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TRAVEL CAN BOOST YOUR MENTAL HEALTH

It’s that time of year when lots of people go on holiday.  How about you?

Even if you have no plans to escape the daily grind yet, mental health experts agree that a trip every now and then is positively good for your mindset.  Here are five great reasons why taking a break – or several – is good for your mental health.

 

1)    MOVING AROUND IS NATURAL FOR HUMANS

Way back in the mists of time, we were nomadic by nature.  Before our forebears came up with the heady idea to settle down and start farming in one place, humans moved around large areas from season to season, hunting and gathering in the places that supported it.

Of course, settling down in one small area solved the problem of endless packing and finding reliable house sitters.  However, it also put paid to a lot of benefits of life on the move, too:  meeting new people, sharing new ideas, witnessing new sights, tasting new foods and having lots of adventures on the road.

There’s a great deal to be said for travel and the satisfaction it can bring.  Many people profess to its satisfying them on a deep, indescribable level that may well have something to do with an ancient wanderlust that’s still locked in our DNA.

There are few things that can lift your spirits better than a real break from daily routine – a chance for you to bend your own rules on when and what to eat, when to shower, how to run your home and what time the kids should go to bed.  The little things that make up the minutes and minutiae of your day.

 

2)    A HOLIDAY INTERRUPTS WORK-STRESS

For many businesspeople, the idea of interrupting those smaller routines is fine.  When it comes to shaking up the work routine, though, that’s a different matter.  Who’s going to stay in touch with clients and colleagues for you?  What if something goes awry at the office?

The risk of losing traction and momentum at work is anathema to some of us.  If you run your own business or you’re a leader in a corporate setting, you’ll be able to identify with this.  Sometimes, the compunction to stay working all year round is so compelling that even a tropical island can’t stop you from picking up the phone, checking your email twenty times an hour and squinting at your tablet in the sunshine.

If that sounds familiar, I can empathise.  That was me, too, several years ago.  I ended up with a happy bank manager and severe depression that climaxed in my attempting suicide.  More on that in my book, Suicide To Success[1].

A holiday needs to be a break – a complete interruption to your work stress – for it to be of any benefit to your mental health.  If you don’t take one every now and then, you’ll probably end up with depression – a severe illness that is the most responsible for claiming men’s lives every year.

The risk to you is higher than you think.

Let’s face it:  when things are going well, work can give you a real buzz.  It’s not always meaningful, though, or even fun.  Taking a holiday to break the work stress actually lowers the production of cortisol in your body, making you healthier in body and mind.  It gives you time to focus on your real interests and personal goals.

 

3)    HUMANS ARE DESIGNED FOR REINVENTION

One very clever trick that we humans have that other animals lack is the power to reinvent ourselves.  Animals seem to be happy simply being who they are – a pig, a dog, a cow.  I’ve never met one yet having an existential crisis.  We, however, rise to challenges and even search for them.  When things are the same for too long, we become bored, cranky, listless and, often, eventually depressed.

Gone are the days in Western culture when our lot in life was determined by a strict, societal class structure.  If we find ourselves in poor circumstances, we are motivated to change them by an inner drive, and thankfully these days have many chances to do so.  Just because things are difficult today does not mean that they will be as difficult tomorrow.  As Anthony Robbins says, “The past does not equal the future.”

Taking yourself away from your usual surroundings and immersing yourself in a different place with a different culture provokes you to re-evaluate your own.  It casts a very different light on your everyday routine and setting.  You begin to see things differently and reframe the issues that may have been causing you pain.  This new way of thinking strengthens your character – your durability and inner strength.  In short, a new place can lead to a new you.

 

4)    LIFE AWAY FROM HOME FEELS ADVENTUROUS

You don’t have to book yourself off for three weeks and travel thousands of miles to reap the benefit of getting away for a break.  In fact, most people today prefer to go way for several short, more local breaks rather than one big, extravagant one.  They profess to experience the same sense of altered perspective and adventure.

Adventure always carries an edge of risk; as long as it’s controlled risk, putting yourself in its path is an excellent way to build mental stamina.  It can lead to an increased self-confidence, a belief in your own ability to handle change.

There are plenty of chances on a break for you to develop all sorts of key skills:  delayed flights will test your patience, asking for directions from strangers improves your communication skills, losing your passport is excellent for your problem-solving capabilities … the opportunities are endless.

 

5)    NEW CULTURE, NEW CREATIVITY

Research[2] has shown that your immersing yourself in a new culture can boost your creativity – one of the most helpful tools you can have in life.  For this, though, you do need to be away for longer than a couple of weeks.  You need to be able to get to know how a new social group perceives life and interacts as a whole and individually to really benefit from it.

When you come back home, though, your new perspective on everything that was going on in your smaller world is wonderfully changed.  The stress points have withered or faded away altogether and you are able to prioritise your key relationships and time so much better.

 

If you don’t have a break booked in yet for next year – large or small – get it booked this week.  You will be giving yourself the best chance at staying mentally fit and strong.

Oh, and leave that tablet at home …

[1] Link to Amazon page
[2] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-survey-from-pricelinecom-unveils-travel-is-number-one-mood-booster-for-americans-300285839.html

 

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