be travelling with.
In addition, sharing travel experiences with your other half and family can make your relationships with them stronger, according to a survey by the US Travel Association, which has a knock-on effect on your own mental wellbeing and self-esteem. The results showed that not only does travel have long-term effects for couples, such as an increased closeness and perception of shared interests and goals, but also that it helps to maintain relationships, as well as to reignite a romantic spark.
I also recommend solo travel at least once a year. Just take a few days, to dip your toes in. The solace from everything you know will force you to connect with yourself in a way that we just can’t do so well at home. It will do wonders for your emotional wellbeing.
4. Manage Stress
The Facts: Margaret J King of the Center for Cultural Studies and Analysis has said this about the stress-relieving abilities of travel, “With a short list of activities each day, freed up from the complexities of ongoing projects and relationships, the mind can reset, as does the body, with stress relief the main outcome.”
Coaching: We all now know how important it is to manage stress. We simply can’t avoid stress in our lives anymore whether it is affected by things in our control or not. The cost of living, the cost of having children, spending time with loved ones rather than on work projects, spending time on our health, all these everyday occurrences add up to create stress levels that our bodies cannot handle well. We will inevitably falter in some way whether through mental or physical disorders. Travel can be your best asset to guarantee stress relief. Plan well and you could even travel each month. Do plan though and make sure you get those travel dates in the diary. Just looking at them in your calendar will be helpful in managing stress.
5. Re-evaluate your Goals
The Facts: You may have goals already in place that you’re working towards or you may want to set some new ones. Being ‘away from it all’ will provide you with the creative focus you need to drill down into the why’s of your goals and create a tangible plan of action for when you get home. It’s a great way to kick-start any projects you want for yourself for a better you.
Coaching: I’ve talked about re-setting and re-focus already but deeper than that, by travelling and reaping the benefits of regular travel will allow you to re-evaluate your goals, check-in with yourself on what you’re doing well and what may need tweaking. It gives you the time to be creative, thinking more freely without having to default into ‘sensible thinking.’ We need to have the ability to dream and envision the life that we want for ourselves. This motivation allows us to then do our everyday with a lot more ease, less stress and with an attitude of gratitude – which will help you be more in tune with your true wants and needs and not the ones you think you ‘should’ have.
So, go ahead and book that trip right now. Imagine the humidity of touch-down, toes in the sand, shore lapping at your feet, room service and breakfast buffets, mountains and views for days, soaking up cultures and experiences and all those great feelings only travel can bring.
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