Three BIG Reasons Why Travel is Good for Your Mental Health
Good news, Jetsetters: if you’re looking for another reason to travel, add mental health to the list. We chatted with Matt Lundquist, a clinical psychotherapist and the founder of Tribeca Therapy, to find out why. (Hint: it does far more than just help you relax.)
Travel gives you room to be creative
Experiencing a creative block, feeling overworked, or just professionally lost? We’ve been there. Instead of risking burnout (or worse, resenting your circumstances), it might be time for a vacation—and we’re not just talking about taking a breather. Traveling has actually been proven to boost your ability to form new ideas. Just look at Ernest Hemingway, whose stories came from time spent in France and Spain, or Georgia O’Keefe, who painted some of her best work after trips to New Mexico and Hawaii.
“Travel can serve as a hard reset,” says Lundquist. “Being drastically outside of the familiar can function as a sort of creative disruption.”
During to a 2014 study published in the Academy of Management Journal, foreign experience significantly improved creativity among fashion creative directors. However, there’s more involved than just being in a new place. Project researcher Adam Galinsky told The Atlantic that engagement, immersion, and adaptation were critical factors to individual success. “Someone who lives abroad and doesn’t engage with the local culture will likely get less of a creative boost than someone who travels abroad and really engages in the local environment,” he said.
Travel is a conduit for building—and understanding—relationships
Traveling with friends, lovers, or family creates opportunities to spend not just more time together but a different kind of time together. It’s a chance to connect on a deeper level. Case in point: one of Lundquist’s patients, who often fights with his sister, recently returned from a long trip to Asia where they both spent a significant amount of time in an environment outside their typical routine. “They experienced being amazed together, confused together, and disoriented together. It was quite meaningful for their relationship,” he says.
Of course, there are other ways travel can bring lucidity to what people you keep in your life. Lundquist has seen more than a few romantic relationships end during or shortly after a significant trip. “I’m not sure that’s a negative,” he says. “Traveling together can bring clarity to feelings.”
Traveling helps boost productivity
There’s no escaping it: your workload can be one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to taking time off. According to one survey, 43% of Americans hesitate to redeem their vacation days in order to avoid falling behind on the job, if they’re given vacation days at all, and an estimated 52% of employees ended up wasting unused vacation days last year.
But does taking time away from your desk actually make you fall behind? Researchers at Project: Time Off think not. A 2015 report showed that nine out of the 10 most productive countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development were in Europe, where EU workers are given at least 20 paid vacation days per year. On an individual level, a 2016 report found that workers who took 11 or more vacation days were more likely to have received raises and bonuses than those who took fewer.
This may be because of the reasons above; if travel can enhance creativity and build stronger relationships—i.e. improve lives outside the office—it’s likely that workers can focus better when they are back in their routines.
Of course, hopping on a plane is not direct remedy for every dilemma. Lundquist puts it this way: “Travel is a space for development that can compliment the broader development work.” In other words, don’t expect a cure-all, but if improved mental health is what you’re after, travel might be more beneficial than you may have imagined.
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